Student Profile: Garrett Shafer, University of California Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business

Student Profile: Garrett Shafer, University of California Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business main image

Garrett Shafer is an MBA student at UC Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business.

Having previously spent four-and-a-half years working as a research associate in an epigenetics research lab, Garrett decided to pursue an MBA due to the limited opportunities available to him in the biotechnology industry.

We spoke to Garrett to find out more about his MBA journey and find out how he’s finding the MBA program at UC Irvine.

What were you doing before you started your MBA?

I worked as a research associate in an epigenetics services lab, managing a pipeline for one of Active Motif Inc.’s protein-based services. This role involved project management activities to ensure the processing of samples and generation of scientific data.

I was also heavily involved with customer interaction when delivering data reports, which gave me the opportunity to work closely with the marketing and sales team at Active Motif.

What were the factors that led to you pursuing a graduate degree?

I truly felt I had reached a turning point in my career as a lab worker. There was limited opportunity for me in the biotechnology industry without a graduate degree in science or business. This forced me to consider if I wanted to continue a career in lab work.

I concluded I would prefer to get involved in the commercial side of the industry and thus chose to pursue an MBA. I decided on a traditional full-time MBA to immerse myself in the quantitative and qualitative business subjects to develop a skill set that would complement my technical background.

What were the tools that you used to research programs and universities?

I used many of the traditional online resources for prospective MBAs, including TopMBA.

Once I had segmented the schools I would be targeting, I turned to their specific websites for information and reached out to students at each target school. This helped me get a better feel for the culture and even get on site for class visits to gain a better picture of each program.

What factored into your final choice of where to study?

A major factor was location. San Diego is a major hub for the biotechnology industry and there are many companies based here that I had planned on targeting. This gave me focus in my search and solidified my final distance to be no farther north than Los Angeles.

Beyond location, I sought academic challenge, diversity, and a culture that would allow me to develop a strong network as I grew as a professional. UCI fits all of these criteria.

What do you most love about the school and program?

The relatively small size of the program enables a unique culture and a very close-knit community. We know other students, staff, and professors by first name and collaborate in many ways.

The size of the program also allows very dedicated and personalized attention from an amazing career center, which promotes an alumni network that holds the same values.

What is your favorite thing about the city and campus?

We benefit so much from the Southern California atmosphere here in Orange County. We are close to the beaches and have nice weather and there is a constant schedule of activities and breadth of diversity both on and off campus.

The Paul Merage School of Business is closely tied into different communities throughout Orange County as the area emerges as the “tech coast”.

Were there any specific elements of the MBA program which appealed to you?

The MBA program at UCI has close ties with the engineering management and biotechnology management programs that also take classes through the school. I saw this as a great opportunity to stay closely tied with technical professionals while expanding my network and learning from individuals in my industry of choice.

Such a networking opportunity was the perfect complement to the core business knowledge and skills that I would obtain from a general MBA.

What do you plan to do once you graduate?

Upon graduation I plan to finalize my transition from technical roles to commercial marketing roles in the biotechnology industry. Specifically, I will be pursuing roles as a product manager in genomics companies located in Southern California.

Would you do anything differently if you could research and apply to business school over again?

I would have started earlier and attended more in-person events before applying. I only attended a few information sessions at specific schools, but it would have also been very beneficial to attend MBA fairs and events with multiple schools to get a better comparison between programs.

What do you think is the biggest myth about applying to business school?

I think a common perception is that if you do not at least meet the average test scores, GPA, and work experience for your preferred program then you won’t have a strong chance for consideration. It truly is a holistic process to admit a student and your work experience or unique background can go a long way in putting you at the forefront of consideration regardless of GPA and GMAT score.

What is the one piece of advice you would have for incoming students to your program?

You can always do more. You will not be the only one in your program who struggles with a quant class or gets nervous about getting an internship or a job. Anything you do to learn more, become a better person, and increase your prospects will open more doors for you than you could ever imagine.

Written by Craig OCallaghan

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