Never Eat Alone; and meet Blair Nichols ’17

“Dylan, you gotta read this book. It’s so inspiring.”

Maureen Riley, our Associate Director for FEMBA Admissions was the first person to tell me about Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. This was a couple years ago and Susan Dearing, the Executive Director of the UCLA Anderson ProMBA Career Management Center, had suggested the book to Maureen. Keith spoken here at UCLA Anderson and Susan tells me how he broke new ground in teaching networking by focusing on generosity and the power of relationships, seeking what you can provide for another and appreciating the unique ‘currency’ we each have, but often overlook.

Fast-forward to the 2014 application season, when we read the FEMBA application of Blair Nichols ’17. Blair is Chief of Staff for Ferrazzi Greenlight, Keith Ferrazzi’s company. When Blair’s application was approved by the Faculty Committee, I was glad because I knew Blair could bring some networking expertise to the student body.

20140724 Blair Nichols 17

Blair Nichols ’17, Chief of Staff, Office of the CEO, Ferrazzi Greenlight

Blair gave me permission to share this blog post he published on LinkedIn today. In Blair’s own words:

My father told me his biggest regret was that he didn’t keep up with his network throughout his career. If he had he may have had an easier time finding a job as a recently displaced C-level executive nearing retirement. Instead he took his severance and bought a small business that no small amount of effort on his part could make profitable. I took his words to heart when I began college and launched my career in publishing by securing internships at my professors’ recommendation and then attending the Columbia Publishing Course where recent college grads could spring-board both their careers and networks.

When it came time to determine what graduate program would be help me best advance my career along with my interests and passions, it didn’t take me long to figure out that an MBA would serve me much better than an MFA. While the fantasy of being a writer will never fully subside, a program that encourages limited group discussion and focus on one’s own craft sounds about as exciting to me as joining a monastery. Business school with its intentional design for networking, and alumni that remain connected for years to come, was much more enticing. People and relationships are what have informed each step of my career, so why not choose a program that supports that?

Of course, networking is not the only reason I chose an MBA. As a Literature major with minors in Communication and Gender Studies, I didn’t come to corporate life armed with the hard skills many Engineering, Econ, or Accounting students had. After several years of letting others worry about “the numbers” and allowing my soft skills to carry me into management, I realized I wanted to possess the same knowledge that business leaders have. I wanted the added confidence, credential, and opportunities that accompany an MBA as well.

When I told my parents about my plan they both assumed I’d be going part-time. At 40, with 4 kids still at home, my father completed his MBA on weekends. My mother finished an MA and continued graduate work at night throughout most of my childhood. At the time I hadn’t really considered FEMBA. But after being recruited for a job in LA that moved me from NY, I knew I wasn’t ready to take a break from my career. After taking the helm as Chief of Staff to Keith Ferrazzi, a man whose books and IP speak directly to the ideology I was raised with about generosity being the cornerstone of success, I knew I was in the right place to grow professionally while also continuing my education.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be among the highly accomplished group of individuals already admitted to the class of 2017. We chose FEMBA because our relationships are vital to us. Not just with our managers, colleagues, or others we consider to be part of our “professional network,” but to our families, our friends, and those we’ve yet to meet who will someday count on our support. The foundation we’ve already begun in the early years of our careers will be nourished by our professors, our projects, and most of all by each other. And these are the relationships we’ll need to continue to nurture for years to come so that someday, “not keeping up with each other” won’t be something we tell our children we regret.

Thanks for this blog submission Blair. And thanks for the new edition of Never Eat Alone; I have a plane trip tomorrow and I’m taking it with me.

We’re happy having you in the Class of 2017. We look forward to your generosity. I love the signature on your email:

Business is Human | Relationships Power Growth


FEMBApalooza 3

Thanks to everyone who participated last Sunday as FEMBApalooza 3 set new records for attendance and complexity. We hosted 766 attendees, including 64% of our entering class of 2017 and FEMBAs from 20 different class years, over 200 significant others, 101 children, and 16 staff and faculty. We’ve now surpassed 2,000 total guests in the three years of FEMBApalooza.


Mi familia! This was the third ‘Palooza for my wife and boys.


Thank you Franciso Alejo ’15. DJ X brought the music for the second year in a row.


The one and only Christy Marquez. For the third year in a row, Christy coordinated all the vendors and the reservations of FEMBApalooza. Great job!


Maureen Riley of FEMBA Admissions. Also a three-year veteran of managing our ‘Palooza.


Christina Robertson ’12, back on-campus. I saw Sam Fatoohi, and a great crew of fellow 2012s.


The tension mounts in one of the two World Cup viewing areas.


For the third year, the Bone Marrow drive was present. Thanks for keeping this tradition going!


Shreena Grewal ’16, and her entrepreneurial side business, Bites Desserts. All-natural ingredients + part of proceeds donated to charity. Thanks Shreena. It was delicious.


“From Handshakes to Hugs” was our theme this year. FEMBA is all about making life long connections.


The Clubs were hopping in the FEMBA Biergarten.


I hope you got your FEMBA swag!




The last photo requires an explanation. It’s actually a post-Palooza photo submitted to me by David Zhou, a new 2017. It epitomizes the whole point of FEMBApalooza.

Hi Dylan/Matt,

Happy Friday! I wanted to reach out and share some positive feedback on the well organized and meaningful time we had at FEMBAPALOOZA. Aside from the festivities, it was a really great kick start to the potential lifelong relationship with some very special people. As a matter of fact, we had our first 2017 happy hour + dinner last night with more 20+ UCLA attendance – wholly enabled by the networking last weekend. See attached on some of the photos from last night. I can speak on the behalf of the whole group that attended; we are all very excited for leadership foundations and the bright future ahead!  

As always, we welcome your coaching on active ways to positively contribute to the UCLA Anderson & FEMBA community.



My sincere thanks to everyone’s contributions, to make this year’s FEMBApalooza successful.

Christy Marquez who managed vendors
Raymond Morada for logistics
Matt Gorlick for atmospherics
Maureen Riley for continuity
Francisco Alejo ’15, our amazing DJ X
Shreena Grewal ’16, for the delicious desserts. Believe it or not, Bites Desserts isn’t her day job, but rather a part-time passion. She’s also dedicating part of her proceeds to charity.
Amber Jackson ’15, and Ryan Swank ’15, FEMBAssador Leaders for 13-14, for over 6-months of conference calls
James George ’16, and Allyson Tom ’16, FEMBAssador Leaders for 14-15, and also to James’ lovely wife who helped
All our FEMBAssador volunteers: Alan Kuei, Allyson Tom, Alyse Thompson, Andrew Kuntjoro, Brian Sterz, Chris Martinez, James Dailey, Jessica McConaughy, John Voralik, Jon Fong, Katie Marcoux, Kelly Stelbasky, Kristen Palchak, Lauren Johnson, Madhan Selvanathan, Nancy Yao, Riley Rindt, Roselle Shinsio, Steven Huang, Tatevik Torossian, Terry Shea
Aaron Schasse, Nathan May and Britt Benston of Anderson Marketing. We can’t wait to see the FEMBApalooza video capture.
The almost 20 FEMBAs who boldly went on camera in the interview corner.
Robert Downs, our photographer
Anna Cano, our Classic Party Rentals partner
Neli’s Catering, who brought not only the food but also the amazing balloon lady and face-painter
Auntie Em’s for the sound system and for sure for the World Cup satellites and viewing stations
Ronni Savage, our point person for Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. Thanks for the great logistics support and the security team.

UCLA Commencement 2014, FEMBA memories

Commencement 2014! Grads and dads and moms and grandparents and babies and boyfriends and girlfriends and all of the support network of the FEMBA Class of 2014–all the dedicated loved ones gathered in the California sunshine. It’s one of the best days of the year at UCLA.


The view from Lot 4 never looks so good.


“That’s right! Next time I see the A building, I’ll be an alum,” thought by an almost-graduated 2014.


Dylan, Linda Tran ’14 and Matt Gorlick ’13


Linda and her mom, “Last time, when I graduated from Berkeley, I couldn’t get all my family up there. This time? No excuses. Everyone’s coming today.”


Couple of Texans… Dylan and Doug Longo ’14. Back from his new job at DFA in Austin.


GAP power team. Former GAP Fellow Matt Gorlick ’13. GAP Faculty member Janis Forman. GAP Executive Director Paul Brandano ’06.




Top left, taking the selfie!


I can’t look up into the sun this long! Take the photo already!


The photographer on the roof of Korn Convocation Hall said, “Close your eyes for a second. Then open them all at once and look up.” I thought it sounded like something a doctor would say before doing something painful to me.


“Now the happy one!”


Going to miss Anastasia, Melissa, Beth. You all brought so much energy to FEMBA!


More smiles.


Oh yeah we did!




With Daniel Millner ’14. Daniel works on-campus, as the Director of World Arts and Culture. Thanks for all the coffees at Il Tram these last years Daniel. I think we solved all the world’s big problems over those conversations! So nice seeing your wife and family last night.


Dylan con Manuel Ambriz ’14. ¿Manuel, qué puedo decir? Es increíble que volabas desde ciudad de México a Los Angeles durante tres años. Eres una persona increíble.

20140613 Manuel Ambriz three passports

Manuel Ambriz ’14, commuted from Mexico City to Los Angeles for three years. He wore out three passports. He wasn’t in FLEX, he was in all-day Saturday. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt there’s a UCLA Anderson graduate who logged more miles for their MBA than Manuel. Felicitaciones!




Josh Schachter ’14, Hrag Hamalian ’14 and me. Can’t wait to see what these two entrepreneurs cook up next!


Jon Dearing and Susan Dearing. Congratulations Jon. Congratulations Mom!


Ryan Hughes ’14. Founder of Bull Oak Capital and a committed father and husband. Go Ryan Go!


Never have to take another MBA final exam….


Professor Janis Forman, Professor Carla Hayn (FEMBA’s Senior Associate Dean for the last seven amazing years) and Patricia Godefroy, our new marketing Dean.


With Kari Shumaker ’15, FEMBA’s new student body president.


Dean Judy Olian, Dean Al Osborne, and Susan Wojcicki ’98, CEO of Youtube and our 2014 Commencement speaker.


Faculty line up.


Looking at the grads lining up, from the catwalk.


Faculty parade.


Brian Sterz ’14. Going to miss you!


Brian and Doug!


Follow the leaders. Susan Wojcicki ’98 and Judy Olian lead the procession.


Andrew Hull ’14, with Gonzalo Freixes and Carla Hayn. Congratulations Andrew. Your commencement address was outstanding. Heartfelt. Compelling. Great.


I see you, seeing me. Gonna miss you Michael Klausler.


Susan Wojckicki ’98 offers applause for the new grads.


Andrew Hull ’14, gives a heck of a speech.


Nothing beats the California sunshine!


Brian Sterz ’14…get off the phone. We’re trying to have a graduation here!


You know it’s a party when we break out the bagpipes!

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Chad Sparks ’14, MD, new alum, new job, new future

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Chad Sparks ’14, MD, Navy veteran, new alum and a new Medical Director at United Healthcare

I want to capture some FEMBA success stories this summer from our new 2014 graduates. I reached out to Chad Sparks ’14, MD, and new Medical Director at United Healthcare, and here is what Chad shared with me.

Hi Dylan,

Thanks for everything over the years.  And most of all thanks for calling me 3 years ago.  I still remember it vividly!  I was pacing in my home in North Carolina while we talked about the FEMBA program and all it had to offer.  I originally wanted to do the full-time program, but switched when I realized the GI Bill worked for FEMBA as well.  It was a great decision!  With all that’s happened over the past three years, it was really tough deciding what to write about for you.  In any case, here is my story.  Hopefully, it’s what you were looking for.  

Take care,

Chad’s story, in his words:
It was a question from childhood: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question seemed so innocuous at a young age. My answer used to be Superman, but that hasn’t worked out as well as I’d hoped. In any case, the question seemed to crop up at every important point in life. It was very relevant in high school and college, but persisted long after that.

As I’m sure was the case at every medical school, everyone at the University of Hawaii wanted to know what I was going to be when we grew up. That is to say that they wanted to know what residency program I wanted to apply for. My answer was Internal Medicine. I completed my Internal Medicine Residency in 2007 and subsequently served my country in the US Navy for four years. However, after my time in the Navy the question was still relevant for me.

In 2011, I was at a transition point in my life. I would be moving to a new city, starting a new practice, and building a new life. I had three basic options: continue practicing Internal Medicine, pursue fellowship training, or go to business school. With regards to my thought process, I couldn’t tell you whether it was my memories of the consummate capitalist Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, the passing of the oh-so-complex Affordable Care Act, or my lively conversation with Dylan Stafford about the FEMBA program that convinced me, but the decision was easy. Obviously, I chose the Anderson School of Management.

Business school has been a period of exponential growth for me. In addition to building on my hospital administration experience, the core skills of running a business and being a leader have compounded each year. So after practicing at the VA near UCLA for several years, the questions again loomed large. “What was I going to do when I grew up?” The possibilities seemed endless, but I found the answer in the top 20 of the Fortune 500. I am now a Medical Director at United Healthcare.

I started business school believing I was building skills that would be useful later in my career. I was wrong. I’m using these skills today and applying them in real-time to the ever-changing world of health care. In my new position, I am not only using many of the concepts that I learned at UCLA, but also planning for the next big question in my career.

Thanks Chad! Congratulations and thanks for making FEMBA really “sing” for your career.



A Measured Apology and A Teachable Moment

My Measured Apology

My father was an associate pastor in a small town in Texas. He once was quoted poorly in our local newspaper and the experience stung him. Last week, I experienced the same.

To everyone in and around FEMBA, I had a conversation on May 16 with the new education editor of Businessweek which led to the paragraph below. I apologize for the light this paragraph casts on FEMBA, and I want to offer what I see as valuable lessons learned from it that could benefit your career.

In Bloomberg Businessweek’s experience, faculty members aren’t the only women who aren’t being taken seriously. On a visit to Anderson last month, we asked Dylan Stafford, assistant dean of the Fully Employed MBA Programs, what types of students his program takes risks on by admitting them. “Women,” he replied. “Their quant skills aren’t good, and the applicant pool is lower.” (Quant, or quantitative analysis, is part of the GMAT.).

This paragraph makes three assertions. As I see it, the first assertion is inaccurate, the second is only half the story, and the third is accurate.

First assertion: I don’t take women seriously. That is not accurate. I absolutely take women seriously. I take all the applicants to UCLA FEMBA seriously, women and men. I’ve trained over 1,000 FEMBA SuperSaturday admission interview volunteers the last decade with this quote: Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Remember, they are evaluating us too. We admit top-quality women here at Anderson and they do just as well as their male colleagues.

Second assertion: We take risks on women with low quant skills. This is partially accurate. What I thought I was saying, but was apparently misunderstood, was that anyone with low quant skills, male or female, is a riskier admit since getting an MBA (necessarily) involves a lot of numbers and good quantitative skills. And, it’s a good thing that we take risks; that’s how we build a dynamic student body, by taking risks.

Third assertion: Women are a lower percentage of our applicant pool than men. That is accurate. Slightly less than a third of our applicants are female and we admit proportionately. As a matter of fact, FEMBA set all-time program records the last two years for total number of women matriculating.

I sincerely apologize to the women and men currently enrolled in FEMBA, our alumni and the population at large. The implication of this paragraph that I don’t take women seriously does not reflect my strongly held view that the more women in the program, the better.

A Teachable Moment

Suffice it to say, I feel as if my reputation has taken a direct hit in the national press. I know that politicians, actors and other high-profile people are used to this. But, as a regular-profile person, it stung to read those words. My hope is that you, our almost 900 FEMBA students, can have your first brush with the national media be better than mine was. Here are the four lessons I learned.

1. When you meet with a reporter, treat it as an interview.
My conversation was billed as a meet-and-greet, to help the new b-school education editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. I spoke candidly, conversationally, as I would to anyone who wanted to hear how great FEMBA is; I didn’t think of it as an interview.

2. Don’t get in a hurry. 
We started our meet-and-greet late, about 4:50 on a Friday afternoon when I normally leave at 5:00 to pick-up my two-year-old from daycare. I was rushed and that didn’t turn out well.

3. Know the points you want to make.
My conversational, rushed, ‘kitchen sink’ overview of FEMBA led to the horrible interpretation that I don’t take women seriously. Next time, I’ll think of a couple of points and stick to them.

4. Record the interview with your cell phone.
That would help a lot, having a recording to play back. Then I could listen to the interview to hear both the exact words quoted and the paragraphs before and after. Businessweek is a high-quality news organization, and a long-time positive proponent of Anderson, but it would be helpful to be able to rewind and listen to what I was trying to communicate.

We are educators, attempting to empower you, very smart and capable career managers, to have even more impactful, more successful futures. You invest over $100,000 and three years of intense effort to earn your FEMBA degree. My intention is to offer lessons learned so that you might fare better in your first national media moment. I apologize again that my conversation could be construed in such a negative light. I will be much more careful with my words in the future.

To the education team at Businessweek, Francesca Levy, the new education editor with whom I spoke, and Claire Suddath, the author, your job is to look at society and report on it, objectively and dispassionately. Please report more on FEMBA. The more you learn about FEMBA, the more empowered you will find the women and the men here.

I invited Francesca to connect on LinkedIn this week. I’d like to invite her back to campus this fall, on November 8, for our 36th FEMBA Admissions SuperSaturday. It will be a record-breaking day, as we will surpass 5,000 lifetime FEMBA admission interviews conducted. It will also be a great chance to get an additional perspective on what we are all about here.

Coach Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Character is what you really are. Reputation is what people say you are. Character is more important.”

Academic Awards Dinner

Celebrating excellence tonight at the Academic Awards Dinner in the Executive Dining Room.

Tommy Taw. Vice President, Manager, Portfolio Analysis and Loss Forecasting, Bank of America shared this great photo of his stole for graduation. Note the slogan, “beast mode,” the nickname of Tommy’s original FEMBA study group.


Here’s Brady and Liz Kernion ’17, Senior Contributions Associate, Capital Group, and their new baby Percy, who’s peeking out of the baby stroller in the photo. Brady is graduating with honors from the full-time MBA program and taking a job with Google. Liz is starting FEMBA this year in the Class of 2017.

Here are my uber-smart table-mates for dinner tonight, all award winners, l-r: Tommy Taw, Nitin Saharan, Shilpy Gupta, Ryan Gutterson, Artak Arakelian and his girlfriend Lillit.

And finally, here’s Darren Aiello and his wife Mandy. Darren and Mandy had triplets the first year of FEMBA and will welcome baby four this year, at the same time Darren begins his PhD in Finance here!


Jessica Langenhan ’16, MD – her year one experience

20140606 Jessica Langenhan MDAs you’ve heard me brag, FEMBA has 8 medical doctors, 3 dentists and 1 optometrist in the student body. Or, said another way, “We could start our own FEMBA hospital.” To my knowledge, no other part-time MBA program can say this and I’d hazard to guess no full-time or executive MBA program has that many medical professionals in its student body.

Jessica Langenhan ’16, Physician with Traditions Behavioral Health and Royale TRC, is one of those 8 MDs, and I asked her about her first-year FEMBA experience.

Jessica: I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect as a FEMBA, or as a business school student in general. Although I am well versed at attending school, my learning experiences as a FEMBA have been very different from my previous academic experiences—and that is something that I really appreciate and love about it. My classmates are fascinating people who all want to learn from each other, and the collaborative approach to many of our assignments always challenges me to think more deeply and differently than I know I would were I doing the work individually.

I had originally considered doing a healthcare-focused MBA program online, and being at Anderson in real-time and working with so many people outside of healthcare makes me so grateful that I did not choose that route. I feel that it is very easy to develop tunnel-vision in Medicine: you spend all day talking to other doctors and to nurses; you figure out how to cram continuing medical education (CME) credits into the off-hours; and your CV is a list of the different hospitals where you’ve worked.

Moving outside and beyond that world is one of the many reasons I want my MBA and my past 2.5 quarters as a FEMBA have definitely been anything but narrow. . . .I’ve joined Net Impact; I’ve participate in a case competition; I’ve helped out with SuperSaturday admission interviews and post-admit calls; and I’m very excited about the international elective to South Africa that I’ve just enrolled in.

I’ve developed a very different perspective on the way things are run at the hospital and at the clinics where I work, and I’ve become more out-spoken about those managerial issues. And, in addition, on May 14th, I spoke as part of a community-based mental health education panel in Orange County—and I was asked to do this after having met one of the people from the organization that is putting on the panel at the Net Impact Career Night back in Fall Quarter.

I am very happy to hear that more physicians are applying [to FEMBA] and being accepted for the incoming class. I wish more physicians felt confident or comfortable enough to pursue an MBA or even some core business classes, because the business side of medicine is very much alive and here to stay. 

Probably one of my biggest worries as I was getting ready to start this academic year was how I would be able to adjust from my science-oriented style of learning to business classes. (It has to be understood that, when I briefly considered minoring in Accounting as an undergrad, my mother essentially talked me out of it by asking whether I really wanted to risk ruining my GPA.)

What I’ve found is that the classes are certainly challenging, but we are not expected to be economists or financial managers in order to succeed in the courses, just as I was not expected to be a biochemist or a pathologist when I took my initial courses in medical school. And I was happy to find others beside myself who were initially mystified by the debits and credits and cash flow statements of Accounting.

My first year as a FEMBA has made me realize that there are many more career options and directions than I had initially considered—again, something that a health-care focused MBA program would not have provided me. I feel as though I have a different idea every day about what I ultimately want to do with my MBA, but for now I’m fine with the process of exploration.