What UC-Irvine’s Commencement Speaker Has To Say To Future Biz Majors

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What skills have you gained while at the Merage School of Business?

Data analysis skills are the most useful hard skills I’ve acquired. I truly believe that the data mining, data representation, and database management skills I have learned at UCI will come in handy in whatever career I pursue because we live in the age of big data. Data analysis is no longer just for finance or computer science majors but is a skill that everyone can benefit from learning and applying to whatever project they are working on.

In terms of soft skills, public speaking skills would be the most important one I’ve developed. While it may have been stressful at the moment, I am grateful for all of the public speaking projects my professors pushed us to do. This will definitely come in handy at Commencement, but more than that it is a skill that I will use when I attend law school next fall and have to debate cases and even further on in life when I pitch my social venture business ideas to investors.

The second would be my time-management skills. While there is still room to improve, I could not have completed two majors in three years without developing good time-management skills and I believe this skill is useful in every aspect of life, especially when it comes to pursuing all my future aspirations.

With your heavy workload, how do you take care of yourself?

I love to run. I live in Newport Beach so whenever I am stressed, I put on my running shoes and just run along the beach. The fresh air and physical activity help me calm down, breathe, and think about life without overwhelming myself. I always feel like I come back from my runs with a clear mind feeling more ready to tackle all the tasks I need to complete.

I also believe surrounding yourself with a positive, close group of friends is essential to your mental and emotional health. Simply hanging around laughing about the silliest things with the people who know you best and love you most can uplift your mood and is just the thing everyone needs to reenergize after a particularly tough day.

Describe your time at UC Irvine and what have been some of your best memories?

College has been the most incredible experience. Coming into UC-Irvine, I was determined to make the most of my time here so I got very involved in a variety of organizations to meet different people. I played for the UCI Women’s Club Lacrosse Team, served as Vice President of Gamma Phi Beta, joined Delta Sigma Pi (a professional business fraternity), played a variety of intramural sports (including flag football, basketball, dodgeball, and soccer), and was on the 2019 UCI Homecoming Court. I am also very grateful to have been able to work in the Paul Merage Advancement office for the past two years and be part of the team that organizes the Merage Distinguished Speaker Series events.

Your college experiences truly help you grow as an individual and prepare for the professional working world, but it is the people you meet during your college years that will have the most meaningful impact on your life.

When it comes down to it, I will remember college by my favorite memories of the spontaneous, casual, late-night hangouts I had with my best friends in our Newport house. Whether it be singing bad karaoke, watching scary movies, or getting competitive over silly board games — it is the friendships I formed in college that I will cherish most after graduation.

One specific favorite college memory is with my best friend Sheena Jung. I met Sheena on the very first day that I moved to college my freshman year and we immediately became inseparable for the next three years. That’s why one of my favorite college memories is when Sheena took a 10-hour train to travel 400 miles just to visit me for a few days in Northern California during the summer break. We spent three amazing days acting like tourists, exploring new places, and simply laughing about life.

Let’s talk about failure. Can you share a personal story?

Given my personal and academic accomplishments on paper, most people would be surprised to learn that I hit a rough patch in college and actually failed a class.

I never thought I could be someone who got an actual F letter grade. But there was a period during my second year when I was dealing with a few personal problems, not taking care of my physical and mental health at all, felt homesick, and was very lost in terms of the career I wanted to pursue. I was not able to balance my social, work, and personal life very well and failed a class that I was required to pass by the end of my sophomore year otherwise I risked being kicked out of my major.

In the moment, I thought that was the absolute end. I failed a class and began thinking that my GPA would be forever ruined, I wouldn’t get into a good grad school, I could never have my dream career, and my mind continued to spiral downward out of control.

It took a really good friend to sit me down, hug me, and tell me to breathe because we were going to figure it out together. She and I talked for hours about how I got to where I was, researching what my options were at that point, and making a plan moving forward. We cried a little, laughed a little, and eventually accepted that I can’t change the past but I can change what I do moving forward. So I took the F that quarter, but the next quarter I got a tutor, found a friend to help keep me accountable for doing all my homework, went to professor hours, and passed the class the second time.

That failure taught me that everyone faces challenges and we all eventually take a loss or two – even those who seem to have their whole life put together. Despite how dreary a situation might look in the moment, it is important to remember these losses don’t define you, but how you bounce back from a challenge does.

Since then, I learned how to be proactive early on to never find myself in that type of situation again and have put in the hard work to earn back a high GPA. There is no denying that school is important, but singular grades are not the end-all-be-all, so remember to always look at the big picture.

What influenced your journey to UC-Irvine?

I chose UCI because it was one of the few institutions that made college financially possible for me and my family at the time by offering me financial grants to help pay for tuition and housing.

It is no secret that college is expensive, so it is extremely unfortunate when money is the thing that keeps intelligent and creative individuals from attending college and I am grateful to UCI for giving me the opportunity to grow towards my full potential. At the time, I also considered attending the University of San Diego, Boston University, and the University of Delaware.

While it was initially a practical choice, since coming to UCI I have absolutely fallen in love with the school and could not imagine myself being happier anywhere else. I am an outdoor nature lover, so the massive amounts of greenery on campus, warm Southern California weather, and short drive to the beach instantly caught my attention. More than that, the Paul Merage School of Business has become like a second home to me as I spend most of my days there either in class, at work, or simply sitting outside doing homework. I never expected to feel so connected to the Merage community and am grateful that the students, staff, and faculty are all so friendly with each other.

What advice do you have for younger business students?

My advice is to learn how to network early on. This will probably be the most difficult thing any business student has to do because it is not easy to talk and connect with strangers; especially with older, accomplished professionals who can be intimidating to approach. So even if you “think” you know how to talk to people, take advantage of the free networking classes and events Merage hosts because you never know who you’re possibly going to meet and where, so turn every moment into an opportunity.

A common misconception is that networking is solely about finding a job, but it is also about learning from others’ experiences and connecting with people with similar interests and goals to broaden your perspective.

What event in the world is closest to your heart and often on your mind?

Like many others at the moment, I am enraged by the recent Alabama abortion laws and many more similar laws that have been pushed through in just the last few years.

As someone who is highly involved in several women’s rights groups focused on issues ranging from preventing sexual violence, raising domestic violence awareness, and promoting women’s reproductive and health rights, I am distraught that we are taking such major steps backward when as a society we have made tremendous progress in other areas.

What is one rule you try to live by?

My golden rule: choose to have a positive attitude.

As a Type A personality, it can sometimes be hard for me to accept that I do not have control over everything in my life. However, it is inevitable that we each have to deal with everyday annoyances, frustrating setbacks, and sometimes unexpected rough patches in life.

Sometimes we can’t control those. However, we can control our attitude in how we approach these situations. For example, nobody loves traffic. But are you going to complain about it every morning on your way to work and put yourself in an irritable mood with others? Or are you going to wake up with a smile, accept that traffic is simply part of the regular workday, and make the most of your time by listening to your favorite podcast during your morning drive?

That’s not to say that we aren’t each allowed to have a bad day here or there, but it is on us to be aware when we can do something to turn a threat into an opportunity, and that begins by actively putting on a positive attitude.

COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER SERIES:

ADRIENNE ROSE, MICHIGAN ROSS

SREYAS SAI SAMANTULA, UC-BERKELEY HAAS