Cici Pandol wants to drive marketing strategies for the world’s biggest brands. Determined to take her career to the next level, she’s applying for an MBA at Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross and UT Austin McCombs in the US.
Growing up in Bakersfield, California, Cici was immersed in enterprise from a young age. Her family business, Grapery, is part of a particularly unique sector: Cotton Candy Grapes, which in her own words are the “most interesting and flavorful grapes in the world.”
She interned there during her college years before joining Soapbox, a Washington DC-based social enterprise which sells soap to fund development projects both in the US and in emerging economies.
She currently works there as a brand manager. Her ambition to transition into a multinational consumer goods company is what drives her to pursue an MBA.
What are you looking to gain from an MBA?
I wasn't a business undergrad, so the many functions of business that deeply affect marketing, like finance and accounting, are currently not in my skill set.
In order to innovate an industry, it is essential for me to learn from the companies who are responsible for the world’s most famous, branded products. I have so much to learn about the processes that help to found full scale marketing campaigns for global brands.
What are the most important factors to you when choosing a business school?
Initially I wanted to ensure that my exit options matched with my future ambitions. I made a list according to which companies recruited at which campuses. After that I really wanted to get a feel for the school culture, so I went to many events. For me, it is important to fit in and I would choose a school that would give me the best results for my character, rather than a school that was ranked higher.
I want my different background and unique ideas for the future to be supported and accepted, but I also want to be able to shape my learning on campus. An alumni network and strong connections to some of the biggest CPG companies is also important to me, as it could help fulfill my career ambitions.
I like Duke Fuqua because of the entrepreneurial spirit that the student-led culture fosters and the way the school celebrates uniqueness. Michigan Ross appeals to me because of the unique Neilsen data partnership. UT Austin McCombs is laid back with a fierce, hidden inner drive, which matches my personality and work style.
How are you preparing for the GMAT?
I took a course with Veritas Prep, I did some private tutoring to strengthen some areas and I did lots of practice tests. I increased my score and I am currently studying one final time to see if I can improve it again.
Have you considered taking the GRE?
I have considered the GRE lately because I've had to put quite a bit of extra time into quant. I didn't ever consider it at the start of my MBA journey and now that I have put so much time into the GMAT it does not seem logical to switch at this point.
What advice do you have for others considering an MBA?
If you're thinking about applying for an MBA, start with the GMAT. If you are willing to do the test, you will be convinced at the end of the process that an MBA is worthwhile. It will help keep your motivation strong throughout the long process.
What are your future career plans?
After my MBA I hope to enter the consumer goods world as an associate brand manager. I love the personal care industry so far and would particularly like to join a men's personal care brand. It's a part of the overall category that is really innovating and changing right now and would be fascinating to be a part of.