In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Chris Ouayoro, USC Marshall MBA ’20, provides insights into the work culture at Google, how the MBA readied him to contribute to the tech giant, and much more about his journey to becoming a senior financial analyst there.
Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Miami, Economics
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: USC Marshall School of Business, 2020
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Financial Analyst, 3 years (Advertising and Healthcare Tech)
Post-MBA Work Experience: Senior Financial Analyst, 2 years (Tech)
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I knew I wanted to attend business school since I was a junior in undergrad, but the timing was always a question mark. I always saw business school as the perfect opportunity to learn more and expand my skills as a professional, while giving me broader access to a variety of global companies. During my second year as a financial analyst at Zimmerman Advertising, I had learned a great deal working with the CFO and the Head of Finance, but ultimately there was not a large amount of room for growth. It was at that moment that I knew it was the perfect time to go pursue my MBA. I knew I wanted to work for a larger company in a more robust industry that would give me the opportunity to grow professionally.
Why USC Marshall? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I think whenever you first start looking at MBA programs you have to be very intentional about what you want to get out of your MBA experience. All top MBA programs will teach you how to case, build a DCF model, and become a better public speaker. Understanding that, I knew I wanted to leave business school with deep long-lasting connections as well as more exposure to different industries. USC Marshall was the perfect place for me to achieve that. From the moment I stepped on campus to Admit Weekend, I knew that Marshall was the place for me. Every Marshall student I interacted with knew their classmates and were actively helping each other be more successful and that was something I wanted to be a part of. USC is also located in one of the biggest cities in the world and I knew I would have access to any company or industry I was interested in. The weather was a nice addition as well.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career? What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Case competitions, Prime (Marshall’s 1Y International Consulting project), and my coursework at Marshall enabled me to be a more strategic thinker and better problem-solver.
One course in particular that had an outsized impact on my career, and that was “Strategy and Operation through a CFO Lens” with Professor John Owens. The class contains industry segments, each focusing on key issues that an industry faces and how specific CFOs address them. During this course I was able to put myself in the seat of a CFO for multiple Fortune 100 companies, debate my position with my classmates, and then have those CFOs come to class and discuss their strategy and hear my positions. By taking Professor Owens course I found that I had better business-solving skills and that I was more confident discussing my ideas with high-level executives.
During my first year at Marshall, I was convinced that I wanted to be a consultant. I thought consulting was the perfect place for me because it would allow me to work with a variety of industries and upper management, but I also knew that I did not want to be a partner at a consulting firm, so I would probably leave consulting after 2 or 3 years for tech or finance. Knowing that, I made sure that I recruited for the companies that were really interesting to me and, when it came down to deciding between a consulting offer or a tech offer, I decided that I would prefer to start my career at Google instead of doing something I didn’t see as a long-term destination for me.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
My internship at Google was the biggest factor in my decision. During my internship, I was given full autonomy to drive my project from start to finish. This was the first time in my career where I was given the runway to flex my problem-solving skills. From the moment I stepped onto campus, my manager and my team treated me like I was already a full-time employee. I think a lot of internships don’t give their interns impactful projects, which is understandable because there’s only so much you can learn and do in 3 months, but that was not the case during my internship. My project was top of mind for my team and our business partners and I was able to present my findings to multiple VPs and directors.
In addition to having a high-impact project, I received amazing mentorship from my managers and other employees who went through the MBA internship program and were in more senior roles. I was able to meet with current Googlers and get exposed to all the different career paths that were available to me in the future, which is ultimately what I wanted in my future company.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
I think before COVID most of the opportunities to progress your career in tech, you had to be in The Bay Area. Now that we’ve experimented with remote work for two years, we know that teams can still be incredibly productive all over the country. Companies, particularly tech companies, have to make sure they are giving their employees as much flexibility as possible. For me, this is a great opportunity because I love traveling and living in different cities so having the ability to do that while not sacrificing any career opportunities or projects is fantastic.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I was very intentional about where I wanted to work. When I was going through my job search for internships, I only applied to about five companies. Looking back on it, this was a pretty risky move, I could have easily not received an internship offer from any of those companies, but it meant that I was very focused. By only having a few companies I really wanted to work for, I had more bandwidth to do extra homework. I read all the financial statements and press briefings I could get my hands on. I met with as many people from those companies that would return my emails. I quickly figured out why I wanted to work there. I learned about the industry, the company, the culture, my role and had a clear story for why I would add value to the company. I think having this level of focus enabled me to find success with all the companies I interviewed with. Not saying that everyone should only apply to five companies, but whatever company you want to work for make sure to know your ‘why’; make sure you can clearly articulate how you are a value-add to the company.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would probably apply to one or two more companies so that I had a backup plan in case no one wanted to hire me.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Your internship or first job out of business school is not your destiny. When you’re in the MBA bubble, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on getting your dream internship or full-time offer because once you have that your career is set and that’s not the case. Just because you get that great banking internship or don’t get that awesome tech offer doesn’t mean your career path is predetermined. Once you finish your MBA that’s just the starting point not the finish line.