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Real Humans of Johnson & Johnson: Sophia Fischer, UCI Merage MBA ’22, MLDP Marketing Manager

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In this installment of Real Humans: Alumni, Sophia Fischer shares her story of how and why University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business became the right place for her MBA and how the program prepared her to be an MLDP marketing manager at Johnson & Johnson. For Fischer, pursuing an MBA was an investment in personal growth, one that required choosing a school that would make that same investment in her as a student and also ensure she would find a company to continue that growth.

Sophia Fischer, UCI Merage MBA ’22, MLDP Marketing Manager at Johnson & Johnson 

Age: 31
Hometown: I grew up overseas- my family moved frequently due to my father’s job.
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of California, Davis; Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): University of California, Irvine; 2022
Pre-MBA Work Experience:  Sr. Marketing Associate/ Medical Education Specialist, Stryker 6 years, Medical Devices
Post-MBA Work Experience: Marketing Manager, Marketing Leadership Development Program, Johnson & Johnson MedTech, 2 years, Medical Devices

Why did you choose to attend business school? 
I was interested in medical device portfolio management as the next step in my career and needed a holistic business education to be a competitive candidate for that role. I had been thinking about pursuing an MBA for a while, and it was the right time for me personally and professionally to pause my career and relocate for the full-time MBA opportunity. 

Why UCI Merage? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Merage’s small cohort size gave me close contact to professors, personalized advising from the career center, and strong relationships with my cohort on campus. Also, the business school’s location in Irvine, CA granted me access to an array of companies across industries, enabling me to build a large network off-campus. Southern California is a hotspot for healthcare and device companies, and Merage has close relationships with brand-name companies in this industry. 

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Marketing leadership positions at J&J require strong interdisciplinary skills. I opted to take a variety of non-marketing-focused electives across finance, operations, and new product development, which give me different perspectives and a versatile toolkit for addressing complex business challenges. 

Additionally, I took advantage of opportunities to apply what I learned to ‘real world’ situations, like a quarter-long consulting project for a local medical device company and a case competition within the financial industry. These opportunities developed my ability to quickly assess situations and identify areas to drive value, which I frequently leverage in my current role. 

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice of marketing manager?
I interned at Johnson & Johnson MedTech, within their Marketing Leadership Development Program. The Marketing Leadership Development Program is a rotational program with assignments in Global Strategic Marketing and US Commercial Marketing. I knew a rotational program would give me a wide breadth of marketing experience and exposure to senior leadership at different businesses. I was impressed by the scope and responsibility I was given with my internship project and excited about the network I built during my ten-week internship. The rotational program is a great foundation for my career at J&J. 

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Taking two years to pursue my MBA full-time was a big investment in my personal growth. I wanted to find a company that allowed me to keep growing. J&J invests in its people and fosters a culture where diverse thought, collaboration, and personal development is valued. Recently, the company launched a new internal platform, J&J Learn, which includes a tool to chart your career aspirations and identify strategic gaps, a company-wide mentorship matching program, and GROW gigs, which offer employees the ability to take short-term roles in different functions and businesses to build new skills. I love that my personal development is a priority for my company.  

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I was very thoughtful about company culture. I wanted to land at a company with values like mine. J&J has a very strong set of values, spelled out in our Credo. To assess whether the Credo was an accurate representation of company culture, I set up multiple informational interviews during the recruiting process and during my internship. At the end of each interview, I would ask if that person could connect me to another colleague, which allowed me to build my network. Speaking to employees outside of the formal interview process can give you a more comprehensive and authentic view of the company’s culture.  

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
I would leverage more resources from my career center! During my job search, I utilized the career center for 1:1 interview prep sessions and offer negotiations tactics. The Merage Career Center coached me through the different facets of the job search process and the individualized attention was invaluable.  

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process? 
When I was recruiting for my internship, the biggest surprise to me was how early employers post roles and start engaging with candidates. I needed MBA level interview skills when I had barely started my classes! This is where I really leveraged the Merage Career Center to help prepare me for interviews.  

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Luckily, I was given this advice multiple times during my MBA: social networks are equally as important as academics and career. Focus on building connections with the like-minded individuals around you. When I moved to Irvine for my MBA, in the midst of a pandemic, I didn’t know a single person in Southern California. Now, I have a community of life-long friends that I can go to for personal and professional support.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.