2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Brian D’Souza, UCLA (Anderson)

Brian D’Souza

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

Age: 38

Innovative leader that helps empower people around him; someone who do anything for family.”

Hometown: Mangalore, India but grew up in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Family Members: I have a family of 2: my 2-year-old son Adrian, who has taught me to live life and enjoy the small moments and my amazing wife Jacqueline D’Souza, who keeps me grounded and has been my pillar of strength, taking a break from work just to help me achieve my MBA, and ensuring we could foster our son’s growth. My parents are retired and based in Mangalore, India while my sibling and his family are based in based in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Fun fact about yourself: While in grad school at USC, I championed an event called Dancing with the Engineers modelled after Dancing with the Stars. I learned 3 dance forms just to recruit participants for the event. The event attracted participants from across campus.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

NMAMIT-India: Bachelor of Engineering

Viterbi School of Engineering: USC: MS-Computer Science

Where are you currently working? Amgen. I am a technology leader responsible for transforming Amgen employee experience for over 40,000 staff across 100 countries leveraging modern platforms.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • EMBA class of 2021 Academic Representative for Student Council
  • UCLA Anderson Crisis Response Corps: Consulting engagement over summer for a non-profit called The Love story (transform tragedy by journaling)
  • UCLA Net Impact Challenge to work on a consulting challenge to provide guidance to Family Engagement Lab around improving engagement and scaling.
  • UCLA Social Impact Challenge to work on consulting engagement with Nourish LA on how we can help increase brand awareness, and provide an operational improvement strategy to enable the nonprofit to scale.
  • Nur Labs (Team Member) – Heartland Challenge Entrepreneurship – 1st place
  • Nur Labs(Team Member) – Big Bang Competition – Finalist
  • Nur Labs(Team Member) – Big Ideas Competition – Finalist
  • Nur Labs(Team Member) – Knapp Entrepreneurship Competition- Semi-Finalist
  • Volunteer at Casa Pacifica
  • Teacher’s Assistant for Professor Ullmen (Organization Behavior) & Professor Jennifer MCCaney (Tech Commercialization)
  • Completion of MBA specializations: Global Management, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Technology & Finance

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

Academic: In addition to pushing myself to pursue multiple certificates in global management, technology, marketing, entrepreneurship, and finance, I leveraged every opportunity to immerse myself in various competitions. The goal was to push myself and explore avenues I could not have ever imagined is possible.

Getting involved in UCLA Bio design-BCO creation option and being part of the NurLabs team has been my biggest achievement. Working with like-minded individuals such as Sumita, Aram, Deepa, Alan and Chandra, where our common passion is early detection of cancer, has been extremely rewarding. We hope to take this research to reality and truly make an impact to society.

Extracurricular Activities: As part of my endeavor as Academic Rep, along with co-rep Mike Catania, we would adapt to what COVID threw at us, by building a bridge between faculty and student so our voices could be heard. Our key initiative was to start a pilot a EMBA Alumni Mentoring program. This is something that had not been done earlier to maximize the experience of our class. We hope to launch it to broader EMBA community at Anderson for years to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? This one has most to do with people. As a people manager, when my team members were impacted by a major transformational initiative at the company, my ability to be there for my team, guide and help them land new roles either within Amgen or externally is something I am proud of.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There are so many stellar professors during my time at UCLA Anderson that it’s hard to pick just one. Some of the best professors I had gave me a well-grounded perspective of business and life skills. I had the privilege of learning from so many different professors.

* Prof. John Ullmen: An exceptional mentor and guide in putting forward new ideas and making educational experience fun, especially for Executive Leadership and Organizational Behavior.

* Prof Cassie Holmes: The Happiness: Life Desig” course was a reality check for me to stop multi-tasking during family time and try out digital detox and other tools.

* Prof. Noah Goldstein: Persuasion and Influence was my top MBA course because I was able to immediately apply it to work and get some tangible results.

* Prof Terry Kramer: In Technology Management, ‘Always think broad and ask so-what’ has helped me broaden my thinking.

* Prof. Miguel Unzueta: In Negotiation, I learned frameworks that could be used at work and in personal life to get better outcomes.

* Prof. Jennifer Mccaney: My advisor and professor for a course I TA’ed. Her work ethic was remarkable and attention to detail is something I look to emulate.

* Prof Andres Terech & Prof Mathias Kahl: I appreciated their desire to go above-and-beyond their teaching duties and help learn the content in Corporate Finance and Marketing Strategy by being accessible all the time.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? As someone who lived in the LA area, when I moved to Florida in 2018, I wanted a top school in LA. I had sat in as a visitor on some classes for part time MBA 6 years earlier and the inclusive experience of the classroom had left a lasting impression on me. Even though I had a master’s degree from USC, if I ever did an MBA, it would be from UCLA Anderson. The amazing cohort along with professors and the access to cross campus collaboration was what attracted me to UCLA.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? My biggest lesson during MBA was surprisingly the soft skills around negotiation, persuasion, and influence. During COVID-19, when budget was limited and projects were being reprioritized at Amgen, I was able to leverage a loss framing approach and negotiation mindset to get a green light on a major transformation initiative for employee experience. That was extremely satisfying to immediately apply concepts from a class at school.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? This happened during my last quarter at Anderson, where there was 1 final, 1 midterm, and 3 assignments during a 1-week period. This was in addition to a spike in work due to staff turnover and need to stabilize a highly visible initiative at work. The first thing I did was being open with my wife about the additional support I would need. I was able to devote one day of a weekend with my son AND wife relaxing at the beach, then get heads down, working through a final working all day on a Sunday. From there, I would spend the next work week, balancing between work (asking for support from colleagues to help), while not compromising quality and powering through the various assignments during the week along with the midterm. The effort also involved working with the professor for guidance. At the end of that period, I was able to come unscathed albeit a little exhausted. The main takeaway for me was that I had to ask for help than try to do it all and your closest family and friends are your life-line.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Go do it! The sacrifice and work you put in, is worth its value in gold.

If you decide to pursue it immerse yourself into the experience. Engage as many people during your MBA regardless of Full time, part time or executive MBA. Get to know people on a personal level. Take courses where you absolutely don’t have a background. Don’t fret about grades, the key is for you to broaden your thinking. Take part in as many competitions, non-profit work, and consulting work as you can. You won’t get another chance at this and you don’t want to regret that you didn’t try out things, especially in safe environment as school.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? So when I talked to Alumni, everyone shared how the work would be hard, you need to spend 20 hours a week or so studying. What I realized is even though school was hard and requires a lot of sacrifice, ultimately what you put into it is what you get from it. Know your priorities and importance of family life. I would modulate my work effort and try hard to make time for family during weekends, even if that meant sleeping less during the week. The other myth is you can do it alone. I learnt that without my wife’s support, patience, and sacrifice, I could not have done ¼ of what I ultimately could achieve.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Being an introvert, one of the goals I had set myself enrolled was to expand my network in business school. While I made attempts to change that in the two quarters we were in person, I wish I had utilized that time better. My counter to that is that I will make a more conscious attempt to maintain the relationships and friendships from school for years to come.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? With our cohort having so many brilliant people, it was hard to pinpoint just one person. I came across so many people that were far more superior in intellect and stature than I could aspire to be. My favorite classmate is Mike Catania who was a fellow academic rep and really a great mentor and friend. I was always in awe of how well-rounded and calm Mike was during COVID and our transition to online modality. He always had the time to listen and support my crazy ideas and mentor me; he would just give back so much to society through the events he put up for our class along with his mentorship and start up work he would do. He is also a brilliant student, and I could count on him for helping for the most basic of questions I would have.

Some other classmates that were inspiring to me, are Nadia Hansen (haven’t seen anyone as organized and meticulous as Nadia, a north star for me), Sumita Jonak (for her passion for entrepreneurship dedication and drive amongst various hurdles), and Binu Janardan (for being a great friend and late night buddy when navigating what the EMBA threw at us through various group projects and exam preparations).

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Though COVID changed the narrative, my motivation to enroll in an Executive MBA program versus some of the other options was just the access to a talented cohort and the experience and diverse life experiences that it brought along. As a mid-management professional, rubbing shoulders with so many exceptional individuals was something I envisioned and experienced.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? If I was asked this question, when I enrolled with my MBA, my answer was CIO, CTO, or COO. Along this journey of my MBA I have come to realize that truly what I would like to achieve is to be in position where I can have the most impact to my peers, colleagues, and society at large. That opens the window of opportunity to many function/industries and various roles, I could not have fathomed before. I am excited at what the future has in store for me.

What made Brian such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Brian is an invaluable member of the UCLA Anderson Executive MBA Class of 2021 cohort. He is a Senior Manager at Amgen, and is a champion for offering Intelligent Automation globally through technology and AI. Brian’s work is impacting the way in which Amgen is brings pharmaceuticals to consumers, making the release to market more efficient and less expensive. As a result, Amgen can allocate funds towards research to invest in life-saving medicines.

In addition to a stellar career performance, Brian is considered a model student by both his classmates and EMBA administration. Besides being an excellent student and having a strong GPA in the EMBA program, Brian’s genuine demeanor is highly valued in his interactions with peers, faculty and staff.  Overall, Brian is very proactive and willing to take on more to help others, which speaks volumes about his character disposition. Brian was elected to the position of Class Council Academic Representative by his peers. In this role, particularly during the pandemic, he has been a solid bridge connecting the students with the staff and the faculty for the wellness of the entire EMBA community.

Brian has maximized his participation in Executive MBA program, making sure that he actively engages and takes advantage of every opportunity to learn. His accomplishments have been recognized not only within Amgen and the UCLA EMBA program, but by outside organizations as well. Brian and a select few of his EMBA colleagues started Nur Labs, a startup which has developed an early cancer screening method via a non-invasive liquid biopsy platform. Brian and his EMBA team were recognized for this outstanding innovation through the Heartland Challenge, where Brian and his team took top prize for their startup. It is because of this passion for learning and excellence in education that we are nominating Brian D’Souza for the Poets & Quants Best and Brightest for 2021.

Sarika Thakur, MPH, EdD
Executive Director of Admissions, UCLA Anderson EMBA and UCLA-NUS


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.