2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Sean Vasquez, USC (Marshall)

Sean Vasquez

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

Age: 36

“A passionate Indigenous executive, committed leader for his tribal community and a rabid sports fanatic.”

Hometown: Temecula, CA

Family Members: My parents Dean Vasquez & Tracy Bryant, and my brothers Carlos & Nick.

Fun fact about yourself: During the pandemic, my friend Courtney Cedillo and I started an offline podcast where we review horror movies every week. We have watched and reviewed over 300 films so far.

Undergraduate School and Degree: San Francisco State University, Bachelor of Science – Business Administration (Management)

Where are you currently working? Pechanga Development Company – 1st Vice President

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Board Member of Visit Temecula Valley; a “40 Under 40” Alumnus at the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED); and a Lead Advisor to the Pechanga Tribal Intern Program (CIAP).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I take great pride in my role in establishing the USC-Pechanga Tribal Scholarship, which is tailored to assist students hailing from indigenous nations in accessing higher education specifically to honored hall of the University of Southern California.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my leadership in partnering with Goldman Sachs to establish the Pechanga Diversity Fund, which aims to create investment opportunities for the tribe.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I had the privilege of learning from two outstanding mentors who inspired me in unique ways. Both Tom Chang and Arvind Bhambri possess the exceptional ability to simplify complex business and market dynamics. They challenged me to think creatively and develop effective business strategies, instilling in me a passion for competition.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? USC Marshall was the perfect choice for me. Its location in the heart of vibrant Los Angeles, its academic prestige, and the school’s unique culture were all compelling factors. However, what ultimately sealed the deal for me was the unparalleled network. The Trojan Family opens countless opportunities and experiences for future career prospects.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Networking. If there’s one thing that I took away from my MBA, it’s the importance of networking. I discovered that intelligence and will power doesn’t always lead to success, but knowing the right people can make all the difference. So, I made it a priority to attend a lot of industry events and conferences, and to connect with people on LinkedIn.

This effort has really paid off for me, as I’ve been able to make some valuable connections that have helped me in my career. For example, I was able to land a big project for my company because I knew someone who worked at the client company. Additionally, when I was working on a presentation strategy for work, someone I met at a tailgate was able to meet me for a coffee and stress tested it.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? One example that comes to mind is when I had a major team assignment due on the same day as my niece’s birthday. I didn’t want to miss her big day, but I didn’t want to let my team down.

So, I took a week off from work to focus on the project and made sure to communicate my plan with both my team and my family. I spent long hours in my office reading and reviewing my section and in Zoom meetings with my team. However, I also made sure to take breaks, to shop for birthday gifts with my girlfriend, and spend time with my family.

In the end, we were able to turn in a quality project and enjoy my niece’s birthday without any major hiccups. It wasn’t easy, but with careful planning and a supportive community, I was able to make it work.

The experience taught me that you can balance multiple priorities and achieve your goals with dedication, discipline, and a willingness to communicate and collaborate. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? As I mentioned earlier about the Trojan Family, I strongly advise anyone currently interested in business school right now is to prioritize building your network and come to USC as it can really make a difference in the future of their career.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that it guarantees success. There is this perception that getting an MBA is a golden ticket to a six-figure salary and a corner office, but that’s not necessarily the case.

An MBA can certainly be a valuable credential and can open doors, but it’s not a guarantee of success. In business, success is ultimately about your skills, your work ethic, and your ability to deliver results.

So, if you’re thinking about going back to school to pursue an MBA, don’t do it just because you think it’s the key to success. Do it because you’re passionate about business and want to learn more, and because you’re willing to put in the hard work to make the most of the experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I think my biggest regret was not taking more risks. I was so focused on getting good grades and building my resume that I didn’t always push myself outside of my comfort zone. I stuck to what I knew and what I was good at, rather than taking risks and trying new things.

In hindsight, I think that approach limited my growth and development as a business leader. I missed opportunities to learn from failure and build new skills and perspectives.

So, my advice to current and future business school students is to take risks and embrace new challenges. Don’t be afraid to fail because that’s often where the biggest opportunities for growth and learning lie.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be reckless or irresponsible. But don’t let fear hold you back from taking calculated risks and exploring new opportunities. You never know where they might lead.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Since joining the program, I’ve gained admiration for many students. Two that stand out in my mind are KyWon Lee and Khoi Dang. KyWon is a financial master and has a blackbelt in spreadsheet science. Watching him breakdown a company’s EV is something to marvel over. Khoi’s legal expertise is profound, particularly when it comes to matters of international corporate governance.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? While I believe there are benefits to online programs, I chose to attend an in-person Executive MBA program for a few reasons.

Firstly, I think there’s a lot of value in the in-person experience. Being in a physical classroom with other students and professors allows for more dynamic and engaging discussions, as well as networking opportunities that may not be available online.

Secondly, an in-person program offers more personalized attention and support. I built strong relationships with professors and classmates, which for me lead to better mentorship and guidance.

Finally, I think being in-person helps you develop stronger leadership skills. Specifically, because of the interaction and multitude of group projects and presentations, which can help you build your communication and collaboration skills.

Of course, there are also benefits to online programs, such as flexibility and convenience. But for me, the benefits of an in-person program outweigh the potential drawbacks.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? As a leader in both business and my tribal community, I think my objective is to contribute to shaping of the future of business and technology in our community. I want to be part of the conversation and decision-making process around the biggest issues facing the indigenous business world, from innovation to regulation and sustainability.

I have an ambition It’s my ambition that through my work at PDC, my connection to the Trojan Family and through mentorship to the next generation of business leaders. That I can cultivate a sense of responsibility and purpose that will guide their decisions and actions in years to come.

Ultimately, my goal is to make a positive impact on my community and the world, and to inspire others to do the same. I believe that business can be a force for good, and I want to help shape a future where that is the norm, not the exception.

What made Sean such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“As a great student, accomplished business leader, and someone who simply made the class better in a myriad of ways, Sean absolutely fits the usual description of a Poets and Quants Best & Brightest. But that is not why I will remember him.

The reason I love teaching Executive MBAs is that every year I learn more from them than they do from me. The reason I will remember Sean is just how much I’ve gained from our interactions. As an intelligent and curious person with diverse interests, he brought a lot to our conversations inside and outside of class. As a Tribal Member who grew up on the Pechanga Reservation and a board member of the Pechanga Development Corporation, he brought an authentically distinctive viewpoint and set of lived experiences that have enriched my personal and professional understanding of the world. I am grateful that Sean chose to come to USC.”

Tom Y. Chang

Associate Professor of Finance and Business Economics


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