The Punctuated Equilibrium of a Would-Be Polymath

“Once upon a time there was a kid who loved to draw and loved to call things by their scientific name. She had a love of nature and a love of art. She wanted to be a scientist, an artist, and everything in between....” When I was very young, I read about Leonardo, Michelangelo, Galileo and the concept of the “Universal Genius.” I fell in love with the idea of being a poet, a painter, a botanist, a marine biologist, a chemist and a naturalist. Why choose between all these wonderful things?

My mother worked hard to support the two of us and scraped just enough together each month to send me to small private school in West Los Angeles. When I began attending, they didn’t have any special electives like art class. But they knew how much I loved art. So they created an art class for me.

I studied life drawing at Brentwood Art Center, and I won many awards for art in high school. I studied fine art at Otis College of Art & Design and the Santa Monica College of Design, Art & Architecture. At the same time, I was madly in love with biology. I was studying botany, marine biology, zoology and entomology at Santa Monica College. I was volunteering at the Natural History Museum and doing biological illustrations for herpetology, entomology and any other -ology (research & collections department) that would have me. It was labor intensive (freehand drawing while looking through a microscope), and I worked for free.

I started working as a Graphic Designer and Art Director in 1999. It was fun and fulfilling to see my work printed and hold my designs in my hand. And it was a good living. But I became compelled to understand the strategy behind what clients were requesting. The “why” behind the “what” that I was making. I decided to complete my undergraduate degree in business. Specifically marketing.

I graduated in May 2004 with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). I worked full-time while I completed my BSBA. I found I could often used the material that I’d learned the night before in class the next day at work. It was fantastic and helped my on-the-job skills increase exponentially. My thinking style, as well, jumped up by leaps and bounds. There’s an evolutionary biology term that explains my path perfectly: punctuated equilibrium.

After graduation, I worked as a Marketing Manager in a couple of amazing positions that helped me grow and refine my skills. I became a marketing generalist (a Universal Genius of marketing?) and managed a range of channels in the promotions mix including direct marketing (direct mail & email), advertising and public relations. I enjoyed pulling it all together into an integrated marketing communications program. And I discovered I had a serious knack for analyzing marketing budgets and optimizing spending to achieve maximum return on investment (ROI).

I didn’t forget about my love of science. (I can recall letting out a wistful sigh as I passed by the open door of a physics lab at CSUN and saw a lab bench full of Bunsen burners and beakers, oh my.) No, I didn’t forget it; I incorporated it into my marketing. Everything became a test. I would formulate a hypothesis and prove or disprove it. It made my marketing metrics outstanding and my results the talk of the industry. Of course they were great; they were based on science! It was a perfect fit. Business loves science. They’re a match made in heaven (or a physics lab).

In 2008, I started the process to get my MBA. It was intimidating at first (the costs, researching programs and taking the GMAT), but exciting. And I was ready to be in school again, this time learning at a different/higher level. I started at CSUN in Spring 2009. I took the requisite core classes like Economics, Information Systems (IS), Finance, Systems Operations Management (SOM), Strategic Marketing and Strategy. Courses were taught using Harvard Business School cases, doing analysis, making strategic recommendations and providing a data-driven rationale.

I had done some case-based analysis as an undergraduate, but the depth of analysis, the fast pace and intense reading schedule were new. And I liked it. A lot. But what I loved were the electives. I joked with the MBA program director that she might have to kick me out. I loved what I was learning so much, I never wanted to leave. I took electives in Sustainability for Managers, International Marketing, Leadership, even a special topics course on Mindfulness & Meditation. It was amazing and showed me a new way of thinking/managing/leading.

I took so many electives that I ended up earning a double MBA (in marketing & management). I graduated in December 2011. My thesis was a business plan for a non-profit arts organization on campus. I attended commencement events and walked in May 2012. My graduating class nominated me to speak at our MBA hooding ceremony. It was an honor I will never forget and the sweet culmination of my entire (wonderful) MBA experience.

I have 20/20 vision for identifying opportunities and solving complex problems. I enjoy a challenge and a steep learning curve. I'm energized by the idea of a new project. I am left-brained AND right-brained. Seriously analytical and deeply creative. I do my best work when shifting rapidly between the two. Sometimes these two sides are hard to reconcile. Sometimes they join forces to help me create something out of nothing or make magic. Left and right working together sometimes, just sometimes, comes up with a solution that is elegant and surprising.