University of Southern California

Mike Larrenaga
Title
Being Accountable
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Graduating Year
2008
Hometown
Silicon Valley, CA

Growing up in Silicon Valley, Mike Larrenaga knew early on that he wanted a career in business. His father has been chief financial officer for a couple of companies, and his uncles and one of his brothers are accountants. "I came [into Marshall] as a marketing major because I was trying to get away from the whole family thing of working with numbers," he says. "But then I changed my mind after realizing what my strengths were."

He chose Marshall because of its strengths – particularly its high ranking. "One of the things I liked was that it was in the top 10 in U.S. News and World Report," he says. "That was a big deal for me."

A double major in accounting and finance, he is now an investment banking analyst at Piper Jaffrey in San Francisco. "I'm one of the few people who actually enjoys reading financial statements and trying to figure out how a company is doing," he says. "It's like a forensic science almost."

Mr. Larrenega says he was well prepared for his new position by Professor Julia Plotts' Financial Analysis and Evaluation class, as well as an internship she helped him get with a small bank in Santa Monica, California. "Her 421 class taught me everything I need to know about investment banking," he says. During his interview at Piper Jaffrey, he recalls: "They asked me how would you value a company, and then I went through this very detailed example that was basically a project I had just finished in class. They were blown away."

He adds that the overall Marshall emphasis on practical skills was another key advantage. "I feel as though Marshall has much more of a focus on team building and leadership than other schools that I've heard about," he says. "I can't remember a class at Marshall where we didn't have group projects. That's how it's going to be in the real world."

Those leadership skills will come in handy, given Mr. Larrenaga's career goals. "Not to be immodest, but I'd love to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company," he says. "I've always wanted to be the one who's accountable. I know in the long run I want to run a company and help mold it – whether it's going to a startup or a small company and helping build it up into something big or going to an already established company. My goal in life has always been to leave my mark.