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Mario Portugal already had business experience when he enrolled in community college in his hometown of San Diego. He began as an administrative assistant at a sign manufacturing company, then moved on to a large real estate development company. There he became executive assistant to the senior vice president and general manager.
“It was an excellent opportunity to observe someone running a multi-billion-dollar company. That experience really opened my eyes to business and its different functions,” Mario says. “I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
When it came time to transfer to a business school, his advisor urged him to aim for the best. “USC Marshall came up,” he says, “and the program here really intrigued me. I just fell in love with the campus.”
As a transfer student, Mario says he wanted to plunge himself into the university and become as involved as possible. He quickly joined the Marshall Business student government, the Latino Business Student Association and Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity—which he eventually served as president.
“Student organizations function pretty similarly to a business, in the sense you have things you have to accomplish, vice presidents you have to motivate to get their jobs done,” he says. Unlike businesses, however, officers are not paid. “So you have to find other ways to motivate people.”
Mario found his student activities an enjoyable complement to the intensive and invaluable Marshall curriculum. “Everything you learn at Marshall is applicable to your life in business when you graduate,” he says. “It really prepares you.” He points to Professor Stacy Geck’s Business Communication and Professor Robert Turrill’s Designing & Leading Teams as particularly meaningful to his career.
With previous school experience in speech and debate, Mario expected any communication course to be easy. He was wrong in the best possible way. “Professor Geck always pushed the students to try harder, no matter what level we were at in our communication or our public speaking,” Mario recalls.
Even as Professor Geck honed Mario’s communication skills, Professor Turrill enhanced his leadership and teamwork abilities. As Mario and his classmates were placed on teams, they learned how to best complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses to successfully accomplish their tasks.
“In business, that’s so important, because you’re constantly going to be working as part of a team,” Mario says.
Currently he enjoys his position at Capgemini Consulting, where he works on a team to propose information technology solutions to companies.
Still, Mario hopes someday to become a lawyer and open his own firm. “I really like litigation,” he says, again referencing his interest in speech and debate. “What I’d really like to do is be able to help people—someone who is facing problems at their job or business, who might be treated unfairly.”
Of his Marshall experience and future career, Mario says: “I’ve been so fortunate thus far to get to where I am today. I could have never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that I would be graduating from a school as prestigious as Marshall. So I think I’m just going to go along for the ride and see what happens.”