University of Southern California

Amy Sylvis
Expanding Leadership Skills with a Marshall MBA
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Pasadena, California  

After earning her undergraduate degree at USC Marshall, Amy Sylvis spent four years in sales for sanofi-aventis pharmaceuticals, where she was the company's top U.S. salesperson in 2006. While clearly successful in her role, she decided to pursue an MBA after observing a colleague's transformation as a leader through Marshall's MBA program.

"I had such a great undergraduate experience," she says. "In particular, I had this professor named James Ellis. I liked him so much I took four classes from him. All of a sudden, a few weeks before I needed to make a decision on an MBA program, he became dean of the Marshall School and my decision was made. Whether it is in your career or in your schooling, you need to believe in your leader - those who set the agenda, the culture, the course for the institution."

As a graduate student, Sylvis immersed herself in opportunities to gain leadership knowledge and experience. She served as vice president of development for the Leadership and Organization Club and volunteered with fellow Marshall students to mentor and teach business basics to a third-grade class through Junior Achievement.

Among her favorite classes was Leadership and Executive Development, taught by Professor Morgan McCall. "He had speaker after speaker come in from various industries, she notes." "To be able to listen to a handful of very successful people discuss their leadership style and how they motivated others is something I know will stay with me the rest of my career."

The single best experience at Marshall, she says, was traveling to Japan through the school's Pacific Rim Education PRIME program, which included site visits at major companies and consulting with their executives. "Presenting our recommendations and interacting with executives from Japanese companies gave such tremendous insight on the pleasures and challenges of doing business internationally and on how much culture can influence one’s perspective on running businesses," she says. "That was the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that PRIME afforded us."

After exploring a number of career options, Sylvis ultimately was drawn to the strategic side of human resources. "I feel like it is the heart of the company," she says. She is returning to her passion for health care, joining biotechnology giant Amgen in Los Angeles as a human capital manager.

"I think that USC's reputation definitely preceded me and helped me get this job," she says. "It's that tried and true Trojan network. USC is known for graduates who are not only smart, but also trustworthy, eager and able to get along well with others."