After earning her undergraduate degree at the USC Marshall School of Business, Amy Sylvis spent four years in sales for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals, where she was the company’s top U.S. salesperson in 2006.
While successful in her role, she decided to pursue an MBA after observing a colleague’s transformation as a leader through USC Marshall’s MBA program. Sylvis was awarded a Dean’s Scholarship to pursue her graduate studies.
“I had such a great undergraduate experience,” she said. “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 USC Marshall students to mentor and teach business basics to a third-grade class.
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 noted. “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 USC Marshall, she said, 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 said.
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 said. She is returning to her passion for health care, joining pharmaceutical 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 said. “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.”