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Scaling into Leadership

How a tech worker found his way to Chicago Booth.

Written by Philip Baker
Outside University of Chicago Booth School of Business

While working as a solutions architect at Boeing, Christian Garcia began to see the edges of a new career.

Two years earlier, he had graduated with a BS in computer science, a degree that served him in his role designing finance tools for Boeing’s treasury department. In so doing, he found himself in frequent collaboration with the aviation company’s business operations team. 

“The business team implemented and scaled the processes the tech side created,” he says. “Working with them made me realize I really like taking the lead from an execution standpoint and figuring out what to do next. I wanted to gain the versatility to work on both sides of the fence.”

This transition would require an MBA, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business seemed like the natural place to earn one. 

Christian Garcia, GSALB student

GSALB was pivotal in giving me the tools and outlook to confidently market myself as I revised my Booth application.

Christian Garcia, GSALB student

“Other software and technology types told me about the amazing career opportunities they got as they progressed through the program at Booth validated my sense that connecting the dots between technology and business was the right path for me,” he says.

Getting a Leg Up 

When Garcia’s first Booth application got rejected, he already knew about UChicago’s Graduate Student at Large: Business (GSALB) program. Through GSALB, working professionals take for-credit classes at Chicago Booth, experiencing a top-tier business education while acquiring a competitive edge in their applications to Booth and other MBA programs.

Garcia welcomed the opportunity to work closely with UChicago advisors to maximize his time in the program and his chances of getting in. GSALB Program Director Esther Pandian-Riske proved especially helpful. 

“Esther was fantastic,” he says. “She helped me recognize my successes in GSALB and was pivotal in giving me the tools and outlook to confidently market myself as I revised my Booth application.”

After taking two Booth classes through GSAL, Garcia was accepted the next time he applied to business school. 

Five Ways GSALB Can Help You Get to Chicago Booth

  1. Excel in the Booth classroom: “There’s no better metric for your application than your grades and a good strong performance in the classes,” he says. “After all, these are classes that you would be taking anyway, so a strong performance proves you’re ready.”
  2. Confirm that Booth culture was the right fit: “Using GSALB to take classes means you’ve actually already been at Booth,” he says. “Rather than just hoping it’s the right place for you, you can actually speak to the quality of the program and how it fits with your career goals.” 
  3. Connect with other Booth students: “Sitting next to them as a GSALB student and hearing stories about the amazing career opportunities they’ve had and the networks they’ve built confirmed for me that I’d really be able to learn a lot from them,” he says. “My experience thus far has completely confirmed that inkling.”
  4. Put learning to use in real time: “I watched students learn something in class at night and then take it to work and use it the next morning. It’s like instant gratification for the learning that you’re doing.”
  5. Gain confidence: “Working with Esther made GSALB was my launchpad to gaining full confidence in my final application. Because of Esther and GSALB, I’m now a Boothie.”
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