Advice and Network Paved My Way to New Finance Career

My transition to private equity at Upwelling Capital Group.

When I first enrolled in the UC Davis Sacramento Part-Time MBA program, I was offered profound advice that pushed me over the edge. While speaking to a few loved ones, I was considering delaying my application, but they helped me put things into perspective. If an MBA degree was on my mind then I should apply, and I did.

I first thought of going for an MBA during my last year as an undergrad at UC Davis. I was an economics major and I was managing my dad’s trucking business at the time.

I did not expect the wide range of opportunities that came with an MBA degree, but I quickly discovered just how valuable that experience can be.

Focusing on Finance

Jesse Rodriguez and Dean H. Rao Unnava
Dean H. Rao Unnava takes a photo with Jesse Rodriguez at the Big Ideas conference where Rodriguez was a featured speaker on behalf of his capstone experience in Chile with the UC Davis Global Affairs Dept.

Before joining the UC Davis MBA program, I worked for four years as a communications consultant and community liaison in the California State Senate. I met many impressive colleagues with incredible passions for public policy. It was a promising career path, but I knew that I wanted to explore other angles related to business and consulting.

After completing my core MBA classes, I focused on finance electives. And even by the end of the program there were still courses that I wish I could have taken. I also developed strong bonds with several of the finance faculty.

These relationships helped me develop the skills I needed to transition to my new career in finance—a path less traveled for many of my MBA colleagues.

Faculty Helped Pave the Way

Several of the course lecturers were also practitioners who shared their professional experiences, including real-world conundrums and situational hypotheticals.

Sorin Maruster taught three courses I took: Investment Analysis, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Private Equity (elective). Maruster is a senior manager at KPMG and was helping a large client with their IPO process. While he did not disclose non-public information, he gave us a sense of his work.

Jesse Rodriguez and Bryan Dastmalchi

In 2019, UC Davis MBA students Jesse Rodriguez and Bryan Dastmalchi (right) visited Start-Up Chile, where their team had a meeting to discuss potential collaborations with the UC Davis Global Center.

My finance studies and professional work soon collided.

I met my future boss, and an involved UC Davis MBA alumnus, during a School event in my second year. Joncarlo Mark, founder of Upwelling Capital Group, a private equity investment advisory firm based in Davis was also a trustee of the UC Davis Foundation at the time.

When we first met, our brief conversation turned into a visit to the Upwelling office. Following that meeting, he offered me an internship. That internship led to a career role, and ever since I have grown into the industry and am now in my third year with the firm.

Network Connections Pay Off

The GSM has always boasted a close-knit, strong alumni network, but I didn’t know how that could pay off in my own career until I met Mark and the Upwelling staff.

Mark presented his experiences in my private equity class. In my multi-asset investing class with lecturer Eamonn Dolan, I learned about asset classes that institutions and portfolio managers consider. A veteran investment professional, Dolan previously served as chief investment officer and managing director of CM Capital (CMC) and served on the UC Davis Foundation Board from 2006 to 2018. His experience and lessons have helped me thrive in my new role.

Jesse Rodriguez at 2019 graduation
Rodriguez was the 2019 Sacramento Part-Time MBA program's class speaker at graduation. 

MBA Pays Big Dividends

Working at Upwelling is not something I could not have imagined a few years ago. Earning a UC Davis MBA allowed me to make a career shift, and my family pushed me to take the leap.

The Part-Time MBA program’s flexibility was another advantage. I was able to design my schedule with specific courses, and bounce ideas off my classmates and professors before returning to the office to work with real clients.

It turned out to be a great fit professionally and a wonderful, collaborative culture.

If I would have waited a year to start the program, I would have either completely missed or delayed my jump into this exciting new industry. I couldn’t have done it without the Aggie alumni network and faculty relationships.