Andrea Almeida Mack's, '94, credentials are impeccable: an undergraduate degree from Harvard, an MBA from UCLA Anderson and 19 years of experience in fixed-income asset management. But the truth behind Andrea's success is more complicated - and interesting.
After Harvard, Andrea enrolled in business school at the University of Michigan, but quickly realized she'd made a mistake. "It wasn't the right time for me to do business school. I could do the work, but I wasn't getting everything out of it that I should have been," she says. "I had no work experience, so for me it was just an academic experience."
Realizing she had to change course, Andrea withdrew from school and moved to Los Angeles. A friend suggested she look up Linda Baldwin, who'd helped him when he was at a crossroads. Andrea did, but at the time sort of wished she hadn't. "I met with Linda and she said, 'You need a plan,'" Andrea recalls with a laugh. Fortunately, Baldwin saw talent and ability in Andrea and set out to help.
Andrea does what she can to pay back all the help she received.
Baldwin's intervention proved pivotal. She not only worked in admissions at UCLA Anderson, but also served as executive director of The Riordan Programs, a group of Anderson initiatives that provide leadership and management training to recent college graduates from underserved communities. Andrea immediately applied for The Riordan MBA Fellows Program.
Baldwin also helped Andrea set up interviews at First Interstate Bank, and, two years later and with some work experience under her belt, Andrea reapplied to business schools.
She came back to UCLA Anderson in large part because of her personal connection to Baldwin and, through the Toigo Fellowship, the promise of mentorship from Joan Payden, founder of global investment management firm Payden & Rygel, and a member of the UCLA Anderson Board of Visitors. Despite Andrea's experience at First Interstate, she felt she was behind the curve when it came to a practical understanding of finance. Payden helped fix that.
"She's a person who took being a mentor completely seriously," Andrea says. "Not only did I get to learn about what she does, institutional fixed-income asset management, which is what I still do, but also I got to trail this amazing entrepreneur."
After graduation, Andrea started at Payden & Rygel, then later moved to Western Asset Management. She spent 12 years there as a portfolio manager before recently taking time off to be with her two young sons.
Now, Andrea does what she can to pay back all the help she received. She's still heavily involved in The Riordan Programs, on whose Advisory Board she sits, and the UCLA Anderson African-American Alumni Association. She also helps out her friend Linda Baldwin, who's now the Assistant Dean of Diversity Initiatives at UCLA Anderson. "Linda will still call me and say, 'I have one for you. This person is deciding between Wharton and Anderson. I need you to take her out to lunch,'" Andrea says. "In fact, we just got one. She's coming to UCLA."