Jessica Phillips Perez

Executive MBA Program Allows Alum to Unlock Her Full Potential

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

From traditional retail to the music industry and back, Jessica Phillips Perez hasn’t been afraid to risks in her career.

But taking those risks—and making connections—didn’t always come naturally to her. That was something she learned during her time in the Carlson Executive MBA (CEMBA) program.

“The CEMBA program did a lot for me,” she says. “It challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. I don’t know if I would have made a stretch in my career had I not gone into the program and seen that all of this is achievable.

She started her career at Best Buy where she worked in inventory planning, merchandising, and did some work around the supply chain as well.

An Education She Needed

Midway through her tenure at Best Buy, she went back to school and entered the CEMBA program. Phillips, who had graduated with a liberal arts degree, felt she needed to develop more of a business background—and in particular more of a finance background—to advance her career.

At the time, Phillips sat on the Board of Regents as a UM-Morris student representative. Staying connected to the U helped her to see the benefits of entering the CEMBA program.

In the program, Phillips developed her skills and her network. She learned just as much from own classmates as she did in the classroom through the program’s cohort program.

She also met professors who challenged her to think more critically and reach her full potential.

“The CEMBA program was an incredible experience,” she says. “I definitely would not be at the stage of my career I am now without it.”

“Entering the program was a pivotal moment for me. It opened doors and gave me the confidence I think I needed to step outside my comfort zone and take on new and exciting challenges.”

Jessica Phillips Perez

Taking Necessary Risks

After graduating from the CEMBA program and leaving Best Buy, Phillips took her biggest risk left and left for Los Angeles to join the record label EMI. At the time, the label’s roster of musical acts included Katy Perry, Coldplay, Lady Antebellum, Eric Church, and Luke Bryan.

“For me, it was a big move. I had spent all of my life in Minnesota. So it was a great opportunity, not only to stretch careerwise into something that was outside my comfort zone but that afforded me to see if I liked a life outside of Minnesota. It was a pivotal moment for me.”

Phillips stretched herself while at the label. Originally in sales, she moved up to vice president of marketing for the label. She then moved to distribution and took on merchandising and direct to consumer tasks.

From there, Phillips joined Sephora, a multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores. Now, she works at the company’s North American headquarters in San Francisco as the senior director of merchandising.

Without the CEMBA program, Phillips says she likely would have never made the leap to the West Coast or made the connections necessary to land jobs at companies that are at the top of their fields.

“Entering the program was a pivotal moment for me,” she says. “It opened doors and gave me the confidence I think I needed to step outside my comfort zone and take on new and exciting challenges.”

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