Christine Bolghand has played in a band, started an online boutique and been involved in large scale architectural building projects. With those creative experiences and new business skills, Silicon Valley beckons as she’ll join the social media marketing team at eBay when she graduates from the Full-Time MBA program in June.
Bolghand grew up in and around San Francisco then headed south to attend UCLA, where she earned a double major in women’s studies and mass communications, with a minor in classical civilizations. “I loved being a student,” she says, “but had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.
She landed back in the Bay Area intent on achieving a lifelong dream. Within a month, she had launched a band that she would tour the country with for the next six years. The experience was fulfilling artistically, and taught Bolghand a lot about creative collaboration, entrepreneurship and leadership.
But being in a band rarely pays the bills, so “I started a career in marketing in the architecture industry, working with world-class designers and thought leaders in the field,” Bolghand says. “I was surrounded by amazing minds, and after nine years with the firm, I walked away with some amazing skills: project management, PR, e-mail marketing, copywriting, graphic design and more. I led national teams of multidisciplinary staff on proposals for projects with fees up to $5 million. It was a great job,” she adds, “but it wasn’t my passion.”
Four years ago—while still with the architecture firm—Bolghand and a former bandmate opened an online boutique featuring a tightly curated selection of women’s clothing and accessories. Bolghand led the digital marketing, “telling our brand story through photography, social media, merchandising and everything in-between,” she says. “I coordinated designer collaborations and offered exclusive designs with artists and designers from LA to Tokyo and Sydney. We were featured in Marie Claire, Lucky, Refinery 29 and many influential blogs.
“Running our boutique was an incredible experience, but it was a struggle as we were both also working full time in demanding careers. We closed the business in 2013 when I decided to go back to school.”
What led you to the Graduate School of Management?
I knew I wanted to go business school back when I was still in my band. I saw the MBA as a way to put me in control of my career. After many years in the architecture industry supporting the careers of our designers and watching others succeed, I knew I could accomplish more. Starting my business affirmed that I had raw talent in many areas, but it also revealed where I lacked certain skills. That was when I really knew business school was the answer.
What’s your post-graduation goal?
I am fortunate to have a job waiting for me. I interned at eBay this summer, and was offered a full-time position. I’ll join the company as a manager in the social media marketing team. This is really a dream job.
The most valuable aspect of your internship at eBay? The most unexpected?
I walked away from the experience with greater confidence in myself. I have a deeper appreciation for my expertise and skills, which I used to take for granted. I know what I bring to the table—and that feels great.
The most unexpected part was joining a team of people that I genuinely loved working with. You never know what you’re going to get when it comes to co-workers, and I was lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people. Just about everyone I met at eBay was generous with their time and support in terms of sitting down and telling me about their jobs and career paths. It added another layer to my learning.
What are you passionate about in your future career?
There is no limit to my career goals. I love B2C marketing and plan to spend my career focused on it. I am particularly passionate about the democratization of marketing through social media, which empowers businesses of all sizes to reach customers in their own voice. E-commerce and social media are ever-evolving and endlessly interesting. We’ll see where that interest takes me.
How will you be a game changer?
As a business owner, celebrating independent designers and elevating their brands through our e-commerce site was a deep part of my philosophy. Whatever I’m involved in, I will always strive to grow others who are passionate, whether it’s working at eBay—which enables commerce and allows millions of people to be self-employed (the sellers)—or as a manager investing in growing her team.
A breakthrough moment in the MBA program thus far?
The biggest A-ha! moment came last year when [Senior Director of Career Development] Chris Dito gave me permission to be myself. I was struggling to fit into what I imagined to be the MBA mold. But let’s face it: I’m allergic to suits. I spent six years driving around in a van with 600 pounds of musical equipment in the back. I’m more obsessed with fashion, art and design than crunching numbers in Excel. Chris showed me why that part of my story could be valuable to future employers and set me apart from the pack. It was very liberating—and it worked!
Your most rewarding extracurricular experience at the GSM?
Since last winter I have served as director of the MBA Ambassadors program, and I’ve loved every minute of it. I work closely with the admissions team to help recruit the next generation of GSM students. This includes hosting prospective students on class visits and interacting with admitted students who are deciding between schools. I love working with my classmates, meeting new people and promoting my School. It’s the perfect role for me.
How do you unwind?
I love riding my bike around Davis and exploring restaurants in Sacramento with my husband. I’m hoping for an end to the drought and more snow this year, so I can add skiing to that list.
What’s important to you, personally? Who has been most influential in your life?
Integrity and family are very important to me. My biggest role model is my father, who is the most hard-working, honest and generous person I know. He is a successful business owner and an inspiration to many people. I attribute many of my best leadership traits and values to him.
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