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MBAs on the Move

Filipino Bookworm Started in Pre-Med but Discovered the Thrill of Sales

Mayla Sanchez

  • Chief Commercial Officer – BibliU (formerly Bibliotech Education)
  • University of Illinois Gies College of Business (MBA, 2016)
  • University of Santo Tomas (BS, Microbiology, 2002)

Growing up in Manila, when Mayla Sanchez ran short on library books, she read whatever she could find – including a calculator manual and the Old Testament one summer. Education and professional careers were highly valued in her culture, and Mayla studied microbiology and public health before deciding not to become a doctor. While working for health-focused publishers, she fell in love with sales and decided to get an MBA at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business to beef up her skillset. After graduating valedictorian of her MBA class, Mayla is now chief commercial officer at BibliU (formerly Bibliotech Education), a software company for universities to host eBooks.

CURRENT ROLE: THE THRILL OF THE CHASE IN PUBLISHING SALES

Tell me about your current role at BibliU.

I oversee our commercial strategy and execution, and our relationships with textbook publishers. This encompasses platform sales, content procurement, pricing negotiations, and operations with publishers.

What does BibliU do?

We’re an eLearning platform. We negotiate with publishers to get their e-textbooks onto our software, and then we sell our platform to universities. We also provide analytics to show how students are interacting with textbooks to help universities evaluate and improve student outcomes.

There are two problems BibliU is trying to solve:

  • Affordability of content. Textbooks are ridiculously expensive, and we address that problem by being digital.
  • Accessibility to content. We have a best-in-class search tool that helps students access more content, thereby helping improve their learning.

What do you love most about your job?

I’m very driven by hitting a sales target – there’s the thrill of the chase that I think is inherent in every salesperson. I also love the human component, when my team feels empowered to knock down barriers to hit their revenue targets.

CAREER PATH: FROM PRE-MED AND PUBLIC HEALTH TO BUSINESS

Tell me about your career path, starting with your early influences that led you to where you are today.  

Growing up in Manila in the eighties and nineties, I didn’t have easy digital access to information. I went to the library to borrow books and magazines. One summer I ran out of books so I read a calculator manual in different languages, and the next summer I read the Old Testament cover to cover. I became so fascinated with the written word and wanted to be a part of that world.

I grew up in an environment that encouraged professional education and careers in science, law, or engineering. I initially chose to study pre-med, but before graduating I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. I wanted to do something academic, so I took a couple of jobs to pay the rent while going to grad school for a master’s in public health. I ended up at a health magazine, which was great because I wanted to be in academic publishing as an editor and writer.

I moved to the United States and had to restart my career, but I wanted to be in publishing still. I ended up in a publishing company in a sales position because I wanted to get my foot in the door and make my way back to editing. But I never made it back to editing.

Why did you decide to get an MBA?

I had been in sales for a while and felt like I needed a boost in my career in order to move forward. With a somewhat technical background (pre-med microbiology) and then public health, I needed that business know-how to make me well-versed and well-rounded in more than the sales and technical side of the business.

What advice do you have for someone who is on the fence about getting an MBA, particularly an executive MBA?

I worked full-time as the international business development manager for Macmillan Learning so there were many times I flew from Hong Kong, landed in Chicago at 7 am, and went straight to class at 8 am and would be at work until 8 pm. It was extremely exhausting, but I was lucky to have the support of such great company in my EMBA class. It was a critical success factor in finishing the program at the top of my class.

To someone who’s thinking about getting an MBA, I would say, “just get it done.”

Leave your ego at the door before you even step into the classroom because you’re there to learn, you are not the teacher or to prove that you’re the smartest person in the room.

SUCCESS FACTORS AND LEARNING MOMENTS

What have been your personal keys to success?

I come from a humble background, and we all need and want financial security. But beyond that, success for me means leaving a positive imprint on even just one person. My mom grew up in extreme poverty and was the first person in her family to graduate college. My parents taught my siblings and me resilience and that there’s just no replacement for hard work.

Have you had any career blunders you care to share?

When I was starting out my career, I thought I was better than my coworkers because I had graduated near the top of my class. Our new editor-in-chief would ask me to make her coffee in the morning, pick up lunch for the team, and do this and that… I thought to myself, “I didn’t spill blood, sweat, and tears in school to be someone’s waitstaff.” I was full of myself and realized later that learning how to plow the field would prepare me for knowing how to manage the land. Starting at the bottom was a critical step to growing as a leader.


Volunteer work:
I am on the board of Africa Asia Energy Information Research, which is a non-profit that aims to bring sustainable, affordable energy to under-served areas in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Book recommendation:
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s about how mindfulness and meditation can ease stress and make you a happier person.

Free time:
I started yoga about 10 years ago, and I’ve been a certified yoga teacher for three years. It has been instrumental to my growth professionally and personally.

Song(s) that make her turn up the volume:
“Flames” by Sia. She says to put one foot in front of the other, and that’s always been how you solve problems.

Favorite quote:
“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

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