Former Actor Turns to the Executive MBA Program to Help Find his Next Role

After working most of his career in the independent film industry, Joseph Mandragona, a former actor, decided it was time to reinvent himself.

Joseph Mandragona Looking for career inspiration, he enrolled in the EMBA program at Saint Mary's College, looking to spark a new passion in himself. He enjoys film, but the EMBA program has piqued his interest in a number of other fields he had not previously considered. 

Mandragona spent a good chunk of time pursuing his actor career in the past, even living the traditional struggle of moving to the Big Apple, or New York, New York, to pursue his dream. "My theater career is probably more interesting than my film career," he said. "I did my acting internship at California Shakespeare Theatre, and then worked all around the Bay Area—from the Magic Theater to Berkeley Rep. Eventually I made my way to New York and booked a couple gigs. The first was a reading of the Cry-Baby musical; the second was the first national tour of a show called All Shook Up.

On tour for almost a year, Mandragona performed in 35 cities across the country. He found the experience amazing, but also more challenging than he expected.  "I had done a few black-box musicals in high school and college, but I wasn't trained in musical theater. I learned on the job how to sing into a microphone, how to sing and dance at the same time, how to act in front of bigger audiences. Learning how to do it in front of a live audience was humbling, to say the least."

After all of that touring, he took a couple of gigs here and there, but said he was "pretty much burned out" on acting. "I wasn't happy, and my acting career slowly fizzled out."

Mandragona worked with some cool people during his acting career, and even had roles in a few movies—althought he wouldn’t recommend watching them.   But, he began looking beyond acting. He did, however, stay in film, where has held a job for over a decade as a brand assurance and product development manager for the Saul Zaentz Company, a film production and licensing company. . The films that Saentz has been behind include Amadeus, which won eight Oscars including Best Picture at the 1985 Academy Awards. Other films include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), the cartoon version of The Lord of the Rings (1978), The Mosquito Coast (1986), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), and The English Patient (1997), among others.

Already the EMBA program has provided Mandragona with tools for working with his existing skill set. "A lot of the theories that we're studying and the case studies don't quite apply to what I'm doing, but not very many things do. Even knowing that, it has helped me understand the environment that I'm working in and given me more tangible applications of what we're learning," said Mandragona. The school's social justice angle and motto, Think Globally, Lead Responsibly, resonate well for Mandragona. "I would like to work for a company that does very well, but also makes a significant positive impact on the world. I'm pretty open to what that is supposed to be and am keeping my mind open to future possibilities," he said. He thinks that what he does in business should have a positive effect on society as well as his business.  "That includes the responsibility that we make sure our actions don't dilute other cultures, that we help out where we are needed but don't change those cultures and societies to fit what we are comfortable with," he said.