Undergraduate University: California State University, Los Angeles
Undergraduate Degree: BA in Communications and concentration in Public Relations and Organizational Communication
Previous University: Northeastern University
Previous Graduate Degree: MS in Project Management
Q: You’re a first-generation immigrant. How has that influenced your experience at Northeastern?
A: My identity as a first-generation immigrant has been the driving force for me to pursue higher education. I’m one of the very first in my family to graduate from college and pursue a graduate degree.
I was born and raised in the Philippines and come from a very humble family. My mom worked as a waitress when she first met my dad, a taxi driver. Their greatest dream was for their children to succeed. Now, I’m able to travel internationally to take on massive projects. I’ve accomplished so many of my dreams, and it wouldn’t have been possible if I had never challenged myself. I am always inspired by my parents’ infallible love, sacrifice, and support they give to me to go further in life and to serve them as they get older.
My family believes in the power of education and the opportunities it provides. I’m proud of how my younger brother and I, who also finished a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, make our fellow first-generation immigrants be part of a larger movement.
Q: What was your educational background before pursuing an MBA?
A: I’m a Double Husky. I finished my MS in Project Management in 2019 and am a certified project manager professional (PMP), but I’ve also always wanted an MBA. I had heard great things about the Northeastern MBA, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to truly understand complex business topics. I’ve been a public relations (PR) event planner for the last decade. I’ve been able to fundraise for large-scale social events and even plan weddings. But before my MBA, I hadn’t developed the business skills I knew I needed to succeed.
Q: Tell me about the business you started, Project: ICONIC.
A: Project: ICONIC is practically my baby! Project Iconic is essentially a brand management company, and I’ve had the incredible opportunity to manage talent throughout LA. I provide social event planning, brand management, and photography for my clients. The idea of Project: ICONIC is basically making ideas happen—if you have an idea, I’m here to support it.
I’ve worked with models and actors alike to build their public presence, both in real life and on social media. Some of my previous clients are now modeling for Reebok or doing movies with Chance the Rapper.
I’ve even served as a coach for beauty pageants. There are many misconceptions surrounding beauty pageants, but there’s so much more to the competitions than meets the eye. I help my clients with their personal development. I also prepare them for the pageants; this involves speech training, styling, and showing them how to walk in high heels! It’s been an amazing experience. I was part of a team representing the USA where we landed the first runner-up title for an international pageant held in Poland. My most recent client won first runner-up at the Miss Universe of the Philippines competition.
Q: As a marketer pursuing an MBA, how has your MBA prepared you to pursue your career goals?
A: I just started consulting for Calowie, a healthy baked goods company based in Bangkok, Thailand. They’re currently distributing across the country and recently signed a contract with Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok.
My role is to expand their product portfolio. I shape the brand image and analyze how the public perceives it through market research. I completed my first international project earlier this year where I spent my time in Phuket, Thailand learning about the people and their culture. After completing my Part-Time MBA, I plan to visit Thailand again to continue elevating the company. I was offered the opportunity to lead the company’s expansion to Southeast Asia. The idea is to expand to Hong Kong, South Korea, and the Philippines. My goal is to be an international project manager, so this opportunity has allowed me to realize my dreams.
Q: How have your fellow students fueled your learning?
A: I’m especially grateful for the classmates I started the program with. I started my MBA in September 2019 with an amazing group of students. More than half of us had a graduate degree already, either a master’s or a doctorate.
Everyone’s coming from a different background, in various industries. My classes are academically diverse, with students from the tech industry, the bio-pharmacy industry, or the marketing industry (like me). In these classes, I learn from my classmates and professors alike.
Right from the first semester, I’ve learned so much. I love that the program started with an HR class and an accounting class. Every semester there’s always something that I learn—new concepts, new knowledge, and new ways to apply what I know to life outside of the classroom. It was an amazing feeling to be in such a competitive and hard-working environment. Northeastern is a great choice; I wouldn’t trade my experience here for anything.
Q: Tell us about your experiences advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.
A: I’m a person of color, and I’m openly gay. I was honored to represent the Northeastern MBA program at the annual ROMBA (Reaching Out MBA) conference. ROMBA is the world’s largest gathering of LGBTQ+ business students and alumni, who come together to uplift each other, network, and share advice. During a ROMBA panel, I shared my personal experience of being a student at Northeastern. ROMBA is a forum for the community to talk about real experiences—things you don’t see in a review.
My professional journey began with fundraising for the LGBTQ+ communities back in Los Angeles. I was planning events and fundraising for the Filipino communities in helping increase visibility, showing solidarity, and providing a safe-space environment where we can celebrate our Philippine cultures and our gender identities.
The Northeastern community supports diversity and conversations like this that support its students. The more we contribute to the discussion, the more we break the glass ceiling and help those identifying as LGBTQ+ to go further.
Q: As a graduate student, consultant, entrepreneur, and photographer, how do you balance all the sides of Nico?
A: I have to give Northeastern credit for allowing me to balance all sides of myself. Northeastern focuses on helping students develop their professional careers, so I knew there would be flexibility to do that while also taking classes. When I go to class, I apply everything I’m doing professionally and personally. And vice versa, I’ve been able to apply my studies to my day-to-day job. I’m always leaning into my personal growth.
I have a full-time job, and I run my own business. I think time management and stress management are important, and I take advantage of the resources available to me. I’m a huge advocate for self-care. A lot of people, especially young professionals like me, can experience burn out quickly, and that’s the last thing I want to do.
Q: What advice would you give to other students?
A: Pursuing an MBA is an investment for yourself. It’s not just to uplift your career. You make a personal investment to take your skillset to the next level.
It’s also an opportunity to develop your network. You’ll be surrounded by strong classmates coming from very diverse backgrounds from different industries with different professional titles. And when you graduate, you’ll be part of an even stronger network of Northeastern alumni.
My advice for prospective students is to challenge yourself to do something you’re afraid of. Growth comes from overcoming our fears and making sure that we pursue better versions of ourselves. As a first-generation immigrant, I know this firsthand.
“Academics have always worked best for me when I can apply what I learn immediately. The day after a class, I can almost always apply what I’ve learned to something I’m doing at work.”
“I chose Northeastern because I wanted a program that would break me out of my shell…As a result, I’ve become much more confident, and I’m proud of that. “
“This program offers a wide variety of concentrations that I did not find with other MBA programs. That flexibility made it possible for me to have concentrations in both healthcare management and entrepreneurship; a crucial component of pursuing my career goals.”