Vice President, Investor Relations
Darden MBA for Executives
Class of 2010
Why did you decide to get your MBA?
Having held various roles in corporate finance over the last 10 years, I’ve built a good base of experience in several business disciplines. In evaluating my long-term plans, however, I realized that an MBA would broaden and deepen my understanding of business theory and practice while teaching me important lessons about leadership.
I also saw an MBA as a great opportunity to expand my network of relationships around the Washington, DC area and across the country. At this stage in my career and personal life, I found that an Executive MBA program would be the best fit for me, as opposed to full- or part-time programs.
Why did you choose Darden’s MBA for Executives program?
In my review of the top schools, I determined pretty quickly that Darden’s MBAE program provided the best combination of the characteristics I was seeking. Its reputation among employers and executives in the DC area is unparalleled.
The faculty is highly-ranked by every publication, and the case method was an appealing approach to learning that I was interested to experience. Darden’s location and facilities were also the best among programs I considered, and the once-a-month on-grounds schedule provided the flexibility I needed given my business travel obligations.
What has been your favorite part of the Darden experience?
I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to know my classmates during the times we’ve spent on Grounds. Our class is large enough to offer a broad variety of work and life experiences, but small enough that everyone has gotten to know each other well in our first six months of classes. We’ve begun to spend time together off grounds too, as students from areas like DC and Richmond have gathered for happy hours and other informal events. I look forward to maintaining good friendships with my classmates well beyond our time together at Darden.
How has the MBA for Execs program changed the way you think about your career?
My first few months at Darden have taught me that success in business leadership has as much to do with communication and interpersonal skills as it does with technical mastery in a particular field.
While subject matter expertise is clearly an important factor in advancing through the early stages of a career, I now realize that effective executives are focused on things like motivating and developing people, communicating inside and outside their organizations, and fostering productive corporate cultures. As I think about the rest of my career, I’m focusing more than ever on cultivating my skills in those areas.
Can you describe how you apply what you’ve learn in the program back in the workplace?
My job is to communicate my company’s business strategy and financial performance to our equity analysts and institutional investors, so it has been important for me to keep up with the latest news on the global financial crisis over the last few months. My early Darden courses in Accounting, Finance and especially Economics have given me an in-depth understanding of the financial crisis and the ways that companies around the world are responding. These insights have been invaluable to me in communicating with Wall Street and helping my colleagues to analyze the intricacies of the situation.
How do your MBA for Executives classmates shape your Darden experience?
The way that Darden’s teaching methods are structured, classmate interaction is a fundamental part of the learning process. Five- or six-student learning teams are established during the first week of classes, and they enable students to leverage each other’s time and expertise both during and between weekends in Charlottesville. In on-grounds settings, the case method draws upon the experiences of all 60 students, and the broad mix of industries, roles and cultures represented in our cohort provide a variety of perspectives on almost any issue.
What impact do the faculty have on Darden's MBA for Executives program?
The faculty at Darden have a remarkable knack not only for teaching fundamental business principles, but more so for giving us the tools to analyze situations and overcome challenges in the real world. The case method facilitates useful discussions of business practices in every course – from Ethics to Economics and everything in between.
The faculty also have the benefit of years of business experience around the world from which they can draw useful lessons for almost any subject matter, and they’re always available outside the classroom to answer questions or talk through an issue we’re dealing with in our own jobs.
What advice would you offer someone evaluating MBA for Executives programs?
The way I evaluated my interest was by thinking about my career goals 10 or 20 years down the road and determining whether an Executive MBA program would help me to achieve them. Once I realized how helpful the education and degree would be, I started to consider the factors that were most important to me in choosing a program: school reputation, faculty, location, class schedule, facilities, etc.
It was only in visiting Darden and sitting in on a class that I realized how significant the learning approach was also. The case method was much more engaging and appealing than other methods I’d seen.
What advice do you have for a prospective Darden MBA for Executives student?
As you can probably tell, I don’t think there is any better program for a rising executive in search of a “boot camp” of practical business and leadership education. The faculty’s #1 ranking from the Princeton Review is well-earned, and the case method is a real differentiator. Another important factor is Darden’s location – Charlottesville is a convenient, scenic and relaxing place to spend on-grounds weekends during a busy time in life.
How do you balance work / study /life as you pursue your Executive MBA at Darden?
There is certainly a learning curve associated with this balance, and the right mix is different for everyone. I tend to arrive at work earlier these days and depart earlier than I used to, in order to leave time for studies most evenings and during some weekend days. Some of my classmates prefer to study before work, while others devote their weekends to it.
Our learning teams are also helpful in that they can help to balance the workload when one member is particularly busy or traveling at a certain time of the month or year. I think the most important aspect of the work/life balance is to make sure your employer, your family and especially you are aware of the time commitment you’re making before you start the program.
As I see it, earning a Darden degree is an amazing opportunity and one that should be expected to require some sacrifice of time and energy – so far I can attest that it’s well worth the challenge.