Every preview luncheon features a panel of alumni who offer their
personal insight into the benefits, challenges and experience of the TCU Neeley
Executive MBA program. Here are some of our favorite soundbites from the June 6
David Culler, ’13
IoT Solutions, PTC
David was already running a large operation for his then-employer,
SunSource, but felt there were gaps in his education. He wanted his master’s to
refine existing skillsets, learn new ones, and network with other professionals
Jay McCall, ’17
Program Manager of Education,
Rainwater Charitable Foundation
Jay always loved school, and his kids were out of the
early childhood stage, so he was excited to start the MBA program, changing his
mindset around strategic thinking and managerial leadership by getting exposed
to other leaders in the business world – from his classmates to the faculty and
Jon Souder, ’12
Director of Health Industries
Advisory Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Jon was in healthcare administration and being pushed to
get an advanced degree. After comparing the faculty at Neeley to other programs,
he felt Neeley was the obvious choice – and with the smaller class size, he
knew he’d also have more access to them.
ON TRANSFORMING AS A LEADER
My transformation began that very first weekend. It was a
targeted discussion around, what are some of the things that you see? The
managers that basically suck, what was the problem there? And the theme of
blind spots and just not being self-aware; constantly challenge your
assumptions about yourself, about other people. Really a transformation in
mindset more than, "Now I know how to read a balance sheet better."
It's some of that, but it's much more about, "How are you approaching
The biggest leadership lesson I learned was, A: That I
wasn't the smartest person in the world, and B: That I never should be the
smartest person in the room, right? Recognizing the value of that diversity of
thought. Getting to hear different perspectives from different industries and
how they were tackling different challenges gave us interesting ways to go
about some of the problems we had in our world. And that has always resonated
in my head. You don't have to be the smartest person in the room and tell
everybody what the answer is. What you need to do is get in a room full of
people that are a lot smarter than you and ask a bunch of questions.
I had always progressed by being a doer. By being
knowledgeable and being able to execute. And I think that makes you really good
at a job function. But at some point, you do start to realize, you don't need
to be the doer. If you're going to be the leader, you have to promote and you
have to learn the people that you work with. The program helped me as I was
making that transition in my career, where I wasn't responsible for the
day-to-day functions of things being done, but in a much higher level, managing
multiple operations. But also making sure that we had the right talent, that we
had a good culture. Every aspect of the program really resonated with a time in
my life. Actually, I had two promotions throughout the program.
ON MAKING CAREER CONNECTIONS
It was in 2012, a long time ago, that I finished the
program. Then last Sunday, three or four days ago, I played golf with one of my
classmates out in San Francisco. I had set him up in Minneapolis with partners
in PwC, then his wife relocated to San Francisco, so we're looking to see if we
can help him get a job out there. There are probably five or six guys and gals that
I talk to on a weekly basis. And so just great personal relationships.
We're kind of a tight group of folks that I graduated
with. Collectively, we've helped to fund seed money for one of our classmates
to start a business. We've all relied on each other for advice, talk each other
off a ledge sometimes when you're trying to make some of those tough business
decisions, add some clarity, get some outside perspective. On the personal
side, I've been involved in a lot of charities that I wasn't involved in
before. Together we've been able to raise lots of money for lots of great
causes. And for me it's personally been tremendously rewarding.
Our class was the most diverse group of people I've ever
been around. And not from just your typical racial or ethnic backgrounds. But
just in viewpoints, in experience, in personalities. There were thirty-two
different people in there. Very different. It really stretched me. That was
real life relationship-building interaction. You really grow in a lot of ways.
ON THE STUDY ABROAD TRIP
My class, 2013, we went to South America. Brazil, Argentina
and Chile. And, while you're out of the country, you really bond. Everybody
talks about that's kind of a turning point in the program, where you just get
to know your cohorts, your entire class, so much more. Also, I started this new
career at PTC, and that was one of the things that helped me get this position;
my time spent in South America. Not that I was an expert by any means, but part
of my role was to help our South American teams learn this new cutting-edge
software. Also developed a partner in that country – because it's really hard
to sell in a country if you're not from there. And just being able to understand
the culture in Brazil – Rio is different than in São Paolo. Even just having those two weeks of experience really
helped me on the professional side as well.
We went to China in 2012. The way they do business is a
lot different than the way we do business here. There's a lot of kind of wasted
investment in China, because they can't send the money outside of China. But
just things like that, and the way you grease the skids to get business done. You've
got to open your mind up to that and be aware of that so you can effectively
execute business if you are working in a global industry.
We went first to Casablanca, Morocco, and then Barcelona
and then Athens. The world is so much bigger than Fort Worth, Texas, which has
basically been my world. It was just really eye-opening. And just to see the
different types of life and how they conduct business and how they are so
willing to take as long as it takes. We have countless stories of everybody we
visited on our trips – they cleared their schedule. They were willing to sit
and talk through the night, through the evening. And we would sit around later
and talk about “why don't we do that?”
ON UNEXPECTED OUTCOMES
I kind of went into the program to get an MBA, to get
letters behind my name. I really didn't think I was going to learn a lot.
Because I really did think I was just this incredibly brilliant leader. And I
went in and that first weekend, I was like, "I'm going to love this."
I learned so much. The very first project I did when I was in the program, I came
back to PwC, and I was literally using stuff from the program. So the letters
behind my name – that's actually the thing I care least about now.
I went into it still working full time, still have kids
and so it's like, if I can just kind of compartmentalize and get through it.
But I didn't anticipate how much I would enjoy it. The challenge is really
figuring out how you do balance it. Because you want to spend all your time on
it, you want to do all the projects, you want to meet with your team. The other
outcome is, I didn't expect to have the admiration and respect for the faculty
that I did. And I'm definitely the guy that's like, "This speaker's an
idiot," most of the time. I went into it thinking, “they're probably just
academic, and how much are they really going to be able to teach us?” And it
was just not that at all. You want to go to class and listen. It's like with Dr.
Smilor today, “Keep going. Don't stop. I'm learning.” For every class, you're
exposed to that level of expertise.
I would echo that a hundred percent; that the faculty was
far above and beyond what my expectations were. And not just their knowledge,
but their ability to grab your attention. And you think about it, two four-hour
blocks, basically. All day Friday, all day Saturday. The type of people that
want to get their MBAs are typically kind of fast runners and it's hard to get
their attention for a long period of time. So I think the faculty was
absolutely phenomenal with the entire program. It was captivating, it was
interesting, it was engaging, it was collaborative. And I think you're learning
not just from the faculty but from the people in this classroom. There's just
so many different experts within their field or their industry that you're in
ON THE TIME INVESTMENT
I was thinking all my Saturdays and Sundays were shot for
the next 18 months. And it wasn't like that. Once you get in a groove, you find
free time. You're not watching ESPN Sports Center for 35 minutes, you're
getting something done. The byproduct of that is, once you get out of the
program, you're like, "Oh my god, I have all this time. What am I going to
do with it?"
You can do this program with time that you're currently
wasting, if that makes sense. The things that are important to you, you're
still going to be able to do. You're going to learn to manage time incredibly
well. I don't remember feeling like I was sacrificing a whole lot. And I did
feel like everything I did was pretty damn meaningful. For that entire year.
It's not a constant burn. Yeah, you're going to ramp up.
There's going to be a couple of months where it's like, "Oh my gosh,
Finance is going on and my team has this project and maybe the team's not
getting along, and work's also really busy," and you run real hard and
then the good thing is, maybe the next set of classes, you get a chance to
Also, part of being on a team in a cohort program, you'll
have people that back you up. Three people had kids while they were in the
program and a couple of them missed the whole weekend because they were
literally at the hospital with their wife delivering a baby. So we picked up
the slack. We’d send an e-mail saying, "Here's what happened in class and
here's what we're doing." It's just like in the real world. If one team
member has a life event that can't be avoided, everybody else picks up the
slack. As long as you don't play that card too often, right?
Donna Turner ’17, Business Solutions Architect, DGTurner LLC., added:
The time that I had to take for class didn't bother me. It
was the time that took away from my class that bothered me. “I don't want to do
the dishes right now, I don't want to pay the bills right now, I want to work
on class.” This is the stuff I enjoy. So I would suggest, change your framework
in your mind for just a couple years. Go ahead and pay other people to do those
things. Pay for your laundry to be done. Pay for somebody to come over and
clean your house. Put together an infrastructure that you will have the space
that you need to dedicate to class. Because you're going to want to.
ON IMMEDIATE RETURN ON INVESTMENT
When I finished the program, I came back to PwC. And the
first pitch I made was a strategy pitch for a health system in Dallas. I was
competing against big strategy firms that all know this framework. But they
told me what they were looking for and I drew that strategy down and I talked
through an example that I'd used on my capstone project with another healthcare
provider. And I think the jaws hit the floor. Not because it was genius, but
just because it was a very logical framework. I think, when we spend so much
time in an industry, we start to lose the context of what we're doing because
we get wrapped up in the details. So to pull that context back out, we won the
work. And they did big things with it.
The panel shared much more insight that we didn’t list here. Join
us for the next preview luncheon and don’t miss a word.
This panel discussion followed an engaging talk by Dr. Ray Smilor
on creativity and harnessing your team to find creative solutions to complex
problems. Read the recap here.