For different reasons and in different ways, the Executive MBA helped lead four rising stars in the business world to new levels and places in their careers.
Aurora Martinez wanted to experience entrepreneurship and reach CEO status. Corbin Norman started his diverse career as a trumpeter for marching, symphonic, and jazz ensembles and was looking for the tools and technical skills as he moved forward in the business world. As a start-up CEO, Brendon Downing understands firsthand the significant challenges of growing a new business and value of business knowledge. After rising quickly in her career, Rae Parent identified a missing piece that she knew could help make her an even better leader.
The four shared stories about their career paths and the role EMBA played in launching them into new ventures and strengthening their leadership abilities at the 2019 Executive MBA Conference in Orlando, Florida in October.
Martinez spent the majority of her career in executive leadership positions for two of the world’s largest education technology and services companies, McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education, and for a ‘rising star,’ Curriculum Associates. She had a successful executive career, but also had her eyes on a new target.
“I wanted to be a CEO, and I realized I needed to have the skills to accomplish that,” says Martinez, who says good intuition helped her advance her career. “I wanted to match that intuition with actual strategy and to the next step in my career. My dream was to be a CEO.”
Martinez realized that dream when she co-founded EVERLEARNING while in the program. She most recently applied her new skills as COO and managing director at Gamelearn, a pioneering technology company dedicated to providing game-based learning solutions for the corporate training industry.
Downing chose EMBA to gain a broader framework and augment his knowledge base. “I wanted to learn more about business,” he says. “I knew there were some pretty specific gaps in knowledge, and I wanted to fill in those gaps.”
The program helped him with that aim and with his most recent move, as president of XSELL Technologies, a high-growth consumer-engagement software company.
At a pivotal point in his career, Norman decided to return for his MBA. He made several career shifts – from musician to consultant to entrepreneur. Along the way, he realized he didn’t necessarily have all the tools.
“It was really the technical skills, specifically finance and accounting,” says Norman, currently performance marketer at bunq, an international mobile bank. The program helped him hone technical and soft skills, and his EMBA global experiences made a very practical difference. Without them, “I wouldn’t be able to do the work that I am able to do outside of the U.S.,” he says.
Rae Parent took a self-directed path, starting her career as a technologist at Accenture. In 2017, she become one of a few female CIOs at a Fortune 500 company, in her case, MassMutual. Despite an impressive record of career advancement, she chose the EMBA experience as a way to better understand the bigger picture.
“I didn’t have the framework to bring all of it into perspective,” says Parent, currently head of Enterprise Change at T. Rowe Price. “That’s why I decided to go back to school.”
One of the most memorable parts of her program involved firsthand exposure to international business on trips to Tel Aviv and India. “It was perspective changing for me,” says Rae.
All four agree that the EMBA experience offered much value to their careers and to their personal growth. It also helps raise the bar for women to make their mark in the workplace, says Martinez. “It gives you the courage to risk and continue to do that work.”