An Inside Look into our C-Level Confidential Events

C level1
C-Level Confidential with Robert Earley
C level2
C-Level Confidential with David Endicott
C Level 3
C-Level Confidential with Alasdair James
C Level 4
C-Level Confidential with Wendy Davidson

You’ve likely heard about the C-Level Confidentials that TCU Neeley MBA students have the opportunity to attend, but you may not know much about the purpose of these events and what takes place during them. 

Here, we’re giving you an inside look into our C-level Confidentials so you can gain a better understanding of what takes place during these events and why they’re beneficial experiences for both the students and guest executives.

An Overview of C-Level Confidential Evenings

The TCU Neeley MBA program hosts between six and eight C-Level Confidentials each year (three or four each semester). With this initiative, between 10 and 12 MBA students are selected to spend three quality hours with a C-Level Suite executive in three different settings: a cocktail reception, an open round table discussion and a seated dinner.

Invited guest executives are asked not to prepare anything — just to be themselves, answer any questions posed to them by students as openly as possible and to appropriately challenge the thinking and thought processes of the attending MBA students.

A few recent C-level Confidential guests we’ve been honored to have participate include: 

  • Mr. Steve Hill, Management Committee Member & Global Innovation Leader, KPMG
  • Mr. Al Carey, North American CEO, PepsiCo
  • Mr. Elliott Hill, President, Consumer & Marketplace, Nike
  • Ms. Lorna Donatone, President of Education Market, and COO, Sodexo
  • Mr. Sean Donohue, CEO, DFW International Airport
  • Mr. Steve Palko, Co-founder, XTO Energy (now Exxon)
  • Mr. Vivek Sankaran, President, Frito Lay
  • Ms. Wendy Davidson, President, Kellogg Specialty Group

During the course of the event, there are a variety of objectives for the selected Neeley MBA students as well as the participating guest executives.

Neeley MBA Students:

  • Hear first-hand the challenges faced by senior-level executives and how they were addressed.
  • Obtain unique insights as to how these executives made their decisions and solved issues.
  • Learn about that senior-level executive’s career progression.
  • Communicate effectively with the guest executive through reflective, probing questions and spark a connection with the guest to potentially foster a future relationship. 

Guest Executives:

  • Reach the next generation of business and community leaders on a 1:1 level so that these future organizational executives may become interested in the vision and leadership of the guest executive and consider having the opportunity to work with them.
  • Hear first-hand the motivations and interests of this group of “next-gen” leaders in order to gauge where the guest executive’s organization’s current and future products and/or services resonate.

Preparing for a C-Level Confidential

According to Ed Riefenstahl, Director of Experiential Learning at TCU and Coordinator and Director of C-Level events, the two main factors that determine the success of a C-Level Confidential are the quality of the students’ questions and the openness of the guest executive.

The speakers (guest executives) are typically selected by Mr. Riefenstahl or Mr. P.D. Shabay, a Neeley School alumnus and retired Bell Helicopter executive. However, if students identify a particular person they would like to have attend, they will do their best to try to make it happen. Student C-Level Confidential participants are usually determined via the various MBA clubs. These clubs usually host each C-Level Confidential guest and the president of that club determines the maximum 12 students.

Once students have been selected, they prepare for the event by meeting with Mr. Riefenstahl via a conference call to discuss the guest’s background. During that call, Mr. Riefenstahl shares any insights and they discuss the protocol for each of the three components of the evening.

While the main focus of the evening’s conversation is driven by both the guest executive and the interests of the selected MBA students, Mr. Riefenstahl tells us that, in general, about 75 to 85% of the conversation is professional and related to the guest’s organization, industry and external factors at play in the industry. Discussions involving personal advice, tips and insights for students make up about 20 to 25% of the evening.

A C-level Confidential Success Story

Mary Anand, TCU MBA ’11, attended a C-Level Confidential event with Steve Hill, Global Head of Innovation, KPMG. The conversation from that evening opened the door for Mary to obtain a senior associate consulting position with KPMG. Mary has since moved on to Cognizant as a consulting manager, but that initial conversation played an important role in her career path.

Mr. Riefenstahl recently spoke with Mary and she stated that her conversation with Steve Hill helped her “understand the breadth of consulting opportunities at KPMG.” Prior to that event, she had thought of KPMG as an accounting organization, but Steve’s comments opened her “career journey to the work they did in management, supply chain and data-driven strategy consulting.”

When asked what advice she would give to any students attending a C-level event, Mary said, “Know your audience, be yourself and plan your questions.”

Looking Ahead

Excited to find out who some of the C-Level guest executives will be in the 2019-2020 school year? Mr. Riefenstahl revealed three of the exceptional speakers who are already lined up: 1) Mr. Dan Berce, SVP, CEO & President, GM Financial, 2) Elliot Hill, President, Consumer and Marketplace, Nike, and 3) Grant Moise, President & Publisher, Dallas Morning News at A.H. Belo Corp.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to participate in these career and life-changing events! Contact us today to learn more about TCU Neeley MBA programs and to find out how to start the application process.

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