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Alumni Profiles: The EMBA for High-Potential Leaders

There are all types of leaders, with all types of personalities and career goals, and the Executive MBA program offers a personalized experience to fit each of them.

November 05, 2019

There are all types of leaders, with all types of personalities and career goals, and the Executive MBA program offers a personalized experience to fit each of them.

Farah Lawler, class of 2019, was a successful director of sales at BNSF Railway, entering her tenth year with the company. As a naturally curious person who enjoys learning, she wanted to broaden her knowledge and her network outside of the company. An MBA was the logical step to prepare for the next phase of her career – which came sooner than she thought.

Here’s a look at the program from Farah’s perspective.

Learning to Be Agile in a Volatile Marketplace

The main reason I chose Neeley was that I really liked the program’s focus on agile leadership. In today's markets, there are a lot of uncertainties, so it's important that you're able to feel comfortable in a situation and put structure around it.

That's woven throughout the program; you're tied to all these frameworks you can apply in different situations. So, the strategy class provides frameworks for driving performance strategy around different markets. Or even in entrepreneurship – which was not a class that I thought I would take a lot from – I learned there's way to be an entrepreneur within your company.

So I’m now more comfortable with ambiguity at work, being the calm voice, able to help my team bring structure around all the ambiguity that’s in the marketplace right now. So you're able to go out and not let the market dictate to you, but execute against what's going on. That focus at Neeley is something you can really take back and apply right away. I think that's helped me in my career.

Another thing the program really stresses is reflection; taking that time get off the treadmill from the everyday and make sure you're being strategic. Block off your calendar to have some quiet time and some space to think outside of just the tactical day-to-day items; that's usually when you get the best work done.

Gaining New Perspectives from Expert Classmates

I think one thing that all of us do in the class is learn from each other; it’s amazing to be able to bounce ideas off of someone other than inside your company. A lot of my field is in the oil and gas side, and there are folks in the class that I can bounce an idea off of because they're in an adjacent industry to mine. "Hey, are you hearing the same things in the marketplace?"

Or just even just the outside perspective is really helpful. Getting those diverse viewpoints ultimately helps you make better decisions. I really liked the network I gained, too. We have a really tight knit class.

Understanding Global Business

The “a-ha” moment for me was really the study abroad trip. Personally, I hadn't been outside of North America before. Not only does the program let you network with other professions outside of your current work environment, but it takes you overseas and gives you a global perspective.

We visited three places: India, Dubai and Stockholm. There was this vast contrast between them. You went from a place that was in poverty to a place where they're making the tallest building in the world, to more of a European country. The different styles of how they conduct their business was just very interesting. And most of our companies are global. So to actually go across the ocean and see that was impactful.

Knowing the Program Is Worth It for My Family

I’m working full time; I have two young girls, six and eight; I actually moved halfway through the program to another state because I was promoted to general director of field sales – there was another layer for our family. It’s just like, “Wow, I'm already really busy. How am I going to find time to do it?” I have a very supportive husband, which helps. And you just somehow find time to do it. Sometimes I know I have to get everything done this weekend, or sometimes I’m spreading it out more through the week. Being flexible is really important.

Sometimes we'll go to the park, and I'll be reading a case study, and my girls will ask, “Mom, what are you doing?" And hey, I'm doing homework. Just like they do homework. I think my daughters seeing me as a student is really impactful. They get to see how learning and being curious is going to be very important for them throughout their lives. And they'll get to watch Mom graduate as well.

Are You Ready?

Talk to your company about sponsorship before they lock in next year’s budget. Here are some resources to start the conversation.