How my Executive MBA recharged my career

The past 28 months have been the most stressful and exhilarating period of my professional and personal life. In that time, we sold Enguage to Publicis Group, I embarked on an Executive MBA (at Georgia State University), while also merging Engauge and Moxie, and then became the CEO of BLiNQ Media (formally part of Gannett Ventures), and finally, took an extended sabbatical with my family. Yes that’s a boat load over a short period of time.

Looking back, the decisions to take so much on (i.e. new roles while doing an EMBA) prepared me for a C-level role more than I could have ever imagined. I’d like to think I did pretty well as an entrepreneur and team player with my first company, Spunlogic, and then later with Enguage, but in fairness I was extremely lucky to also have some tremendous partners to share the risk, rewards, hardship, and decisions with. I didn’t lead on my own, but rather as part of a tight group of friends that worked extremely well together for the most part of 15 years until I went out on my own in August 2013 when we sold Enguage to Publicis Groupe.

Ironically, my plan after Enguage was to take some time off (18 months), embark on my Executive MBA and welcome our second child to the world (plenty of time to study and help with Family, so I thought). That all turned up-side-down when I decided to stay on with Publicis and help with the merger of Engauge and Moxie. This was also the same day I started my domestic residency (School puts you up at the Intercontinental Hotel for 4 days of intense sessions to see who can survive) for my EMBA.

I can honestly say at that moment (Aug 2013) I had doubts on what type of leader I might be without my old co-founder and partners to support me and whether I could survive grad school in-general. My domestic residency was nothing short of a wake up call to my hunger to lead, inspire, and motivate a team. I can’t stress the confidence I gained on my domestic EMBA residency to do this on my own; it truly opened my eyes to what more I could do and how I could confidently stand on my own as a leader.

I found that leadership comes very naturally to me, as did confidence in laying-out a plan-of-attack for a team and seeing it through with conviction. But most importantly, I could bring a team together with different strengths/weaknesses and get the most out of them as a collective. This is what you’d expect from a leader, but along the way of Spunlogic and Engauge, I forgot what this felt like to do on my own and the excitement of leading the troops from the front.

In truth I was also hesitant to work for someone I didn’t know or hadn’t co-founded a business with, but thanks to the show of confidence from my then CEO, Suzy Deering at Moxie (Publicis Groupe), I was empowered to assemble a team and lead the charge for the merger of Enguage and Moxie (over 600+ people). It felt good to head-up that team as well as work with a largely new leadership team I was unfamiliar with. This further gave me confidence that I could do more and for the first time I wanted the #1 seat, CEO. Several months later I become the CEO of BLiNQ Media and absolutely loved every moment of the experience even though it was short lived due to a corporate spin-off of the publicly held holding company a year later. However, in that time, my initial experience at my EMBA residency of leadership aspirations and ability were reenforced. I thrived in the role, learnt how to assemble a new team from the ground up and provide a clear vision/plan to attack and win, and had an extremely positive experience working for Vikram Sharma who oversaw my business unit within Gannett Ventures and whom, like Suzy, gave me the freedom to lead and inspire a team on my own.

So 28 months since I started this transformation in my career from co-founder/partner to a C-level executive within a publicly traded company, I can truly say my EMBA experience helped me realize and awaken my leadership aspirations and confidence to tackle any C-level role within a public or private company. I’m a better executive and leader from it, and the experience with Publicis Group and Gannett Ventures have only strengthened my abilities to work with a new and much larger team than I originally co-founded. On to the next adventure, whatever that might be!

Back in School getting my Executive MBA

I never thought I’d go back to school, yet I just took the crazy, and somewhat unplanned, leap and enrolled at Georgia State University, Robin College of Business to get my Executive MBA.  Many of my friends, fellow entrepreneurs, and investors questioned why I was doing this.  It’s a fair question.

I’m 37 years old, co-founded an agency, successfully sold two agencies, and have No Limit Ventures, LLC as an investment vehicle for start-ups I believe in. Is an EMBA valuable for someone like me or should my time, effort, and money go towards something else? Another fair question.

Here is why I decided to get an EMBA.

  • I know I can do more in life/work.
  • I really only know one industry very well and wanted to broaden my knowledge.
  • I only know what I know, and I don’t know what I’ve never been exposed to.
  • I want to validate what I know and improve on it if I can.
  • I need to better understand and speak the international language of business, accounting and finance.
  • I want to be exposed to other types of thinkers (people from other industries, company sizes, career situations, etc.)
  • I have context I can apply in classes and discover alternate methods of decision making and learn even more from my past mistakes.
  • I’m playing to win!

The EMBA I’m doing has a strong focus on global business and accounting. It will take 17 months and is based in the Buckhead campus. So far I’ve enjoyed every moment of the program and I’m learning more than I’d ever imagined. Most importantly, I’m discovering my passions again!

A special thank you to Marc Kagan, my friend that introduced me to program and gave me the inside track. Ken Bernhardt, my mentor who logically helped me make this decision. And finally and most importantly my wife, Tovah Choudhury who’s encouraged me and supported this decision knowing I’ll have less time to devote to our family (oh and we are having our second child in November).

Thank you all for the support and encouragement. This is the right decision for me, I hope it helps some of you make similar decisions.