2017 Best EMBAs: Brad Kimler, IE Business School / Brown University

Brad Kimler

IE Business School / Brown University

“Charismatic, adventurous, logical, optimistic, loyal, succinct, strategic, inclusive and (ordinarily) humble leader who inspires greatness.”

Age: 53

Hometown: Natick, MA

Family Members: Wife: Lisa  Children: Hannah 25, Jared 24 and Tommy 21

Fun fact about yourself: I love public speaking, but only when I don’t have a script or a teleprompter to follow.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S. Georgetown University

Where are you currently working? Minuteman Health — Board Member

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Running, travel, charitable giving, micro-lending, mentoring.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was voted by my classmates to be their representative to the administration for the academic program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my 14 years at Fidelity I led the transformation of the consulting practice from a small boutique with less than 50 people into a $100M business with over 350 team members.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I am still getting exposure to new professors, so it’s difficult to choose a favorite (and perhaps ill-advised as well?). My favorites so far have been those who both inspire you to get beyond your comfort zone and who clearly take delight in learning from the collective experience of all of us in the program.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Much to my surprise, I probably learned the most from The Shared History of Slavery and Capitalism.  It’s not a conventional business course, but the professor treated the subject matter with such professionalism that it allowed you to debate and discuss very controversial concepts in an open and constructive manner. It gave me perspectives I’d never have had otherwise and at the same time taught me that any topic can be debated thoroughly and openly if you approach it the right way.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I loved the notion that it incorporates both business and humanities courses in an effort to produce much more balanced leaders with broader perspectives.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Getting to know people with very different backgrounds and motivations and learning how to work in teams that have no common cause except to “survive!’

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I’m fortunate that my kids are almost all out of college already, so i didn’t face the same challenges of my peers. In fact, I was able to take advantage of that one weekend just after my son’s graduation last June. He invited a group of his friends to our vacation house and I was upstairs trying to study and not be interrupted by the constant party.  Finally, I just gave up and went to join them. Imagine my surprise when I learned one of them had just received his degree in economics and I coaxed him into tutoring me over a bottle of Brunello….

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program? Embrace the unconventional humanities curriculum.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? People always say it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do and I’d have to agree. After 30 years of business success, I wasn’t sure I would learn a lot about business, but I wanted to discover more about myself and how I relate to the world. I was not disappointed.

What was your biggest regret in business school? There was one class where I really wanted to learn a lot more but the professor was just not up to the task. I regret not calling the moment and asking for options from the administration.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’ve learned a lot from working in our teams. It’s difficult to single out a specific team member, but I’ve grown to admire a number of team mates who have juggled far more complex family situations than mine, contributed tirelessly to team deliverables even though I knew they had crushing workloads in their “real jobs” or who stepped in to bail me out when I had things come up beyond my control. You really learn a lot about people when you see them work under pressure.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I heard about this program that was geared to people with much more work experience than other programs and provided a more diverse range of courses.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still working as a consultant and doing successfully what I’ve always done but not challenging myself to do something different.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? One organization I have really come to admire is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  It’s not just that they are inspiring many others to give back; it’s the way they measure and manage the programs they fund to maximize the impact on our world.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? I would make certain the various faculty members really understand what makes an executive program different from all others.  Most of our faculty understood this, but occasionally it might be nice to remind them the goals and aspirations for a very seasoned cohort might be different than other graduate level programs.  That means you may want to emphasize different learnings.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’ve already had what I described as my “dream job”.  Now, I want a challenge in a new industry that leverages my experience and allows me to build a team that is dynamic and responsive.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My grandfather never got past 8th grade, but he taught me the value of hard work (he was a farmer all his life), empathy, and a sense of humor.  He never took himself too seriously but he was always the guy his friends and family came to when they needed help and he never let them down.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as a good team mate who taught as much as he learned and made the experience better in the process.

Favorite book: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

Favorite movie or television show:  John Oliver

Favorite musical performer: Rolling Stones

Favorite vacation spot: My house on Cape Cod

Hobbies? Golf, reading, cooking, hiking

What made Brad such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Given the nature of my various roles in the IE Brown program (chair of the admissions committee; academic director; administrative director; faculty advisor to student teams during our experiential learning engagement in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa; and professor) I have had the pleasure to interact with Brad Kimler on numerous occasions and contexts and feel uniquely qualified to comment on his candidacy.  The vision for our Executive MBA program is to advance reflective leaders with a propensity to action and a desire to drive triple bottom line impact from their efforts. In my opinion Brad personifies this vision as I hope you will agree based on my discussion to follow.

In his professional career Brad has served as an Executive Vice President at Fidelity Investments where for many years he held P&L responsibility and served as a member of executive and operating committees providing strategic advice to the senior executive team, including the CEO.  In addition he has been a frequent presenter at numerous company and industry events. However, he is more than just a highly successful executive and has leveraged his skills to give back to the community as a board member for a not-for-profit health plan in New England and for a large trade group representing his industry.

Within the context of the Executive MBA, Brad is an excellent student academically; however, beyond this, he has risen to a leadership role for his student colleagues and as the voice of the class to the administrative team.  Brad was elected by his fellow students to serve as the class representative, negotiating, translating and advocating at the interface between program administrative constraints and student desires/concerns.  Brad has done this task with unique agility satisfying the needs of both stakeholders while at the same time making a complex task seem easy. Brad has also served as a social leader for his cohort, putting together as an example, under his own initiative, a unique extracurricular team building event for the class during their first face-to-face session in Providence, RI.

While in Cape Town, South Africa for our experiential learning session I was the faculty lead on Brad’s team which focused on the energy needs of township households that are not connected to the electric power grid.  The desire of his team to help this community, which includes thousands of households with extremely limited resources, is worthy of commendation. Brad again served in a team leadership role and played an instrumental part in helping us navigate our site visits to these communities which, by definition, are broadly “non-grid” connected. The output of this research effort included practical suggestions to help improve the living standards for these families in need.

In closing, before teaching at Brown I spent twenty five plus years in industry, including serving in leadership roles at several venture-backed start-up endeavors. These experiences allow me to contrast Brad against both his student peers as well as proven successful business executives. Under either lens Brad is an outstanding performer and candidate for your award and I strongly recommend him for your consideration.”

Patrick McHugh, PhD
Director, IE Brown Executive MBA Program & Professor of the Practice, School of Engineering
Brown University