2017 Best EMBAs: Chris Ogbonnaya, University of Texas (McCombs)

Chris Ogbonnaya

University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“A retired athlete who refused to be defined by football and is driven to succeed.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Houston, TX

Family Members: Kalu – Father, Valerie – Sister, Jessica-Sister, Charles-Brother, Moses-Brother, Angus-Brother-in-Law, Lauren-Sister-in-Law, Olivia-niece

Fun fact about yourself: Academic All-American, National Champion, and Played 6 seasons in the National Football League!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Texas at Austin, BA – History, BS – Corporate Communications, Minor: Business Foundations.

Where are you currently working? JP Morgan Private Wealth- Banker Associate

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Member of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory Board of Directors, NFL Team Captain and Leadership Council, Member of Harvard Law and Ethics Advisory Panel, NFL Broadcast Bootcamp: Sports Journalism and Communications, and Reading with the Pros Literacy Foundation.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The academic achievement that I am most proud of is finishing the Executive MBA Program. I never would have imagined that I would be an MBA graduate less than 2 years after retiring from the National Football League.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest professional achievement came during the 2013 season. I was voted a team captain and member of our leadership council by my teammates. We served as representatives for our players and met with our head coach weekly. In this role, my teammates became an integral part of not only molding me into a great football player on the field, but also the professional that I hope to become off of it. Dedication, leadership, critical thinking and collaboration were all traits that I have acquired as a player, and that I continue to use today as a business school student.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I had the privilege of learning from world-renowned professors at the University of Texas in courses ranging from Financial Accounting, Corporate Finance, and Strategic Management. Dr. John Burrows served as my professor in Leading People/Organizational Management, but also serves as the Director of our program. Dr. Burrows gave me the confidence and belief that I could thrive in the business school when I was intimidated by the prospect of joining a new environment that I had no familiarity with. He taught us that the learning was in the struggle. He helped my classmates and I sharpen our leadership skills while learning about what is essential to designing and managing organizations to get the most out of others.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course was Operations Management. I learned that managing operations is vital to every organization through effective and efficient utilization of resources. We see this every day in successful business that have competitive advantage by managing their operations effectively.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose this MBA program because the University of Texas is my alma mater.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I most enjoyed developing relationships with my classmates by learning about their experiences, and having the opportunity to network with people outside of the classroom as a result of these new relationships.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I started working at JP Morgan in January 2017.  Getting to the office early every morning was very similar to what I did during my playing days.  What made things a little difficult was finding balance with my new job, maintaining personal relationships, and commuting to school in Austin every other weekend. I was able to juggle all these things because of the patience, discipline, and accountability that was instilled in me as a young boy, and through similar disciplines that I developed as a professional athlete.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That we would never finish! 21 months (2 years) seemed like such a long time before school started, but it goes by so quickly.

What was your biggest regret in business school? No Regrets.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate Starr Corbin.  One of the great things about our program is that it gave all of us a front row seat at watching others juggle work, school, and family life. However, what has been more impressive is watching my classmates. In this example, Starr, be a wife and mother while dealing with the rigors of our MBA and a new job. Balancing all the term papers, midterms, final exams, Saturday practices, and commute took great accountability.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I retired from the National Football League and my father and sister (University of Chicago MBA grad) called me to a meeting to discuss my career options post football. We sat at the kitchen table and my father drew a pie chart of my current options that challenged me, and that’s when it hit me: My best chance was to go to business school to give myself a spectrum of opportunities moving forward.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in Sports television and radio.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? My favorite company is Nike. I was lucky enough to be endorsed by them as a player, but during business school I was able to really understand their business model and why they are successful. I enjoyed learning about the different marketing strategies they use that lead to continued brand recognition.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? I don’t think I would change anything at all. The job is hard enough as is!

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would love to be in a position to assist NFL players, and really all professional athletes, both at the low and high end of the pay scale, in managing their wealth. I also have a dream to start my own business in assisting athletes who are trying to make the transition from college to professional sports. I want to teach them how to use their resources to create short- and long-term security. Often, professional athletes lack the capability and/or education to properly utilize short-lived resources in their life, so mistakes in the areas of financial, brand, and crisis management become commonplace and are magnified because the athletes are in the public eye.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would most want to thank every member of my family, particularly my father. A series of tragedies, and the courage displayed by my father in the face of those tragedies, has helped mold me into a determined- to-succeed young man. My mother left at a young age when my parents divorced, and two of my brothers died when I was in high school. When I think about how hard these tragedies were growing up, I think about my father. I think about how difficult it must have been to be a single parent, or how he could have walked away from these unfortunate challenges. I am so thankful he did not. The way he faces adversity has rubbed off on me. The selfless sacrifices that he made for my siblings and I, molded me into the man I am today.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as an up and coming young man who is proud of his heritage, believes in himself, and strives to be a hard-working individual that serve as a successful representative in the business world.

Favorite book: Too many to name

Favorite movie or television show: Coming to America

Favorite musical performer: Too many artists to name; I enjoy all genres of music

Favorite vacation spot: Home.

Hobbies? Avid sports fan, deep seated interest in all genres of music, and playing the guitar.

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

“Chris brings the same work ethic and teamwork to class, that led to a national championship, a career in the NFL, and the distinction of being the first African American Academic All-American at The University of Texas. The effort he puts into preparing for each class clearly demonstrates that he has not yet reached the pinnacle of his career.”

John Burrows
Director of Texas Executive MBA Program
Faculty member in the Department of Management