2018 Best EMBAs: Amanda McVay, University of Michigan (Ross)

Amanda McVay

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

I am a driven, determined and passionate individual with a positive energy for life.”

Age: 37

Hometown: Gainesville, FL

Family Members: Nick McVay (Husband), Jacob McVay (Son, 6 yrs old), Mackenzie McVay (daughter, 5 yrs old)

Fun fact about yourself: I was a college athlete and attended Indiana University on a tennis scholarship.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Bachelor of Science, Marketing

Where are you currently working?

Company: Meijer, Inc.

Role: Group Vice President, Merchandising, Grocery

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Top Women in Grocery, Industry Rising Star Award
    • National recognition from Progressive Grocer’s “Top Women in Grocery” industry leading awards program that recognizes the outstanding contributions from female leaders in their companies, communities and the industry at large.
  • Network of Executive Women (NEW) organization Ambassador
    • Spearheaded Meijer’s sponsorship of the Women in Leadership organization highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion training and development.
  • Executive Sponsor for Meijer college recruitment:
    • Established connections to enhance recruiting effort between Corporate Human Resources and Business leaders focused on top entry level talent from Universities.
  • Keynote Speaker: Campbell’s Soup National Sales Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
    • Topic: The meaning of a great supplier-customer CPG sales partnership
  • Keynote Speaker: Acosta CPG Sales Agency – National Sales Meeting, Jacksonville, FL
    • Topic: Meijer’s strategy for growth
  • Network of Executive Women Annual Summit, West Michigan Chapter, Grand Rapids, MI
    • Topic: Personal Image and Influence
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Kid’s Food Basket

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the work I have done spearheading and establishing Executive Women resource organizations within my company. This has established a positive shift in the inclusive culture of the organization. We are now able to connect women within the organization through mentorship and networking programs, while also able to foster connections within the industry and community. The enhanced education of diversity and inclusion has allowed for a greater place to work and an ability to drive better business decisions.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the recent promotion I received from Director to Group Vice President. I was able to succeed in leading a team and business while pursuing my EMBA and was rewarded with an enhanced scope of impact and responsibility. I am proud that not only was I able to balance the work and school life, but by allowing the experiences to complement and enhance each other, I was able to excel at both.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Sue Ashford, our negotiations professor. She was able to create an environment in which I could truly immerse myself into a scenario and practice my skills. I was able to assess where I was weak and strong, and practice techniques in class that I could use in everyday situations.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course was the Strategy course. I instantly was able to relate the content to my career. The framework of Porter’s 5 forces was flexible enough to apply across industries and yet simple enough to communicate your point of view of your company’s position in the marketplace. It allowed me to think about how to set up the strategy for success considering both internal and external factors that may be out of your immediate control. The puzzle was how to find the right activities for your company to pursue to succeed in the industry.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose the executive MBA because I wanted to learn from not only the professors, but from the other talented cohort members that spanned multiple industries. I wanted to learn from their experiences within their competitive industries and potentially apply knowledge to my strategy for success within my segment of the industry.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My classmates. They were genuine, intelligent, witty, and kind individuals. We were all on this journey together and we were proud of each other. We pushed each other and commended each other. The relationships enhanced the education.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained was how to maximize team output through the lens that individuals approach situations differently. We approach not just with a different point of view, but with different needs to bring out our best thoughts. By understanding your own tendencies first, then seeking to understand others’ approaches, a team can reach optimal output.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My study and exam times were very strategic for me. My mind works best in the morning, so as a morning person, I fit my study time in the morning while my husband and two kids were still sleeping. I would get up, pour the coffee, and get 90 minutes of quiet study time in before we all needed to get dressed and out of the house for school and work by 8:00 a.m. This allowed me to use the evenings for dinner, putting the kids down, and relax time with my husband. For exams, I would be the student who studied all week in the mornings before work and then take the exam at 5 a.m. on Friday morning right when it was available. Then I would get the weekend to spend with my family since the exam window lasted until Sunday night.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? My advice would be to focus your study time. Keep it focused so you can maximize the time studying and then allow for the family and work time to be focused on only those activities. Allow yourself to create relationships with others. We are all busy, but the relationships built will help during the tough times.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth was that school would overtake other aspects of your life, like family and work. It was difficult to balance, but I was still able to go on family vacations and spend time on my career.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is not showing as much appreciation as possible for my husband and family for all the effort and changes they are going through while I’m at school. It is easy for the focus to be all on me during this time, but their sacrifice and effort was amazing. I always wish I could show more appreciation!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate, Jenelle Champlin. She was the first classmate I met at the first social of our first week in Ann Arbor. She was kind and also was balancing a baby and a working husband. We could relate to our new situation. She went on to achieve one of the highest GPAs in the class, while also getting promoted at work and moving across the country. Very impressive!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was longing for a new challenge and to experience a different way of thinking.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a tennis coach.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to make a wide positive influence by leading an entire organization to positively impact the industry and community.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I was an approachable, kind, positive and caring classmate that brought unique perspectives to our interactions.

Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice

Favorite movie or television show: Moana (we watch a lot of kid movies these days!)

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Traveling to all the continents with my family.

Fly on an A380 with my son (who loves this airplane).

What made Amanda such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Amanda McVay is the type of student every Executive MBA program hopes to recruit so their brand can be associated with her success. She embodies what every organization seeks in their executives as she exudes confidence, presents a professional yet approachable demeanor, uses her strategic mindset and future focus to excite and motivate people, and all the while executes on deliverables. It was clear from the beginning that Amanda would excel in the Ross EMBA program, and it was confirmed in her peer reviews in which teammates had the highest praise for her work, her willingness to help and support others, her quick sense of humor, and her ability to influence outcomes when taking the lead or supporting the group. Always a champion of her peers, Amanda often comments about her teammates when she feels they went above and beyond and made an excellent contribution. She strengthens her teams and the cohort as a whole. She has even spent considerable time with her classmates at the Ross EMBA Los Angeles campus, where she integrates seamlessly.

Amanda is currently Group Vice President of Grocery for Meijer, a privately-owned retail grocery and merchandise corporation with $13B in annual sales. Amanda is the youngest Group Vice President in the history of the company and the only woman on the executive leadership team. Amanda’s 15-year career has been on an upward trajectory after having held positions with increasing levels of responsibility in scope and leadership with Target and Meijer. Amanda has excelled academically in the Ross Executive MBA program. She is respected by her classmates, EMBA faculty, and staff for her incredible work ethic, leadership, gregarious personality, and endless thirst for new knowledge.”

Donna Humphrey-DeLosh, MA, LLP
Associate Director, Career Management Coach for Executive MBA & EMBA Alumni
Career Development Office – Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

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