2018 Best EMBAs: Jason Cochran, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Jason Cochran        

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

Passionate about enabling others to win, and a role model for family.”

Age: 50

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Family Members:Xiomara (wife), two sons Axel (8), Zavier (5)

Fun fact about yourself: At the age of 10 years old, I mastered being able to ride a bicycle backwards.

Undergraduate School and Degree: N/A

Where are you currently working? GameStop (GME) serving as SVP of U.S. Stores

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: My community work includes serving on a non-profit Board of Directors for the Dallas/Fort Worth Retail Executive Association, a leading professional development and networking organization. I am passionate about Diversity and Inclusion, mentoring many up-and-coming leaders within Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). I enjoy attending seminars at the SMU Business Leadership Center.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I feel honored to be nominated for the 2018 Poets & Quants publication by the SMU Cox Executive MBA administration. I am humbled and surprised to be selected given other extremely talented scholars in my class.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Being recognized with a “Presidents Coaching Award” by my COO. The gratitude I felt from others who benefited from mentoring and personal development was overwhelming.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is a difficult question because there were many professors who were incredibly impactful. However, my favorite was Dr. Tassu Shervani. His approach to the “3 determinants of business performance” will have a long-lasting effect on how I view market strategy. Dr. Shervani made the frameworks incredibly interesting to learn and tied case studies to relevant, real-life business scenarios.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Financial Statement Analysis.  The class tied much of the business finance curriculum together, provided me with a foundation to qualitatively decompose company strategy and to quantify business models. It provoked many meaningful discussions in my study group about case studies, financial ratios, and how to effectively value future cash flows.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Over the past 10 years, I contemplated going back to school and whether or not it would be necessary to achieve my career goals. After receiving positive encouragement from my executive coach Susan Gatton, my EVP Mike Buskey, and my wife Xiomara, I received outstanding support from my Human Resource department to identify MBA options.  We determined SMU Cox School of Business would be an ideal match, based on the school’s excellent academic reputation, location, and the connection I made with Assistant Dean Tom Perkowski.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The top three things I enjoyed most were: First, the collaborative relationships with my fellow classmates during lectures, study group meetings and term projects. I experienced a lot of team work and valued diversity of thought to solve challenges. Second, gaining academic value from each professor. They were genuinely interested in enabling students to learn and pushed for high curriculum standards. Last, the program challenged my analytical thinking and stretched my capacity. While there were many long hours and missed family events because of studying, the program fulfilled my business acumen goals.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Do the homework to know the facts. Quantify information to have a larger voice of influence on decision making.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My story was a continuous journey of planning, prioritizing and keeping my wife informed! I focused on “quality time” with family vs quantity of time, and often had to explain the differences with my two boys so they understood why I couldn’t attend some holiday events, or friends’ activities. Every Sunday night, I would carefully review the next 7, 30 and 90 days of juggling family, work and school. I expected high personal performance standards at work and mostly sacrificed sleep to study and learn school concepts.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Get family support and keep reminding them about the countdown of days until graduation. Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, work associates, study group members, and professors for help. I found that being comfortable with vulnerability built trusted relationships. Also, pre-class lecture preparation was as important as completing homework.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “People in the front of class get called on the most by teachers.” On the contrary, I watched the best professors call on the back row.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not spending enough time to personally get to know more about all my classmates. At times, semesters flew by without fully making valuable connections.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire classmate Josh Biering.  While I was surrounded by amazing people, I admired Josh’s academic experience from finishing his undergrad at West Point and then serving as an officer for our country in Afghanistan. Josh is a trusted advisor, he has a bright future and will be a longtime friend.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized my future potential could be limited by my academic stature and global business perspective.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…putting constraints on what is possible!

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term goal is to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 global organization that has a purpose of creating fun, memorable experiences, and strong forces that drive its industry growth.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who authentically inspires others to provoke positive and meaningful change.

Favorite book: Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Favorite movie or television show: The movie Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott.  I enjoyed the storyline, intense music, quotes and the creative depiction of ancient European history.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Travel with my family on a vacation to Athens, Greece and to visit the continent of Africa.

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

“Jason entered the program as the Senior Vice President of U.S. Stores for GameStop, Inc., with more than 4,000 stores and 28,000 employees. His presence in the program is invaluable because even with all of these significant corporate responsibilities, he is approachable, takes coaching and feedback well and provides valuable mentoring to a number of his less-experienced classmates.

Jason is always reaching out to fellow classmates or program administrators to determine where he can help. One significant example is on our most recent global studies trip to South America. Jason used his considerable network to set up 10 corporate contacts for his study group members to visit. In my many years leading the Cox EMBA program, I have rarely experienced a senior executive with limited time resources voluntarily contribute to the success of his classmates and the program the way that Jason has in the last two years. He has truly been an invaluable addition to the Class of 2018.”

Tom Perkowski
Assistant Dean, SMU Cox EMBA Program 

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBA GRADS OF 2018