2018 Best EMBAs: Rocky Granahan, Columbia Business School

Rocky Granahan 

Columbia Business School

“An energetic, wife, mother and career woman who owns her outcome.”

Age: 47

Hometown: Lincroft, New Jersey

Family Members: Husband and two sons ages 14 and 12. I am the oldest of three daughters.

Fun fact about yourself: I shot a hole in one on a Par 3 150 yard hole at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in Albuquerque, NM

Undergraduate School and Degree: Iona College, BBA Marketing

Where are you currently working? I am a Senior Vice President at OppenheimerFunds, Inc. working as an Institutional Relationship Manager. I have been with my company for 24 years.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Prior to EMBA, I took on leadership roles in my community to volunteer for children’s sports programs and was a volunteer in my town as an alternate Board Member for my town’s Zoning Board.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud and humbled for being nominated by my cohorts as the EMBA Student Commencement Speaker.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Promoting five of my former direct reports and helping them achieve the next level of their career. Those moments have surpassed any sales goal achievements I met throughout my tenure at the firm. I was promoted to Senior Vice President about a decade ago, which is awarded to a small subset of total employees (5%) at my company.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have three favorite professors but Professor Paul Johnson left me with the greatest impact. Professionally, he taught me to be a critical thinker and how to identify value in obscure companies. His personal story was a great life lesson of how to calculate the net present value of family relationships.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Columbia offered many great classes, but the one that surprised me most was Personal Leadership and Success taught by Hitendra Wadhwa. The biggest insight I gained is how to lead an organization with impact by first learning how to define my personal values and leverage them when making business decisions.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I had a short list of criteria that that an executive MBA program must include. My top criteria included:

  • An elite business school with a schedule of classes that fit my work and family schedule.
  • A strong alumni network.
  • An opportunity to audit classes beyond graduation.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I liken my business school experience to drinking from the fountain of youth. I proved to myself that I am not too old to learn and I still have what it takes to make an impact at the next level of my career. The admissions staff did an excellent job on diversity. My cohorts came from different nationalities and industries. It was the first time in my life where I was no longer one of the youngest, one of a handful of females, or the only minority in the room. As a person born into Generation X, I enjoyed seeing the world through a Millennial’s point of view. We both found ways to relate to each other and I bring that classroom experience to the Millennials at my company.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained during EMBA was becoming more aware of my gaps and strengths. I used my time during EMBA to test new approaches before applying them to work.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My time management as an EMBA had good days and bad days across my top constituents; family, work and school. At the start of my program, I told myself that I if I could please at least one constituent each day, I should consider that a success.

There was one lucky week where all three came together for me – which was rare! I had a business trip across six days which ended on a Friday. By the time I landed, I was able to please work and accomplished all of my business objectives for the trip. I brought homework with me during this trip and sent many texts to members of my class so that I could be prepared for classes when I landed. At the end of Saturday classes, we had an EMBA family BBQ on campus where my husband and sons came to meet my friends and indulge in BBQ with other family members. This was a perfect ending to a hectic and busy week. I came away unscathed where no one was mad at me.

I reflected about how it was possible to please everyone that week? I realized that the reason I felt successful was because I learned to let go and I asked for help. It seems simple, but they are two difficult things I never forced myself to do. In terms of family, my husband became the wind at my back and took over the household and anything that related to the kids. At work, I did not have an opportunity to respond to every email which allowed my direct reports to learn and exercise their judgements. At school, my learning group was terrific filling in my learning gaps so that I could be prepared for upcoming classes. At first, I was uncomfortable not knowing the answers in class. It forced me to sit in the passenger’s seat instead of the driver’s seat for once. When I realized that the experience was incredibly liberating, I finally learned to let go.

In summary, I cannot say that I managed work, life and school well but that week I felt like the queen of the mountain. I saw EMBA as a two year lesson in becoming vulnerable, learning to ask for help and identifying the difference between what was controllable versus uncontrollable.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you are self-funding, make sure your company is aware of your decision and check in periodically to give them an update on your development and your coursework. Be prepared to answer why an EMBA matters to you at this point of your career and what you hope to get out of the experience. This will help you have a more productive discussion about your career trajectory post EMBA.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I regret not having an opportunity to take an Impact Investing Class. If I had twenty years of my youth back, I would have liked to pursue a career as an investor in this space.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There were many that I admired, but the standout to me was Dilip Rao. He was a former investment banker who almost died in a car accident. After his recovery, he created a start up with a social impact and is CEO of Sharebite.com. A portion of his platform proceeds goes towards feeding those in need in our NYC community.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I took my first job in financial services in 1994.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…part of the sea of same-ness with no compass guiding me towards the next phase of my journey.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to be a C-Suite executive.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as smart, strong female executive who cares about clients and encouraged those around her to reach their full potential.

Favorite book: Mindset by Carol Dweck

Favorite movie or television show: Braveheart…The top of my values hierarchy is Love. The movie Braveheart demonstrates love and passion for life, a loved one, country and freedom.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

To walk across the highest level of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

To trace my family tree and holiday in all the cities and countries that are part of my heritage (e.g. Philippines, China, and Spain).

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

“Rocky was an invaluable addition to the class of 2018 because of the incredible energy, “can do” spirit, and unique leadership that she brought to the class. She worked hard to achieve success in EMBA and brought her passion and enthusiasm to each class, as well as her significant industry experience and wisdom. She was self-motivated and positive, even during the challenging times, and encouraged classmates to do the same. Her example motivated fellow students to be their best. Additionally, she set an example of inclusivity, working hard to bring the class together through events and other means of connecting classmates. She was selected by her classmates to receive the prestigious “Distinguished Service Award” at graduation.”

Comments from fellow students include: “Energetic and self-less”; “Exhibits the spirit of the class”; “Rocky has truly connected with the majority, if not every person in the EMBA program.”; “Rocky was a guiding light for our class. She accepted everyone, and was on a mission to help each and every person in the program achieve their goals. Rocky is about seeing and finding the best in people, a quality that is very rare and that I admire about her. Her laugh was contagious and brought joy to each of the classes she was in. She always asked thoughtful questions and helped the whole class get the most out of our courses. The thing is, every person in our program admired Rocky for a different reason – she just had the spirit and energy that inspired each one of us to be our best selves. No one deserves this award more than her!”

The EMBA Administration

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