2019 Best EMBAs: Amy Byalick, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Amy A. Byalick

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

“Goal-oriented leader; someday I will change the world. Passionate about family, giving back, empowering others.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Bremerton, Washington

Family Members: 

My children: Joseph Jr (my 20-year-old son), Samantha (my 8-year-old daughter).

My mom: Audrey (age – unknown).

My animals: Trooper (5-year-old Bull Mastiff), Chevy (2-year-old Terrier) and Leilani (6-year-old Maine Coon).

Fun fact about yourself: Starting in 1986, my Mom and I picked up a National Park Passport book while visiting Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Since then, I have visited nearly half of the 419 National Parks in the United States to obtain a cancellation stamp in my Passport book. Nowadays, I find myself planning most of my personal trips around how many National Parks are in the area so that I can get another cancellation stamp & learn some history about our country!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Massachusetts – Bachelors of Science, with a focus in Accounting

Where are you currently working?

PepsiCo in the Global IT organization.

Director, Technology Business Management – Value & Insights

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Girl Scout Troop 7957 leader

Girl Scout Service Unit 101 Treasurer

Anderson Elementary PTA, VP Ways & Means

Allen Citizen’s on Patrol

ToastMaster, ACG, ALS

WIN ERG (Employee Resource Group) Chair, PepsiCo Plano

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Professionally, I was asked to be a part of the Leader of Managers program at PepsiCo. This was an inaugural 16-week program where 30 individuals were identified to work through the virtual curriculum and then make a site visit to conduct a business simulation at the PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase, New York. I applied much of what I learned in my EMBA Marketing and Business Finance classes during the business simulation. In fact, my group of four took first place in the business simulation—out of 30 participants. The experience was amazing. It has been one of the many highlights of my professional achievement since beginning the SMU Cox EMBA program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of winning the Best of IT Award in 2018 at PepsiCo for my efforts in implementing a TBM office and providing the first financials views for North America Application TCO spend.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course, hands down, was entrepreneurship. This is where I got to take what I learned in my EMBA classes and start a business with my program colleagues. While our business is still in a proof-of-concept mode, I would never have thought about myself as someone who could possibly be a business owner. As the business started to take shape, each decision was dependent on the next one. My key takeaway: strategy is key to success – a poor strategy will get you nowhere fast.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose the SMU Cox EMBA program after doing months of research into various Executive MBA programs. As part of my research, I shadowed a Cox EMBA class in February 2017 during a visit with the SMU Cox EMBA admissions officer. The class I visited was Entrepreneurship. I fell in love with the dialogue conducted in the classroom between the professor and students. At times, I wanted to be part of that discussion. I left that day knowing that this is where I needed to be.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed getting to know my peers in the program, each with their own story. As much as I loved that part of my EMBA experience, I also really enjoyed learning in general – I have such a growth mindset. Several times throughout my EMBA classes, I would learn about a subject, then go back to work and apply my new way of thinking directly into my job. I’m proud of how much I have grown into someone I believe is a better leader for my employer.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I could go on for days with stories about my ability to juggle life priorities during the program! Attending school on Fridays was a challenge. I had to find a way to fit my 40-hour work schedule into just 4 days, while also managing my 8-year old’s activities and finding time to study.

One day sticks out in my mind. I needed to work until 6:00 p.m. since I would take off Friday to attend EMBA classes. I left the office at 6 o’clock, cognizant of the fact that I had a 6:30 p.m. appointment at my daughter’s school for “Meet the Teacher”. This was a big deal for my daughter, who was eager for me to meet her new 3rd-grade teacher. I also had a 7:00 p.m. EMBA study group scheduled to work on and finalize our leadership interview project. Somewhere in this tight timeframe, I had to drive home from the office, pick up dinner for my family, get the dogs out, and have my study group materials ready for the meeting. This kind of juggling exemplifies just one day of many that I have experienced in the last 630 days in the SMU EMBA program.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? First, determine how you will be organized with your schedule and materials. I would look at my schedule each Sunday to determine how I would manage work, school, and kids. This helped me set the tone of priorities for the week and determine how to lean on my support system.

Second, make time for yourself. Find time for you to breathe. I would find two hours on Sundays to do something for me: watching television, pampering myself with a manicure, whatever. This time helped to re-energize me.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Biggest myth: “It’s a big commitment of time and will cost a fortune.” I heard that a multitude of times, along with skepticism about whether the price was worth the value of the program. Honestly, getting my MBA has been a personal dream for the past ten years. Early on, my mom instilled the importance of education in me. I reached a time in my life that couldn’t have been better for me to make an investment of time and money in myself in order for me to achieve my dream.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I would have made time to go on a tour to learn more about the entire university beyond just my classrooms and about the resources available to leverage during my studies. I had been in the program for about seven months when I realized that I could have been accessing the business library. I remember thinking, “WOW – if only I had noticed this resource available to me earlier.” I wish I would have gotten to know more individuals in the 2018 EMBA & 2020 EMBA classes. I developed such a great network with my 2019 EMBA peers, and I can only imagine what it would be like if I had reached out to meet even more of my fellow SMU Cox EMBAs. You could say this might be an opportunity for me to network after I graduate!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m going to have to say that I admire two individuals here: David Jones and Derek Stephens. These two have been with me since Day 1 of the program. I leaned on them more times than not to help get me through studying efforts, assignments, or the anxiety of studying for a test. I admired that these two guys were able to juggle so much in life. Even more, at any time I needed to chat about school, they were there to lend an ear. They are part of my success, and I am thankful to have had them on the journey with me.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I knew I had a support system at home and removed the barriers that made me second guess those “what-if’s.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My aspiration is to have a career path at PepsiCo that allows me to continue to sharpen my leadership skills, grow in my knowledge of the business and continue to build relationships. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m setting the bar high. I have been known to say, “One day, I will be the PepsiCo CEO.” Our brand is powerful, our culture is amazing, and our portfolio is broad– let’s see what the future holds. Stay tuned!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered by my peers as “the social butterfly”— someone always there with a smile and a listening ear, who thoroughly enjoyed bringing the EMBA class together, either in the classroom or through outside activities.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? First, I want to go skydiving! I have a huge fear of heights, and this would be an amazing feat to conquer. Second, travel to the Galapagos Islands to explore the Charles Darwin Research Station.

What made Amy such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?  

“Amy’s Byalick’s mother focused on higher education after she retired, completing multiple degrees and then beginning a whole new career as a teacher. Inspired by her mother’s dedication, Amy enrolled in the SMU Cox EMBA program and is now modeling for her own children a similar passion for education. Beyond her children, Amy is an inspiration to her classmates, too. At the same time she began work in the EMBA program, Amy moved to a new job with global food and beverage corporation Pepsico. Shortly after her new job and her EMBA program got underway, a close family member was diagnosed with cancer. Nonetheless, Amy persevered, juggling a family health crisis, the needs of her own children and the demands of her profession with her EMBA responsibilities. Amy never missed a step, maintaining a sunny disposition and a can-do attitude. Her classmates admire her leadership abilities and her contributions to team projects, and classroom discussions. Adding one more responsibility to her busy life, and as part of the EMBA Global Studies course service project, Amy cheerfully coordinated the collection of funds from her classmates in order to help needy families in Bogota, Colombia. Her dedication to making a positive difference in all lives never fails to inspire all who know Amy Byalick.”

Tom Perkowski
Assistant Dean, SMU Cox Executive MBA Program 

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAs OF 2019 or RANKING THE BEST EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.