2015 Best EMBA: Scott Gates

Scott Gates

Scott Gates


Arizona State University. W. P. Carey School of Business

Scott Gates is your quintessential Executive MBA. Already a COO at just 33 years of age, Gates returned to Carey to prepare himself to be the CEO of a $100 million dollar company. Lauded for his academic prowess and upbeat attitude in school, Gates has also helped lead his firm, Western Window Systems, to 50% growth in each of the past four years. Outside of work and school, Gates is a husband and a father to two of the “cutest daughters on the planet.” He also is a board director of Sun Valley Community Church (which has grown from one campus to three during his tenure) and a board director of Orchard Africa, a non-profit that works with pastors and churches to provide food, education, and care for families suffering poverty and the HIV crisis.

Age: 33

Location: Gilbert, Arizona

Family Members: Most Amazing Wife in the World: Maria Gates (33), Cutest Daughters on the Planet: Kinley (5) & Emery (4)

Undergraduate School: W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University

Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marketing

Where are you currently working? Western Window Systems, President & COO

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my career was starting to progress rapidly and I realized my future would most likely include general management, and not just sales and marketing. I knew that someday I wanted to be a CEO, and I also knew that I needed to grow in several areas of business before I would be ready. I felt that an Executive MBA would be the perfect choice to stretch and challenge myself for the future ahead. I was right. Excitingly, I will be moving into the CEO role of our company a month after I graduate.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…ill-prepared for the challenge of becoming CEO of one of the country’s fastest growing companies. It is not an exaggeration to say that my MBA has fundamentally changed the way I look at and approach business. I am much more prepared, and much more confident regarding the unique challenges of running a $100 million business. I am forever grateful to my school, my professors, my cohort, and the program staff for the unique ways they equipped me for the challenge ahead. After four straight years of 50% growth, I feel excited and ready to produce more of the same!”

What are your long-term professional goals? When I was young, my professional goals centered around business success that I would measure by my income or leadership position. After spending time later in life visiting impoverished communities in Mexico, Brazil, and Africa, I realized just how futile these goals seemed. Success is about so much more than making money or climbing the corporate ladder. It’s about people, and the impact you make on their lives. It’s also about having fun as you work your way along the journey. In my leadership class, our professor asked us to write a Vision Statement for our lives. This goal of this statement was to sum up how we would measure our success. Here is what mine said: “I want to have fun devoting my effort and creative energy to impacting and enriching the lives of other people, especially those I am blessed to lead.” I plan to spend my life running businesses that greatly bless our employees, our vendors, and our customers. I want to help improve the lives of people around me. If I do that, I know I will have lived a very successful life. That seems like a goal worth chasing.

Favorite Courses: So difficult to choose. I found tremendous value in every course. My personal favorites were: Marketing, Organizational Behavior, Entrepreneurship, Managerial Accounting, Business Strategy & Public Policy, and Strategic Management.

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? Since joining Western Window Systems in Dec. 2010, I have been involved in helping transform a sleepy, fifty year old window and door manufacturer into one of the fastest growing companies in the country. Since the date of my hire, the company has grown 629% in just over four years. I started as our marketing director and was instrumental in helping us enter new markets and generate a wave of demand. I next assumed control of operations to help us overcome our growth challenges and drive efficiency and profitability. Lastly, I assumed the role of president to help set our growth strategy for the next five years (in which we think we think we can more than double in size again). The company has seen its enterprise value grow 100x in the few years that I have been here and I believe we are just getting started. I am so proud of our fantastic team and all they have accomplished. Leading a rapidly growing company while getting your Executive MBA isn’t easy, but the on-hand learning environment enabled me to manage through a live case nearly every day I went to work. Our sales have grown 175% in the 21 months I’ve been in the program, and EBITDA has grown 500%. Managing through this rapid growth while also excelling in school has helped produce two of the most rewarding years of my professional career.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? To start I am so thankful to my parents. I had an amazing childhood filled with laughter, love, and endless encouragement. My parents taught me to love Jesus and to love people, and they shaped me into the man I am. I also am incredibly grateful to a long list of teachers and coaches throughout my life that invested in me and answered my questions. They all helped me fall in love with learning. I am grateful for a series of great bosses that believed in my potential, and mentored me as I developed as a businessman and leader (especially current Western CEO Jason Funk). But there is no one in life I am more thankful for than my wife Maria Gates. She is my best friend and closest confidant. She has helped shape me into a better person. She’s challenged me when I needed to be better. She’s encouraged me when I needed to be uplifted. She’s inspired me when I needed to reach the finish line.  She is my rock, and marrying her is easily the greatest decision I ever made.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Growing up in the valley, I have always been an Arizona State University fan. When I graduated from high school, ASU gave me multiple scholarships and provided me a great undergraduate experience that helped prepare me for success in business. Thus, when I decided to go back to school to get my MBA the only school I even considered was ASU. I was attracted to the Executive program for multiple reasons. First, W. P. Carey’s EMBA is highly ranked and has incredibly talented faculty members. Second, I was intrigued by the class trips to Washington D.C. (for its business strategy and public policy course) as well as the International Practicum with ten days overseas. Third, I love learning from other smart people. I knew with ASU’s strong reputation they would draw a gifted cohort in which I would get to learn from their unique perspectives each weekend in class. I am proud to say that ASU hit a home run on all three.

What did you enjoy most about the executive MBA program? I have to say that the EMBA was outstanding and far surpassed my expectations. The quality of the teachers, the curriculum, and the programming were all exceptional. However, as I try to think back about what I enjoyed most, I think I would have to say that it has been the lifelong friendships that I developed with many of my cohort. Working your way through an MBA can be such an overwhelming experience. The days are long and the work load is intense. Most days you want to quit. On those days, it is often the friends around you that get you through. Our cohort developed a deep bond and decided that we all were going to get through school together. Classmates rallied around each other and provided help, encouragement, alcohol, and laughs to make sure no one was left behind or discouraged. I now count many of these individuals as some of my closest friends and advisors in business, and I am grateful for the role my school played in bringing us together.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? There are so many that I love, but one particular night comes to mind as I think about this question. Last summer, our cohort had our Business Strategy and Public Policy class in Washington D.C. While the course itself was very educational and each speaker was top notch, class trips are often about the camaraderie that is built in during the after-hours. One night after the academic portion had concluded, a group of us ventured to the W hotel, which has a rooftop bar that overlooks the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Jefferson memorial. The view and atmosphere was absolutely amazing. We enjoyed a few cocktails, and then reflected back on completion of the first year of our MBA while pondering our futures. The conversation eventually turned to inside jokes and year-one memories, and by the end of the night I don’t think I had ever laughed as hard. It was one of those great conversations with close friends that I will never forget, and is an example of what I will miss most when business school is over.

What was the most surprising thing about B-school? I anticipated that an Executive MBA cohort would be filled with extremely competitive and combative individuals as a result of their success and leadership positions. While our cohort was full of gifted and successful men and women, the combative, cut-throat environment I predicted never materialized. Instead, our group made a conscious decision to create a classroom culture that was inclusive, not exclusive. While we all pushed ourselves for greatness, it was never at the expense of those around us. I truly believe that we all wanted each person to succeed. It was a special thing to be a part of, and was definitely not what I thought I would encounter when I first enrolled in the program.

Fun fact about yourself: I am a Disneyland fanatic. I’m fascinated with the park’s place in American history and love to collect memorabilia from its early years. I visit there with my family multiple times per year and have spent more than 100 days of my life at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

Favorite book: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Favorite movie: Saving Private Ryan

Favorite musical performer: Counting Crows

Favorite television show: Seinfeld and The West Wing

Favorite vacation spot: Italy. No other country I’ve visited has ever offered such a unique combination of history, culture, natural beauty, and delicious cuisine.

What are your hobbies? A perfect day for me is anything that involves having fun with my wife and two little girls. They are the light of my life and bring me joy that nothing else compares with. My wife and I also love to travel. We love experiencing new cultures and hope to see most of the world’s major cities over the course of our lives. I also am a hiking enthusiast and love to be outdoors. I love to read books on U.S. History, business, and any biographies of great leaders from the past.  I also love engaging conversation with friends and family, especially when those conversations are accompanied with cold beer and endless laughs. I also love sports. I am currently coaching my daughters’ T-ball team, and I love to play men’s league basketball or softball. My favorite teams to watch in person or on TV are the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Cardinals, and anything Arizona State University is competing in! Bottom line: I love to have fun. My life has been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

Instagram: @smgates31

What made Scott such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015 for your executive MBA program?

“The Executive MBA tends to attract uniquely driven and bright individuals. Scott Gates stands out as an exceptional student, even among his remarkably talented classmates. In this very rigorous academic program, he has distinguished himself as a top performer, earning a string of accolades from faculty. He has stepped up on several occasions to be a positive leader within the cohort. The program schedule and workload can be very intense, but Scott’s genial nature, overwhelming positivity and ability to find humor in any situation have helped keep his cohort motivated and laughing. But I think what truly makes Scott stand out is the fervor with which he embraced his EMBA experience. Scott fully dedicated himself to deriving maximum value from every aspect of the program – academic study, professional development programming, personal and professional connections with faculty, staff and students. And it has paid off for him. His efforts to implement strategies and skills learned in the program in his professional role have allowed him to positively impact the success of his organization and helped solidify his take-aways from the EMBA experience. We have thoroughly enjoyed having him as a student and are incredibly proud of his accomplishments in the EMBA program and at Western Windows. We look forward to watching his continued career success.”

Easter Weiss, Director, Executive MBA

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