2016 Best EMBAs: Ellen Davis, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Ellen Davis GeorgetownEllen Davis

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

“I believe in the power of business as a force for good, with the ability to make such a positive impact in the world. I’ll consider myself fortunate if I’m able to build a career that enables me to combine my passion for the business world and giving back at the same time.”

Age: 37

Location: Arlington, VA

Family Members: Chad (husband) and two sons, Jackson (5) and Tate (9 months)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Millikin University, BA Communications

Where are you currently working? Senior Vice President, Research and Strategic Initiatives, National Retail Federation and Executive Director, NRF Foundation (Washington, D.C.)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Elected Georgetown executive MBA class representative; volunteer for So Others Might Eat; involved in mentoring programs for undergraduate college students

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? For our capstone project, I was fortunate enough to travel with six other members of my cohort to Germany to study the impact of the refugee crisis on its economy, society, and businesses and make recommendations on how to best integrate refugees for long-term success. We were able to look at a complex, ripped-from-the-headlines issue from multiple angles thanks to the graciousness of the German people and the perseverance of one of the most high-performing teams I have ever been part of. After a tremendous amount of work, we saw a big reward: One company executive said our final report was the most comprehensive publication on the refugee crisis he had read, and a professor stated that our presentation was the best he had seen in over 40 years at Georgetown. I am so passionate about applying business principles to make a difference in the world, and felt that we were able to accomplish that with our final project. I could not have asked for a better ending to an incredible experience in the executive MBA program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? About four years ago, I had the opportunity to take over a part of our organization that needed to be retooled and was able to build something from the ground up that now is an integral part of our operation. The trust that was placed in me, along with the appropriate direction and guidelines given, set me on a path toward understanding that I may have previously limited myself and my goals. Along the way, I was able to build a program with real value to our industry and an amazing team I’m fortunate to work with every day.

Favorite MBA Courses? Microeconomics, Strategy, Leadership, Global Logistics, Negotiations, and Management Communications.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I wanted a program that brought together world-class faculty and prestige with values I admire. Proximity to my office and my family was also important. Georgetown was the only executive MBA program I considered.

What did you enjoy most about business school? There really aren’t many moments in life where I get an opportunity to tune out everything that’s happening elsewhere in order to just listen and absorb. I will miss being in the classroom, phone off, mind open, getting ready to learn something.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? I often thought of work/family/school as one big pie chart. Getting through business school with a full-time job and a family — and a new baby for the last nine months of the program — meant making a conscious decision that nothing could get 100% of me all the time. I took some solace in telling myself that I was doing the best I could with the time I had and that this would need to be good enough. Everything sacrificed a bit, I suppose, for the benefit of the whole.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Get to know the rest of your cohort well and work with as many people as you can. If you’re as lucky I was, it’s where you will meet some of the most brilliant, thoughtful, humble people you know.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I got more excited about Fast Company and Harvard Business Review showing up in my mailbox than People magazine. I’m a learner, I can’t help it.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Less well-rounded, still obsessing over insignificant details, and have a much smaller network.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I’ve been fortunate to have Mindy Grossman, the CEO of HSNi and chairman of the NRF Foundation Board, as a mentor of mine for several years. How she balances running a $4 billion company, being an amazing mom, serving as a champion of so many women, and still carving out so much time in her life to give back is worthy of my admiration. That she does it with so much grace, positivity, and honesty is the icing on the cake. She is someone I aspire to be; I learn so much from watching her run a business and my board.

What are your long-term professional goals? I believe in the power of business as a force for good, with the ability to make such a positive impact in the world. I’ll consider myself fortunate if I’m able to build a career that enables me to combine my passion for the business world and giving back at the same time.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Two men in my life have been the most supportive of this journey: my husband, who made great sacrifices for me to go back to school and could always find a way for me to feel like this was manageable, even at 2 a.m. when I had more work to do; and my boss, Matt Shay (Georgetown EMBA ’11), who set me on this path to begin with and was unfailingly understanding, positive, and empathetic throughout the journey.

Fun fact about yourself: In 2005, I was studying consumer and retail trends for our trade association when we began to notice a spike in online shopping activity on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I coined the phrase “Cyber Monday.” It took off from there. Cyber Monday is now one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, and I get a kick out of seeing how it is embraced by shoppers, retailers, and the media every holiday season.

Favorite book: The Power of Habit

Favorite movie: I have a hard time thinking of anything I like better than National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Favorite musical performer: Adele

Favorite television show: “Parenthood”

Favorite vacation spot: A beach in the Caribbean. Any beach

Hobbies? Spending time with my kids and traveling, and I look forward to starting to write for fun again

What made Ellen such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Ellen Davis was a strong contributor to her EMBA cohort. As a vice president for the National Retail Association, she had first-hand knowledge of many of the top retail companies, their strategies and thought leadership. Her classmates and faculty appreciated her thought-provoking insights based on real business scenarios that served as a platform to illustrate multiple newly learned business concepts. In team meetings, Ellen presented a flexible approach to solving the issues at hand and was a great listener, while simultaneously pushing the group forward via strategic thinking. She was able to mobilize all team members in no time, while keeping in good spirits despite having to manage a very demanding job, a family, a pregnancy, and an intensive academic schedule. She was voted as one of the class representatives. In that role she always brought excellent constructive feedback and worked hard with the administration and faculty to provide creative approaches to solving administrative or academic concerns her classmates had.”

Elie Farhat

Associate Dean for Admissions and Outreach  

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business


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