2017 Best EMBAs: Jacqueline Manger, University of Maryland (Smith)

Jacqueline Manger

University of Maryland, Robert H Smith School

Age: 52

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Passionate leader striving to positively impact my community and family while having fun in life.

Hometown: I am a Navy “brat”, born in Portsmouth, VA and have called dozens of cities from one coast of the US to the other “home”. My newest hometown: Olney, MD, where I am building a new home for my extended family.

Family Members: Husband of 18 years Tom Manger, Chief of Police of Montgomery County MD (and a Maryland TERP) is my partner in life. We have been blessed with a boy and girl, Jack 15 and Jesse 13. Also living with us in our household, my sister-in-law Christine, my father John Champlain and my sister Catherine. We are the new multi-generational family unit you read about. And we have a cat – Desdemona.

Fun fact about yourself: I played Sandy in a production of the musical Grease in Northern California. Kenickie was played by Nicolas Coppola, who later became a movie star under the stage name Nicolas Cage.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Virginia Commonwealth University BS Economics. I also studied acting and directing in the Professional Training Program of Playwrights Horizons, New York, NY.

Where are you currently working? Chief Operating Officer, West Creek Capital

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: 100 Women in Finance, DC Education Committee 2008-Present; Adventure Theater MTC, Board of Directors, Gala Chair – 2016, Finance Committee 2015-Present; St. Mary’s School, Chair of Principal Search Committee, Advisory Board Member, Policy, Planning and Assessment Committee 2010-2014; Archdiocese of Washington, Synod Member, Education Sub-Committee 2013-2014; Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County Board of Directors, Board Chair (2011-2013),Governance Chair, (2009-2013), Secretary (2008) 2007-2013; Leadership Montgomery, Inside Montgomery Executive Leadership Program 2005; Fairfax County Character Counts Task Force, Mason District Representative 2000-2001

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I received an A+ in Strategic Management — one of our first courses in the program. The professor, Rajshree Argawal, emailed me to let me know — and her email made it clear that this was an achievement. It was clearly not a public achievement or award of any kind. Until now, only the professor, me and my husband knew — but it was and still is my proudest moment in the program because I really feel like I scaled the heights to achieve the grade.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? About 25 years ago, I transitioned from a career in the performing arts to a career in the hedge-fund/asset management industry. Successfully transitioning from a career as a performer to a second career not related to the arts is not an easy feat – I faced a great deal of skepticism. It was a struggle to get people to take me seriously. Luckily, I was able to convince one person to take a chance on me and from there I ran with it. I am very proud of the achievement.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I looked at about a half dozen programs in the 2-3 hour drive out around the Washington, D.C., area and a few as far away as Philadelphia and North Carolina. I wanted a school that had a good reputation and ranking. After the research and test drive phase, I realized that I needed something closer to home and narrowed my focus. A case study session with Marketing Strategy professor Dave Godes convinced me that the faculty at UMD would be excellent. What ultimately sold me on UMD was the executive coaching aspect of the program coupled with the format — all in person every other weekend. It was do-able with my life. I have not been disappointed with any of those deciding aspects – professors, coaching and format – all excellent.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Over the first summer months spent in the program, when spending time away with my family, I would set up my computer on the dining room table at our beach place — facing out to view the ocean. I would put on my head phones and get on conference calls with my Managerial Economics team to discuss cases and work on group papers. My kids would be running around, then head down to the beach, come back up to eat, and all the while I would be working – some for the EMBA deliverables and some for my firm West Creek. But I was there with them and my view was the ocean.

I have always tried to be a glass half-full person. The “juggle” of this program has ultra-focused me on really appreciating my blessings and helped me to redefine quality time. Quality time can be in very small moments with those you love or enjoy working with. It’s all about finding moments to focus on each thing you are juggling.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program? Be clear about why you want to go back to school and be able to articulate that well in your interview. Do the work to understand the program; all EMBA programs are not the same and UMD’s integrated executive coaching is an exceptional aspect. Being clear about how this program is right for you will help you in the interview process. Attend the EMBA for a Day sessions so that you can experience the case method and apply that to your interview case.  

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth for me was the family/life/work balance issue. I remember being told in the interview process that life as I knew it would have to stop for 20 months. Maybe I have always been good at the juggle. Maybe I do better than most on less sleep. Or, maybe I am blessed with an amazingly supportive family, but the whole notion of totally giving up your life as you know it was not that extreme for me. Example: I tried my best to say “no” to accepting a position as Gala Co-Chair for Adventure Theater MTC whose board I sit on. I told the leadership that I just did not think I would have the capacity to do the job that I would want to. This commitment had to be made before the program started for a Gala happening in the spring soon after we started. Well, I ended up saying “yes” because I had an amazing Co-Chair. While I did not do the level of work I would have had I not been in the program, the reality is I was able to contribute my leadership and my time and talent to an organization I care about. It worked out just fine and we raised more money than the prior year which is always the goal.

What was your biggest regret in business school? It was that I did not have the chance to collaborate on a team with every single member of my cohort. Our cohort is large and while I have made an effort to work with many different people, I have also formed teams with some common repeat members.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Beatriz Winn is someone I admire greatly — she is a survivor; she is generous with her talents, cares about others on her teams and shares her expertise freely. I most admire the way that she listens during far-reaching class discussions and then synthesizes information from multiple courses into comments she makes during class. When she speaks, either I learn something new, clarify my own thinking, or think about the topic of discussion in a different way. It is obvious that she has done the work and also just a generally well read and well informed business woman.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that despite everything I had learned “on the job” and despite the success I had achieved as a business professional that others (mostly recruiters and human resources professionals) viewed a gap in my resume — the lack of advanced degree.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…spinning my wheels, doing the same things at work.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? I admire many companies. For instance, I have a friend who is President of a successful start-up, Get Real Health. They are innovative, their employees have fun at work, and I know that the boss cares a great deal about those that work there. Recently, I learned about the business and culture of a D.C. area company that many more people probably know – The Motley Fool. I like that they are using technology to disrupt the traditional investment market and I like their irreverence. While they are growing, they appear to be doing so at a good pace and with some thought as to how to expand into other investment business lines and they promote from within. I really admire how they treat their people (extremely generous benefits like unlimited vacation) and from most accounts this works really well for them. Being in the investment world so long where so many people are way too full of themselves, I also really just like the whole “fool” aspect of what they are doing.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? The reason many women get stuck and can’t get into the executive ranks is they do not fluently speak the language of the C-suite. That is – how does what I am doing effect my company’s bottom line and how does it move us toward a strategic goal?

Our core courses hit all the customary MBA requirements, but I would add to this even more course work designed to increase those skills. I would love more courses that integrate core MBA topics like finance, strategy, managerial accounting and operations.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to sit on the board of a public company and when I get there use my position of influence to get more women on that board and on other corporate boards. On my way there, I want to continue to grow in my career with another COO or CFO position leading ultimately to a CEO position in a vibrant growing organization whose mission excites me.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my mother and my father. My father joked when I was younger that I got everything I needed from my mother – brains and beauty. In doing so, he was really complimenting my mother (not me) and also not trying to take any credit himself. I admire that, but the reality is that my father along with my mother contributed greatly to my success by raising me to believe I could do anything I set my mind too – and they stressed that girls can do anything that boys do. My father made sure that I could do many things that only boys my age were taught to do — understand how car engines work, change my own tires, use tools, etc… They gave me a mindset and approach to life that has served me well.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? In business school, Jacqueline was generous with her time and talents, encouraged others, and took a real interest in what her peers were trying to accomplish in the program.

Favorite book: Working by Studs Terkel

Favorite movie or television show: The Good Wife. Smartly written, wickedly well-acted. A great indulgence.

Favorite musical performer: Audra McDonald

Favorite vacation spot: The beach – specifically my family’s little escape overlooking the ocean on the Maryland shore.

Hobbies? Hobbies – What are hobbies? I am a business woman, mom, wife, community volunteer, friend, sister, daughter, etc… who has time? That’s so cliché an answer – right? Does watching your children play baseball and lacrosse count as a hobby? I love to do that and find it relaxing. I still sing, mostly at home, in the car and in the shower. It’s a muscle I don’t want to lose – so maybe singing is my “hobby?”

What made Jacqueline such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Jacqueline is an eager, intellectually curious EMBA continuously striving to improve herself and those around her. While currently the Chief Operating Officer of West Creek Capital, she got started in her career as an actress in theater. I cannot imagine a more-stark career transition and yet her success in both exemplifies both the poet and the quant in her.  Her performance professionally and in the classroom demonstrates her ability to critically, quantitatively analyze situations and then use her performance background to clearly and convincingly translate her strategic analysis into a plan of action around which others get behind.  She is a demonstrated leader in our program, an outstanding member of the community, and a really fun person to be around.”

Michael Faulkender

Associate Dean for Masters Programs

Robert H. Smith School of Business

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.