2019 Best EMBAs: Amanda Davis, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Amanda Davis

Arizona State University (W. P. Carey EMBA)

“Energetic, professional woman with a passion for my work in aerospace and helping others collectively succeed.”

Age: Older than I look

Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz.

Family members: Nardo Rodriguez (my “partner in crime”), Rocket and Nadet (dogs)

Fun fact about yourself: I’m only 4’10” but my personality overcomes height. Also, I can tap dance.

Undergraduate school and degree: B.S. Engineering Mechanics and M.S. Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Where are you currently working? Northrop Grumman

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Co-founder and former president of AZ Women Racing cycling team, along with mountain and road cycling; I also enjoy backpacking, running, triathlons, and yoga

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? By quickly applying all I was learning real-time, I was able to be promoted from program management into a strategy role at my company. Also, two of us in our cohort competed in a triathlon at the end of the first year. We then inspired four more fellow students to join in for a 10k and half marathon with us. It’s hard to stay fit while balancing work, school, and family!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was a leader on the Antares rocket development team. I saw the rocket design from preliminary and final design reviews, to initial build and test. Then, I moved to Virginia for six months to complete final assembly testing and first launch. The Antares rocket continues to launch the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station for cargo deliveries.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It is impossible to pick just one, and I could go well beyond these few. I admire Joan Brett for bringing a wealth of professional and academic knowledge to Organizational Behavior; she also had us the very first quarter and taught us how to have effective classroom discussions. Phil Drake made our first accounting class NOT boring. Kevin Corley inspired me to be a better leader as well as showing us the path. I wish I would have had Dan Brooks teaching statistics when I was in engineering school; he had the best stories on how stats have been used and abused.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Both the Business & Public Policy and International Practicums taught by Gerry Keim. These courses start with classroom learning, research, and assignments. They then go out into the field (Washington, D.C. for the former, Switzerland for the latter) where we observe the concepts in real life through various visits and speakers. These experiences showed how government, culture, and norms greatly influence the business world.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I observed one of my leaders at work dramatically improve as he completed this program. It was not just the hard business skills, but also how he made decisions and approached leading the division.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Getting to know the diverse students within our cohort. I found their experiences insightful through the in-classroom discussions. Discussing course concepts and implementation ideas greatly increased my understanding and learning of the material. Their friendship was invaluable to my sanity for 21 months.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? In the middle of our first year, I needed to travel to Guam for work for about 3-4 weeks. I was able to negotiate my travel dates with work, so I could fly out Monday after classes and return Thursday before classes four weeks later. The class weekend in between I attended via the ASU “robot,” although 8 a.m. in Arizona is 1 a.m. the next day in Guam. I took a couple of days off before and after the trip to spend with my family and friends. I remember thinking this will be completely crazy, but I just planned and survived.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I was hesitant to sign up for the program as I feared how my life would suffer as school consumed my free time. Yes, it does take time. You will find a way to strike a balance. The first quarter may be rough, but you’ll find the best times for homework and ensure you set times for yourself and loved ones.

What was your biggest regret in business school? None. I feel I was a much better student than when I was in engineering school!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? All of them! I remember the first day of class when we went around the room for introductions. I was so impressed with the accomplishments and diversity of them all. I particularly admire several doctors in our cohort, trying to find business solutions to our health care problems.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I had to admit to a finance manager that I didn’t know what EBIT was.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’d like to lead a business unit or division, hopefully still within the space industry. I want to help mentor and champion women into executive leadership. I had a lot of help to get where I am today.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone they’d like to work with and grab a drink together after.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I want to complete the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. While I was still riding through school, I had to take a step back and could not train for something that long. I look forward to weekends spent out on the trails and camping. I’d also like to visit South America, particularly the Patagonia region. I’ve always been enthralled with Torres del Paine, so definitely some backpacking in that area.

What made Amanda Davis) such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Amanda is a real ‘rocket engineer’ in a profession dominated by men. When discussing organizational challenges, Amanda talked about how difficult it is to get a successful rocket launch. Amanda brought a set of incredibly positive intangible assets to everything she did in class, and everyone wanted to work with her! She is a very successful leader in her company and in the classroom.” –Faculty Director for the Executive MBA Gerry Keim, who is a professor of management and entrepreneurship

“Beyond academic performance that was outstanding, Amanda brought personal intangibles to the classroom that enhanced the quality of experience for everyone else. Intangibles are not easy to explain, but her curiosity about what was being discussed in the class and, more importantly, what more she wanted to know about what was being discussed, was amazing. It gave me an opportunity to ‘up the ante’ by challenging the class. And Amanda did it in a humble and pleasant way.”

Uday Kulkarni

Associate Professor of Information Systems




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