2019 Best EMBAs: Rebecca Findlay, Michigan State (Broad)

Rebecca Findlay

Michigan State University, Broad College of Business

“I am a farm girl; consistency, integrity, and hard work define my path to success.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Caro, Michigan

Family Members: Parents, two sisters, and five nieces and nephews

Fun fact about yourself: I grew up competitively showing horses across the United States and Canada.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Wayne State University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

Where are you currently working? Rivian Automotive, Project Manager

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Beta Gamma Sigma Inductee, Caro Senior Citizens Christmas Dinner Annual Volunteer

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In one of our corporate finance courses, there was a team assignment to perform a company valuation and, ultimately, make a recommendation on its market position. This is an academic area I was not well-versed in before this course, but my team trusted me to take a large role in developing the business case. Our team selected a company that had totally bombed at its IPO, a total no-name requiring significant research in comparison to big-name companies selected by other teams. We ultimately recommended that it was significantly undervalued in the market and would be a good investment opportunity. I wish I had taken our own advice and bought in – the stock has tripled in the past year since we gave the recommendation!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During the summer semester of the EMBA program, I was tasked at work with taking over a prototype build as the project manager mid-project in an attempt to improve performance to the customer. The project was building a new electric vehicle product for a domestic, traditional automaker. I walked into the project not knowing the product, customer, or team – with high expectations to turn around performance. It was an incredibly difficult event spanning nearly four months, but I led the team to deliver all product according to our revised delivery commitments, without exception. Every day was a struggle, requiring 18-hour days on the plant floor. Upon my entry to the project, the customer immediately recognized our improved performance and they were able to maintain their overall vehicle build schedule as originally planned. This was only my second project in this capacity, and I was by far the youngest member of the team with the least experience, but I was able to lead my team out of a poorly-planned position into one of success for our company and for the customer.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Our Global Marketplace class focusing on the South African economy, culture, and history was very special to me. Our class was able to travel to South Africa to see and learn first-hand how to do business in this unique, evolving economy. MSU curated a fantastic program, not only focusing on today’s business landscape but on the South African history and how it plays a critical role in the country’s economic development. Additionally, the experiences we had related to the country’s history and current state were also very personally challenging. My personal growth during this trip is just as cherished, if not more so, than the academic content of the course. We also traveled as a combined group from several MSU campus locations, so I was able to meet and make lifelong connections with others in my program that I did not get to know every weekend of the regular program. My learnings here have really inspired me to find a way to marry my capabilities in business with a personal desire to do work that has a positive, far-reaching impact on my community.    

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose the MSU Executive MBA program because I knew the caliber of the student population would be elevated, yet pragmatic. The class population is hard-working and possesses a level of grit I did not see exhibited in other Executive MBA programs I researched.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It was the people I met, learned alongside, and now consider lifelong friends and family. Our cohort was very close-knit and we were all in it together. Every Friday night and Saturday morning, we were happy to be together, learning from each other and delivering to all such a unique and fantastic experience – despite the exhaustion from a tough work week or the difficulties at home. The camaraderie we built has not been matched in my previous experiences.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The number one thing I learned in my MBA that I take with me everywhere (personally and professionally) is related to communication. Establishing open, honest, and direct communication at the beginning with my stakeholders is paramount to our working success. The MSU Executive MBA taught us early, and reminded us often, of the importance of “green path” communication when working in teams, as we were assigned our study team members for the duration of the program on Day 1 of orientation. Green path communication is what transforms a team of people from being a good team into a high-performing team – and the results of a true high-performance team are exemplary. I witnessed it first-hand with my study team and I am so grateful to them for all abiding by green path behaviors – even when it took courage to do so.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In early June of the summer semester, I was tasked with taking over the extremely challenging new product prototype build event. While we were simultaneously cramming to finish up all final school projects ahead of the summer break, I was also in my hometown for a weekend helping my family. My mom owns and operates a dance studio with 300+ students. Every year, I act as stage manager for the annual dance recital held at a thousand-seat theater, where I am running sound, lights, and curtain (or rail, for you show biz folks). During show setup, at intermissions, and in between tracks. I would mute my headset for the stage crew and fieldwork phone calls coming in from the plant floor. How did I do it? I honestly do not know. I just knew I had commitments to these three different things, and I was not about to let anybody at work, school, or in my family down.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Be prepared to build your life around your new schedule and sacrifice certain things. Know that it will, in fact, be challenging to manage it all. Be inspired knowing that the people around you will be your strength when you need it. Have the courage to do something that is extremely difficult, but incredibly rewarding, and take risks during the program to gain exposure to things you are not comfortable with.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Due to my demanding work schedule at the time, I did not pursue the elective option to participate in the Social Impact class. This elective option is rooted in working with and presenting business solutions to a Detroit-area non-profit organization. Additionally, students participated in new groups of teams that were not their base program study teams. I missed an opportunity to give back to my community, as well as learn from new teammates in a very unique environment.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I cannot pick a single classmate! I have great admiration for my entire study team. Each team member possessed such a sense of duty back to our team, even in the midst of the constant change and pressure each was facing in their work, personal, and school lives. Their ability to manage it all while still enthusiastically attending every team meeting and class session ready to take on the world as a team, and family, inspired me every day. It still does.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized I was not being challenged, personally or professionally, in my everyday environment. I knew I wanted to stretch myself to achieve greater satisfaction in both my work and personal growth.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I believe in strengths-based leadership. Regardless of my role or position, my goal is to seek opportunities to build up and lead strong teams of uniquely skilled individuals, each lending his or her distinct strengths to create a high-performing team. Having been part of such a team during my EMBA, I now know the power of harnessing unique strengths, and I cannot wait to steer such a team in delivering powerful results back to the success of our organization.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to be remembered as a thoughtful, holistic thinker with an ability to sense the needs of the people around me and adjust my working style in honest ways to suit those needs while delivering the best result for the task at hand.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To experience a meal at The French Laundry in California, and to take my dad on his first trip to Europe to follow the path of WWII’s Easy Company from Normandy to Berchtesgarden.

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

“I knew from the moment she completed her admission interview that Rebecca was going to be a successful EMBA student. The question I had was, would she realize what successful meant? Her career and academic success to that point had been stellar – exceptionally strong academic history and a quick rising professional career. Yet success in the EMBA environment means more than creating an individual highlight reel. It didn’t take long for me to get my answer. Within the first semester, Rebecca displayed all the attributes of a successful EMBA student: being a key contributor to her study team; engaging with her cohort; applying the team-based learning outside the classroom.

Her dedication to the MSU EMBA experience is a model for future students. She approached each semester, each course, each assignment with purpose and focus. It has been a true joy watching her grow and develop. I have no doubt she will create success wherever her career leads.”

Greg Janicki


MSU Executive MBA


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