2019 Best EMBAs: Steve Neece, University of Virginia (Darden)

Steve Neece      

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“I am an analytical and shy extrovert who puts a really high value on relationships.”

Age: 38

Hometown: Colonial Heights, Virginia

Family Members: Wife-Christina Neece; Daughters- Bryanna, Abigail, and Evelyn Neece

Fun fact about yourself: I go all out for Christmas Decorating with 30,000 lights outside along with many other decorations.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Virginia – Degree in Systems Engineering and Economics

Where are you currently working? Capital One – Director, Process Management Card AML Programs

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Youth soccer coaching, Startup Consulting

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The thing I am most proud of during my time at business school has been the leadership opportunities within the classes I have been given. My classmates are amazing people and it has been a great experience and a test of my abilities to be a leader among many great leaders.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the team that I have been able to lead at Capital One that has developed during my time at business school. The team is highly diverse and has had to deal with highly stressful work, but the team has come together to work extremely collaboratively and has been highly adaptable to emerging challenges.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Connie Dunlop has been my favorite professor during my time at Darden. Her classes led me to the most personal insight into the path that I want to take with my career and she is heavily invested in helping students find that path.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course that provided important business insight was “Leading Teams” with Lynn Isabella. The course really made tangible the importance of focusing on developing as a team over individual development to achieve the best outcomes.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose this program for a number of reasons. I had a great undergraduate experience at UVA and wanted to benefit from the school and community again. I had leaders in my company who had gone through the Darden program and strongly recommended it. Also, the case methodology for the program was highly attractive.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The best part of the business school program was the people who I have been able to interact with. My classmates have had so many different experiences and all excel in their own fields. I have learned so much from them about different industries as well as from their own personal experiences.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson that I learned was about developing and leading my team. I learned that recognition alone was not enough to boost performance. There was more power in giving context to the recognition and allowing my team to understand how they were contributing to the success of our business.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Throughout the program, we just found ways to make things work. There was a week when my oldest daughter had to be in the hospital over Halloween and we had a class that night. While my wife took my younger two daughters trick or treating, I was on the video for our online class from my daughter’s hospital room. On a lighter side, I tended to be on teams with others who also had children. During our team video meetings, it was very common for our children to pop on to say hi to the team.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? You definitely have to make sure everyone in your life is committed to your success in the program. I could not have done this without the support I received from my family and my co-workers.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is that you are giving up having a life. In reality, you choose your priorities and balance when you will focus on work/family/school. The class that you become a part of also gave me some of the best life experiences and very enjoyable memories.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was taking too long to reach out and connect with everyone in our class. This was the best group of people and I highly value the community we built together.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admired all of my classmates for different reasons, but Hanna Dobbels stood out in her ability to take risks and putting herself forward, but in a way that brought her success.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia and I was doing intramurals with the Darden students. As soon as they started the executive program, I knew that would be my eventual destination.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My professional goal is to eventually become a teacher in higher education.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? “I want him on my team”

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Write a book on economics and political policy

International travel, specifically Australia since that is where my grandmother is from.

What made Steven such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019? “Steve inspires confidence and respect; being with him ups your game. He is a person you’d love to work with and for.

I’ve had the privilege of having Steve in my class for two terms. His individual work is invariably outstanding (among the best I’ve seen in over 40 years of teaching MBAs). Perhaps even more valuable to the program, he sparks learning in everyone around him in so many ways — taking the lead in a discussion, asking a great question, explaining a concept, helping folks outside of class. It is a pleasure to know and work with Steve.

Robert Harris

Darden School Professor


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