2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Chris Martell, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Chris Martell

W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University

“Former military officer. Analytical introvert. Clairvoyant sports enthusiast. A bookworm since the womb.”

Age: 37

Hometown: Born in Lakewood, CO; currently residing in Phoenix, AZ

Family Members: Brianne (wife) and Mckenna (daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: During the little bit of free time I had while earning my undergrad, my roommates and I would memorize and quiz each other on obscure college mascots (think “Beavers of MIT”-level obscurity). When I met my wife a decade after school, she walked into the middle of a conversation in which some of her friends were quizzing me on this “talent” of mine. I still claim that this was what won her over, though she adamantly denies it.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. Broadcast and Electronic Media, Gonzaga University

Where are you currently working? PetSmart; Senior Manager of Pricing

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: None at this time

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Two achievements stand out among all else: my nomination to Poets & Quants as one of the Best and Brightest of 2020 and being inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, the international honor society for business schools. I recall reading the profiles of the Poets & Quants graduates of 2018, as I was preparing to enter the Executive MBA program and feeling simultaneously overwhelmed by each of their accomplishments and better prepared by reading their suggestions for success in balancing life, school, and work over my next two years.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Holistically, my time spent in the Army is still my greatest professional achievement. When the attacks on 9/11 occurred, I was starting out as a brand-new undergraduate at Gonzaga in their Army ROTC program. On that morning, I knew that my military time would look very different than anybody could have predicted a week prior. Deploying three times over my seven years of service to support the intelligence needs of the soldiers operating on the front lines still stands out as an undertaking the defines who I am today.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I weighed the reputation of the program against other comparable West Coast programs, to include W.P. Carey’s emphasis on the international practicum and Business and Public Policy courses. I felt that not only was it the best program for me based upon these comparisons, but it was also had the benefit of being the closest to home.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It was building life-long relationships and learning from each of my classmates. This is not to discount W.P. Carey’s top-notch faculty, but the time spent with each of the 36 other classmates will always be some of my fondest memories of the time I spent in business school.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? My roles have always been more analytical in nature, but building out the accounting and finance skills and then marrying those with some of the softer skills learned in negotiations and leadership helps me every day. I’m able to work to better align individual business unit decisions with the strategic goals of the greater organization. Using my classes and the materials provided therein — readings, cases, and classes built using the Socratic method — have afforded me the opportunity to learn, fail, and develop an understanding of differing perspectives to not only be a more effective leader at work but also have greater confidence when applying something new.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? My daughter was born during my time in the Executive MBA program, so balancing my time amongst one more thing was an even bigger challenge during my second year than my first. The night she was delivered, I was sitting in the hospital room with my brand-new baby girl on my chest while I worked through writing an ethics paper before transitioning over to working through an Economics of Healthcare case. This is all in the dark, so my wife got what is probably the last peaceful night of sleep she will likely experience for at least the next decade.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Given that each of us leads extremely busy lives as we enter into an Executive MBA program, there are two pieces of wisdom that were imparted upon me when I began. First, recognize that you will only be able to do everything at about 80% of the capacity you did prior to your program. Be accepting of this new reality. Second, take every opportunity to learn and interact with your fellow students as they will teach you more through their own experiences than most in-class time likely will.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The cost of an MBA program is commensurate to the education you will receive. While I am not suggesting that W.P. Carey is “cheap”, doing your research will lead you to realize that program cost is not the best indicator of the value of your education or the degree you will receive. Do the research and look at other factors, especially those that matter most to you and your career progression.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of the best things about my Executive MBA experience was my cohort—especially the time that was spent outside of the formal classroom environment. From the weekend of our orientation to the final in-person weekend, there was a group of about 12 of us who would arrive early and have breakfast together, discussing everything from work and school to family and free time. Mainly, this was our time to just relax and joke with each other prior to a day of classes. In effect, this was “The Breakfast Club” of W.P. Carey.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I left the military. Recognizing that my undergrad degree would not necessarily aid me in my future job search, I set my mind to finding a good company I could begin my transition from the military, but always knew that I would go back to school for my MBA.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to grow and advance into a position or role where I am doing what I love, and it stops feeling like work.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered as a founding member of the breakfast club. While inherently an introvert, this program helped to pull me out of my shell and thrive in my discomfort.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Visit and watch a game in all 30 MLB ballparks (been to seven so far) and take more trips with my wife to scuba-diving destinations (I made my first dive on “her”…I mean our…honeymoon in Bora Bora).

What made Chris such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Chris Martell was always engaged and brought a direct, no-nonsense approach to discussions. He knows how to get things done. He was always willing to ask tough questions to the class. Yet he was incredibly personable and cooperative. His work experience in dealing with a company that faces the challenges of being bought by a private equity firm enhanced the learning of his classmates.”

Gerry Keim
EMBA Faculty Director and Professor


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