2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Elaina Ware, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Elaina Ware

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“Always up for a challenge, especially when it involves creating change and leveraging people’s strengths.”

Age: 42

Hometown: Grew up in Mt. Zion, Illinois; now living in Kamloops, British Columbia

Family Members: Four children (ages 18, 15, 14, and 10) + an incredible husband

Fun fact about yourself: My career in mining started with an internship where men flat-out refused to work with me due to superstitions that women were bad luck in underground coal mines. I found support from a few progressive men that helped me navigate my way. I persevered and was determined to prove that women could be a force of positive change in mining.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Missouri – Rolla, Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering

Where are you currently working? General Manager at Highland Valley Copper, Canada’s largest surface copper mine, owned and operated by Teck Resources Ltd.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • Outstanding Young Professional of the Year, Society of Mining Engineers, 2012
  • Licensed Professional Mining Engineer, Wyoming
  • Mining Association of British Columbia, Board Member and Mine Manager Chair, 2018 – 2020
  • United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo, Board of Directors, 2020 – current

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Not missing a single class at a residential program in another country (I live in Canada). The trips to Chicago were exhausting, especially when I was working away from home. It’s crazy to think about now, but looking back and doing the math, there was a 150-day stretch where I was only home for 20 days in total. I felt tremendous guilt for being away from my kids and husband so much. At the end of that period, we took a much-needed family vacation without any interruption from school or work.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Just six months after starting my EMBA, I changed roles within my company to a position that was well outside of my comfort zone. I moved from a tactical, operations role as General Manager of a site, to an ambiguous role in Innovation and Technology. I was challenged with the daunting task of creating the Digital Transformation Strategy for the entire company. I had a very small team of direct reports and consultants and we generated a portfolio of initiatives that reached nearly 200% of our goal. The confidence that I’d gained from the program at Kellogg nudged me to make this complicated career move and accomplish a successful outcome.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Aparna Labroo taught my first marketing class and I was instantly fascinated. I’d never been taught much about marketing before and her engaging teaching style made the topic come to life. She captured my interest with a mix of intelligent structures, practical examples, and quick wit. I might need to have a second career in marketing now.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Having grown up in central Illinois, I knew the strong reputation of Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern. As I looked into program specifics, I was drawn to the collaborative learning environment created by the residential requirement and assigned study groups.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It was learning with others, whether it be with my five-person study group, other classmates in my cohort, or colleagues from Kellogg partner campuses around the world. We each brought our own unique experiences and were able to learn more from each other. I’ve found the connections with others, combined with top-notch professors, to be tremendously energizing.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? A good strategy means knowing when to say no. I’m a natural people pleaser so it can be hard for me to say no. Through practice during my EMBA, I’ve learned that it really does pay off. Recently, I helped a team identify operational bottlenecks and determine improvement initiatives in the most impactful areas. That approach led to all time production records being set, not just in the focus area, but across the entire operation.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Less than a month into the program, there was a tragic accident at work that was consuming my focus and attention. I was second-guessing my decision to add an EMBA program onto my already overflowing plate. Just as things had settled enough for me to head to Chicago for classes and as I was en route to the airport, I found out that my dad had just had a massive stroke. I changed my flight to go to California and went straight to the hospital. Along the way, I was texting with one of my study teammates, Paul Dixon. He not only gave me sound medical advice, but even more importantly, he reassured me that the team had my back. His offer of support was exactly what I needed in that moment. My dad made a full recovery and I made it to class on time.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Some might say that school is like riding a bike and you don’t forget how to do it. That was simply not true for me. For my EMBA classes, I needed to be deliberate about setting up good study habits and these were NOT the same as when I was in undergrad.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My only regret is not being able to take ALL of the electives. As in all aspects of life, I had to prioritize which electives to pursue.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Elizabeth Entinghe is an inspiration to me because she has incredible grace combined with a keen business acumen. She has a strong professional network that she generously leverages for the benefit of others.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was 10 years old. Although I didn’t understand it all, I knew that getting an MBA from a prestigious school was a big deal. Decades later, as this childhood goal came into focus, I started by looking at the Poets & Quants ratings. Kellogg School of Management was at the top of the list and, again, I knew that was a big deal.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate goal is to inspire teams to achieve greatness. I see myself achieving that goal by advancing to COO/CEO of a mining company, or possibly taking a different path and applying my industry experience in Private Equity or Management Consulting. 

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as a leader that always did the right thing and helped people reach impossible goals.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1. Visit all 7 continents; 2. Write a book

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

Elaina has a sharp and analytic mind. She has the mind of an engineer. I came to know Elaina in my executive MBA corporate finance course. Finance was new to her, and initially a challenge for her on top of juggling personal responsibilities and new career challenges. She stepped into the challenge, pushing herself as hard or harder than I did. She excelled in class, but her contribution to group learning was even greater.

Her tough mind is the perfect complement to a compassionate soul. She helped me read the class mood and stress level so I could calibrate the pace and tempo of class. Pushing hard but hopefully not too hard. She demonstrated the awareness to balance her fierce desire to do everything on her own, with the realization that strength arises when we rely on and help others. She is a good example of the adage that showing vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but instead can be a sign of strength.”

Mitchell Petersen
Professor of Finance 


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