2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Eric Winston, Wharton School

Eric Winston

Wharton Executive MBA (Philadelphia)

Age: 36

A driven, competitive, and curious leader who always puts his best foot forward.”

Hometown: Midland, Texas

Family Members: I have a beautiful wife and three wonderful kids. I also have three brothers.

Fun fact about yourself: I played football for 12 years in the NFL

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Miami (FL) International Finance and Marketing

Where are you currently working? I recently stepped down from my role as President of the National Football League Players Association, a position I was in for six years.  I have recently accepted the Chief Partnership Officer position at OneTeam Partners.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I enjoy coaching my kids’ sports teams. Whenever I have free time, I love to play golf, and I informally advise current NFL players with the tough decisions they have to make on and off the field.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It’s a tie between playing 12 years in the NFL, which included 119 consecutive starts, and being elected to three terms as NFLPA President by my peers.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Kent Smetters (Microeconomics). Prof. Smetters did a great job of grilling the students on microeconomic principles while illustrating them happening in the real world.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I wanted to go somewhere that did not equivocate that their program had the same type of academic rigor as the full-time program. The Wharton School’s MBA for Executives made it very clear that it was challenging and did not lower their expectations. My personality is to always test myself in situations that are challenging so I naturally gravitated toward this type of program. Additionally, I wanted to be around people who came from different walks of life who were looking for the same type of environment. I definitely found that at The Wharton School.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The people at Wharton were fantastic. The faculty was amazing. They genuinely wanted a back-and-forth of ideas and were open to tough questions that led to fantastic discussions. However, I most enjoyed my cohort. They were fantastic people from diverse backgrounds who added so much to every conversation we had. I sincerely believe that I learned more from them, then I did any other aspect of my time at Wharton.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I learned is that the answer one is looking for is usually shrouded by camouflage. However, if you work and look hard enough, one can find the answer they are looking for. Recently, I was in a big negotiation (NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement) which required problem-solving regarding issues neither side had faced before. Taking this mindset learned at Wharton, I was able to look at these issues in a different way and formulate solutions that benefited my constituency.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Last spring, my son had a baseball tournament near the beaches in Maryland (I live outside of Washington DC) during a school weekend. That week, I had to be in NYC for meetings on Wednesday and Thursday leading into class on Friday morning. I knew if I took the train back to DC after class Saturday, I wouldn’t make any of his games on Saturday afternoon. I decided to drive to Philly Wednesday morning, park near the school, and catch the train from there to NYC. I took the train back to Philly Friday morning for school and hopped in my car after class to catch my son’s games Saturday afternoon and evening and watched them win the tournament on Sunday!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Simply stated: It’s worth it! It is a massive time (and monetary) commitment, but I feel like I have benefited greatly from several aspects of the program. I am confident that the people I have met and the lessons I have learned will be with me throughout my life.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school was that there would be a lack of motivation to do the work and stick with the program. I was much more motivated than when I was in undergrad. I found the classes relevant and necessary. I also found that because there were so many electives to choose from that I was learning about subjects that I had an interest in and would personally benefit from.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not doing more of the additional programming Wharton provided.  There were several speakers and other opportunities that I was not able to attend due to business and/or family obligations that I regret not finding a way to attend.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m not going to single out any of my classmates because frankly, it is impossible to choose. I admire so many in my cohort for the sacrifices they are making.  We have women that have had children during their two years at Wharton and they don’t seem like they miss a beat. Several businessmen and women who have demanding professional careers and are always willing to go the extra mile on projects even though they don’t have the time. And with our current events, there are doctors who are risking their lives every day to fight against this pandemic but still come to our virtual class and are as engaged as ever. I have a deep respect for the sacrifice all of my cohort has made.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I knew I wanted to go to business school 10 years ago when I participated in the NFL’s “Week at Wharton” program. Doing the case studies, listening to the lectures, and being in that environment created a lasting impression on me that motivated me to enter the program when my career was over.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term goal is to be the CEO of a billion-dollar company that I have started or been a part of at an early stage.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like them to remember me as a good teammate that worked extremely hard to get everything I could out of the program and help his fellow friends anyway I could.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? A trip to the Maldives and a meeting with former President Obama.

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

“Eric was a quiet, confident leader in the class, his fellow students nominated him to most likely to be a “president” of a significant organization.  He had a great attitude throughout the two-year program. Eric was able to manage family, work and school with grace, and helped to create a strong esprit de corps amongst the students in the program.  Because of Eric’s leadership, the class will remain close for years to come.”

Catherine A. Molony
Director, Philadelphia
Wharton School MBA Program for Executives

DON’T MISS: THE FULL LIST OF THE TOP 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2020

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