2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Erica Dianne Taylor, Duke University (Fuqua)

Erica Dianne Taylor

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

“Optimistic driver of change who shines a light for others taking the journey alongside her.”

Age: 39

Hometown: Reston, VA

Family Members: Husband Rowland, identical twin daughters (Age 6), daughter (Age 2)

Fun fact about yourself: My father spent 30 years as an NFL football player and coach in Washington, DC and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. As a result, I spent much of my childhood in RFK stadium around some pretty amazing athletes.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – Bachelors of Science in Engineering Science, Minor in Biomedical Engineering

Duke University School of Medicine – Doctorate of Medicine

University of Virginia Department of Orthopaedic Surgery – Academic Orthopaedist Training Program (Research and Surgical Residency)

Cleveland Clinic Foundation – Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery Fellowship

Where are you currently working?

Employer: Duke University School of Medicine / Duke University Health System

Hand Surgeon, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

Primary Leadership Roles:

Duke Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Vice Chair of Diversity and Inclusion

Duke Private Diagnostic Clinic Board Member (Finance and Clinical Affairs Committee)

Duke Raleigh Hospital Chief of Surgery Elect

Duke Raleigh Hospital Orthopaedic Surgery Medical Director, Head of Co-Management Operations

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

School Award:

Forte’ Fellowship Scholarship for Women Leaders in Business

Class Representative Position:

Weekend EMBA Class Judicial Representative

Community Work:

J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Surgery Society, Executive Board, Chair of Mentoring

This is a multicultural organization within the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Through my mentoring chair role, I design and execute an annual workshop for 40-60 diverse medical students pursuing careers in orthopaedic surgery and have done this for the past eight years. In addition, I have the privilege to facilitate an annual summer preparatory course in Washington, DC for diverse orthopaedic surgery faculty preparing for the Orthopaedic Surgery Oral Board Examination. And, naturally, there is both formal and informal mentorship connections that are fostered throughout the year which provides me an additional opportunity to give back to this community.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  During business school, I am most proud of the consistent academic success I have had in classes for which I had no prior formal training (which is pretty much all of them). Throughout medical school, there was a significant amount of pressure to “fit” and “survive” throughout the courses and rotations, with incredible competition for the ultimate goal of obtaining one of the highly coveted residency spots. It was difficult to appreciate or take advantage of the benefits of advanced learning within an atmosphere of high pressure and grading subjectivity.

Upon entering Fuqua, I made it a personal goal to allow myself to truly enjoy the educational experience while working hard to synthesize and apply the new high-level language I would be learning. Amazingly, I have been able to engage with brilliant professors and truly immerse myself in the interactive learning style that I realized suits me best. Classmates are teammates, not competitors, and they motivate me to give my all for each paper, project, and analysis we are assigned. I am proud that I have been successful in achieving my academic goals.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2019, I was selected as the Duke School of Medicine Faculty recipient of the Michelle Winn Inclusive Excellence Award. This honor is given to one faculty member per year to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to diversity and inclusion within the Duke School of Medicine community. Amongst the criteria, the faculty member must have exemplified excellence, innovation, and leadership through helping to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.

What made this award even more special was that I had no idea that my Chairman had nominated me. Often, in diversity and inclusion work, it is hard to see that others value the time and energy required to drive change. This was quite a surprise honor and an award that will be a source of meaning for the work I do going forward.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? After completing medical school at Duke, I had extreme faith in the rigor and quality of Duke Graduate School programming. I also had the advantage of interacting with the Fuqua professors through crossover interactions between the School of Medicine and the School of Business in other arenas that introduced me to the MBA program.

Specifically, in 2019, I completed an inaugural year-long faculty development program aimed at providing valuable enrichment activities to underrepresented academic medicine faculty at Duke. I became extremely interested in the concepts of leadership development for faculty, particularly the ways in which role prescriptions present both benefits and challenges to diverse leaders. I gained a new level of confidence to address obstacles to culture change, leveraging the bonuses of diverse teams as added value for addressing complex issues in our recruitment processes and clinical operations. One particular session was taught by Fuqua Professor Ashleigh Rosette, who wowed me with teachings and insight into negotiation research. I knew I wanted MORE of this type of content and skillset maturity. With great intention, I decided to invest time and resources in pursuing high-level leadership development and additional skills through the Fuqua MBA program.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I find joy, laughter, and learning in every class opportunity because of the variety of personalities of my classmates. These interactions have been the cornerstone of this experience. It has been truly amazing to be surrounded by diverse individuals who represent many different segments of business and society, importantly in an environment where differences are valued and respected. There has never been a dull moment for me and I am able to be my authentic self, which is refreshing and empowering.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? There are so many to choose from, but one significant lesson came from the intense dive into Professor Sim Sitkin’s Six Domains of Leadership. As a result of his class, I am able to evaluate a group and identify potential sources of dysfunction or stalled progress based on my understanding of how various leadership domains come into play. As a leader myself, I have learned that contextual leadership is an opportunity for me and I have subsequently changed the way I formulate communication, now honing in on the context that makes initiatives or decisions relevant to my audience or team. In addition, I learned from the class to not shy away from personal and relational leadership vulnerabilities. Since I do not fit the traditional stereotypes of a typical surgeon, prior to this class, I would try to minimize my differences. Now I am more aware of how my personal attributes are actually leadership assets that others want to lean on and I am more empowered to lead authentically and without apology.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? As a mother of three, a wife, a surgeon leader, and a business school student, I have a plethora of stories about juggling responsibilities. However, what I had to learn was that it was almost impossible to achieve a true “balance” where everyone’s needs would be taken care of with perfection. Instead, I focused on the integration of the components of my life that are meaningful for me. For example, from the exposure to industries outside of medicine I gained from business school, I had additional opportunities to connect with patients who worked within these corporations or supply chains with a deeper understanding of their occupation. At work, during finance committee meetings, I was able to prepare for my final exams by practicing balance sheet and volume variance interpretations. At home, my twins loved to watch me have virtual meetings at night with my teammates before they went to bed and were quite entertained by the faces on the screen. Further, my husband was able to spend a weekend at Fuqua (Partners Weekend) with immersion into my “second life” for a greater understanding of the value I was receiving from this experience, and the effort it required. Additionally, my husband is passionate about options trading, so I often joke that Professor Alon Brav’s Global Finance course helped our marriage by teaching me the language to have intelligent conversations with my husband about stock valuation, derivatives, and portfolio diversification.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would advise prospective students to let go of any preconceived notions of what an MBA experience should be. This truly is a reflective journey and a time when anyone from any background can learn how to succeed at work, at home, and in life. It is much more than just a series of courses or a brand that takes you to the desired goal. It is an often unpredictable, life-changing experience, especially if it is considered as such from the beginning.

I would also advise students to value what teammates have to offer both personally and professionally. After being buried in medical training and often homogeneous healthcare societies for almost 20 years, this was a refreshing exposure to other industries and the perspectives of leaders in those worlds. There is much more overlap across disciplines than one would expect and I benefited greatly from the idea and innovation sharing.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate Jill McCabe. Even though we have never shared a section or a team, I have gotten to know more about her through networking opportunities in our class. I think she is one of the most courageous people I have met in our class and have interfaced in the medical world as a physician and have also faced the complexities of politics head-on to help her community. She has a calm and graceful manner that I find to be contagious and, at times, much-needed. We have found commonalities across a wide spectrum and I am certain that if it were not for Fuqua, our paths would not have crossed with such a close connection.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I attended the 2018 Duke University Black and Latinx Business Conference and stepped on Fuqua’s campus for the first time in many years. I had not yet envisioned myself as the “type of person” who could – or should – go to business school. However, I spent the day hearing from panels of beautiful, brilliant CEOs and business leaders of color who were also Fuqua alumni describe their approach to the theme topic Controlling Our Narrative. At the end of that experience, and after networking with other alumni who were in attendance, I had a broader vision of what I could accomplish and the value that Fuqua had to offer.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To date, two themes have resonated as my career objectives: 1) innovation in strategic diversity leadership to achieve equity and 2) improvement of operational experiences in surgical settings. Both themes share the goal of enhancing the culture in which we work, develop, and interact through methods of representation and advocacy.

My specific goals have certainly changed throughout my business school tenure and I have been empowered to think bigger than I would have done otherwise. I would like to transition into an executive leadership position at a health system level that focuses on inclusion and strategy development. I would also like to develop and implement an interprofessional curriculum that would provide diversity leaders with the resources and valuation needed to create effective change in their organizations. Lastly, I would like to formalize my role as a consultant to other departments and organizations that aspire to reach true inclusive leadership.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as an extremely accomplished, fiery yet friendly human who brought a diverse perspective to the traditional topics of business school, sparking them to think differently in some way, shape, or form.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Write (and publish) a book that will influence and motivate those coming behind me through this often challenging pipeline
  2. Travel to Alaska and experience Aurora Borealis with my husband (who wants to have a 24-hour cook-out in all the daylight).

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

Erica, a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon, is a prevailing source of goodness across both her academic and professional worlds. She is an exemplar of a perfect student – she brings academic rigor with an incredibly cheerful attitude; and when she disagrees with decisions and choices being made, she articulately and respectfully presents an alternative perspective and seeks to bring about positive change. It is clear that she cares about her classmates, but she is also logical and direct, which is probably why she was elected by her classmates to serve as their judicial representative. Professionally, her efforts to improve diversity and inclusion, across the field, are truly remarkable. She does all of this and more, including starring in a promotional video for Duke to better explain our Weekend Executive MBA program structure, while raising three young children.”

Mohan Venkatachalam
Senior Associate Dean for Executive Programs
Duke University, Fuqua School of Business


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