2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Erik Erickson, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Erik K. Erickson

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

“Spiritual, Father, Husband, Brother, Creative, Motivating, Loyal, Friend, Humble, Leader, Inspired, Funny, Chivalrous, Student, Musical.”

Age: 46

Hometown: North Saint Paul, Minnesota

Family Members: I am the youngest of seven children. Married to my high-school sweetheart Angela and father of three brilliant teenagers Maryann (18), Wyatt (16), and Graham (15)…also a yellow Labrador (Lucy), five ducks, four parakeets, 30 fish, and a parrot named Mya.

Fun fact about yourself: Guitar slinger in a great local rock n’ roll cover band.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Naval Academy (USNA Class of 1998), Annapolis, Maryland. Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry.

Where are you currently working? Medtronic Inc., Minnesota

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Volunteer mentor of college-bound business school students (Minnesota Center for Advanced Professional Studies, or MNCAPS), also a member of Lions, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and USNA Alumni Organizations and Associations.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being recognized as a Carlson Scholar – and for surviving the Executive MBA (CEMBA) program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Within the last year, my team won Medtronic’s highest award for quality and innovation for ensuring life-saving products continued to reach our patients and customers unhindered amidst major challenges.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Svjetlana Madzar.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Carlson’s first-class reputation of excellence in academics, world-renowned professors and program staff, and a brilliant curriculum structure that supported the needs of working professionals and their families.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My diverse, energetic, motivating, patient, tireless, enlightening, selfless, and brilliant cohort of fellow students and friends – they brought so much learning and enrichment to my life. Thank you!

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The qualities and character of a good business leader. The most effective and successful leaders in business are authentic, good people at heart, and prepared to accept and learn from mistakes (and permit others to make mistakes). They bring high emotional intelligence and humility, strive to uphold high standards of ethics and personal integrity, and are effective at building strong networks and business relationships founded on honesty and trust between all people. This is a summation of recurring key themes taught by the MBA program that I appreciate most. I draw from so many of these teachings on a daily basis as a new senior manager leading a high-performing team of engineers and supply chain professionals. Virtually all of the lessons and applications pertaining to leadership, effective team-building, ethics, marketing, negotiations, and strategy development (to name a few) have found a place in my work environment with measurable success.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Managing family, work, and school schedules is certainly challenging but very doable, no matter what the circumstances. I am a married father of three teenage athletes (one daughter will start her second year of college next fall, with two sons continuing high school). Thus, I am very familiar with multiple busy schedules to manage, as well as cramming for exams at hockey practices. Additionally, during one semester, my mother had a severe accident, my father was diagnosed with stage four cancer, one of my sons required emergency surgery, and I was promoted to a new leadership position on a stressful program. No doubt I had a lion’s share of stress and issues to work through, which made keeping up with my studies very difficult. However,  many other members of my cohort shared similar struggles – and they, along with the great staff and professors of the program – supported me through these difficult times. Most importantly, if my family had not been behind me every step of the way, I am certain I would not have managed the workload and survived the program – their patience, love, and encouragement were everything.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Meet with the program staff and members of current cohorts – ask lots of questions. Attend a class or tour to get a genuine feel for the overall environment – you will not regret it. The big benefits of this program include shared experiences of a seasoned cohort of working professionals, having a set predictable academic schedule two years in advance, and having summers off.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That I might be too old to go back to school. This was completely untrue as there was a wide range of ages and experience levels, which ultimately made the whole cohort experience that much more enriching and rewarding.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had been more available to spend time with my cohort out of school. COVID19 requirements also put a damper on key trips and gatherings. However, there may be opportunities to make up this time in the future.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lucas Lentsch is a friend I admire. We were paired up during our Leadership course, and quickly discovered we shared similar backgrounds and interests. I admire his communication presence and style – he is friendly, honest, diplomatic, persuasive, calm, and a great person overall. No doubt skills honed from several years of experience as a successful executive.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I had the realization that I did not want to be caught in a job interview at the age of 55 and asked the question, “Why, in all of these years, didn’t you ever consider furthering your education beyond your undergraduate degree?”.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Business unit executive. I admire the performance and contributions my senior leaders make to the business unit and corporation as a whole and am eager to learn more about this path.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A standup guy, a hard-working teammate, and an honest friend who was good for a laugh.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1. Helping my children achieve their own academic and career dreams. 2. Headlining a sold-out rock show at Excel Energy Center.

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

“Erik’s enthusiasm for learning was contagious, both for his cohort and the professors. His ability to instantly apply our frameworks to his work setting was outstanding! We will forever be indebted to him for his insights on global aspects of the medical device industry and a virtual visit to the operating theater to witness a groundbreaking heart valve replacement procedure, where global and local come together to improve or save people’s lives!”

Svjetlana Madzar
Senior Lecturer of Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship


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