2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Faye Prevedell Dixon, Washington University (Olin)

Faye Prevedell Dixon

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

“I’m happy and humble and believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

Age: 43

Hometown: Eagarville, Illinois

Family Members: Four

Fun fact about yourself: My first master’s degree prepared me to become a medical illustrator, which I never really pursued as a profession. I use those skills quite often when working on data visualization and in building presentations. Most of my hobbies are artistic in nature as well, so it’s still a great outlet.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. in Biology, Blackburn College; M.S. in Biomedical Visualization, University of Illinois at Chicago

Where are you currently working? I have been working at The Boeing Company for 18 years and am currently the director of F/A-18 International New Business.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I’ve had a bit of a sabbatical from extracurricular activities with work, school, and being a wife and a mother. I’ve spent several years as a volunteer with the Mercy Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Parents Support group, a nonprofit organization that I hope to return to. I enjoy participating in my daughters’ elementary school and extracurricular activities. I am also a graduate of the Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge, which is a regionally-focused program designed to create well-rounded women leaders and facilitate exposure to the diverse economies, cultures, opportunities, and challenges within the state of Missouri. In my spare time I like to garden, knit, and draw.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was extremely proud and honored to have been voted by my cohort to speak at our graduation ceremony. My classmates of EMBA 53 are a very impressive group of leaders. They are entrepreneurs, scientists, and physicians among other things. They possess years of experience leading in a very diverse set of environments including the US Military. It’s humbling to be voted by this group to be our spokesperson, and I am excited to represent our experience and our future hopes to a group of our faculty members, family, and friends at graduation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of the role that I have as a mentor to early-career employees at Boeing. I love learning about my mentees’ aspirations and experiences and helping them think through the wide array of opportunities that the company has to offer. Quite often, they are focused on capturing positions in new and unfamiliar functions and or businesses. I find that they all have a great repository of transferrable skills, and it’s really satisfying to help them deconstruct the skills that they already possess and outline those skills applicability in new areas. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to help someone plot a path for personal and professional growth. And I really believe that our businesses are better off with teams that are energized and excited to learn and contribute more.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? John Horn was my favorite professor. John is an excellent instructor in addition to being extremely well versed in his field. I loved the economics coursework, and John always pushed us to avoid the generalities and think specifically about the applicability of the academic content. His approachable style and willingness to help each of us was a great highlight of the program for me.  And his prompting to stretch our thinking was one of the best ways for all of us to grasp the material in a tangible and lasting way.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose Washington University because of the school’s reputation and because of the Executive MBA program’s structured format. It was a priority for me to find a program that was focused on bringing together mid-career students. I wanted to pressure test my own skill and experience in a cross-market collection of leaders at a similar career point. The WashU program was particularly appealing as well because of the residencies. The partnership with the Brookings Institution was invaluable in exposing us to the importance of non-market strategy. I also have to highlight the importance of the leadership residency. I think the most successful business people are the most effective leaders. The leadership residency gave us the time and tools to better understand our strengths and how to leverage them. We also received some really constructive ideas on how to adapt when the environment needs something other than our strengths. This program was an excellent fit for me, and I’m taking away so much useful and immediately applicable knowledge and a brand new extension of my professional network.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed the opportunity to make new connections within my cohort and to learn from and get to know the faculty. The whole experience has expanded my knowledge base and increased the diversity of my professional connections. These relationships helped me get a better grasp on my own strength of knowledge in some areas. Having spent 18 years at one company, it was hard to gauge whether what I’ve learned is transferrable or not. And thankfully, much of it is, but I now also have access to a whole set of colleagues with different strengths and experiences to collaborate with.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned that time management is a critical skill. The challenge of working full time, raising a young family, and going to school simultaneously was a great reminder that we can accomplish many things if we commit ourselves to them and plan accordingly. It wasn’t always easy, and there were a few times where it felt like everything was at a boiling point at once—family, work and school. I do think that even those moments were valuable—reminding me to keep my eye on the bigger objective and continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? The January–March sessions of 2019 were packed pretty tightly together. The coursework was intense and my work schedule was especially demanding. My family was busy with normal life. I was trying to weave my school work into every spare minute. I would take my eldest daughter out to learn to ride her bike without training wheels. While she rode I would talk to her about financial accounting to keep her from psyching herself out about balancing that bike. She learned to ride while I jogged alongside parroting Ron King’s facts about financial accounting. We all survived, and although she didn’t love the accounting monologue, she is now an avid bike rider.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would tell them to go for it. Everyone came into our cohort with a different educational and employment background. You will learn entirely new things in disciplines you’ve never formally studied. You will reinforce your knowledge of things you thought you understood before entering the program. And you will find yourself a contributor to course discussions in areas where you have first-hand experience. It is important to spend time exposing yourself to new ideas and with new people, and the EMBA was a great way to accelerate your professional development.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in the EMBA program was not scheduling more cohort dinners on our class weekends. Our face-to-face program was cut short by the COVID-19 quarantine and we missed some opportunities to enjoy the last of the program together.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Sharon Deans the most. She is the consummate professional. She’s smart and kind and has a wealth of accomplishments—which you’ll only ever learn by accident—and as many personal interests. She’s navigated an accomplished and diverse career path and has an amazing aptitude to understand and lead people.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I moved into a strategy role at The Boeing Company. I learned so much in that position, but I craved the academic experience that would correlate all that information for me, and it has.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to continue down a path of business leadership in the St. Louis area. I’d like to spend more time with Boeing, and build a broader base of executive experience. And maybe someday I’ll run a business of my own.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope that my peers remember me as kind and smart and strong.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I hope to move back to a rural setting and I’m looking forward to the travel bans being lifted and taking my girls back to visit family in Italy.

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

“Faye was an invaluable addition to the EMBA 53 cohort because she was such an attentive and knowledgeable contributor to every discussion we had. I was fortunate enough to have Faye for three different classes: Managerial Economics, Global Economics, and the Capstone exercise. The latter was a six-month-long project that culminated in a new business venture pitch on the final weekend of the program. In the first two courses, Faye always provided a calm way of both answering questions and raising issues that needed to be addressed. She was not the most talkative person in the class, but she contributed more than her fair share, and when she did speak up, I appreciated that she wasn’t just asking me to re-explain a concept—she was asking me to take things a step further by inquiring about the implications. Working for a major defense contractor meant she had many real-world points to add to our discussions about the global economy, and she pushed me to think beyond the simple textbook answer so that I could explain how it worked in a practical sense.

For the Capstone exercise, I was impressed with the clarity and structure that Faye brought to the exercise. The interactions I had with the team were very focused on a core set of topics when we met up, and I could tell that the team was looking to her to help guide them to stay on track. That leadership and thoughtfulness in everything she does were evident throughout the program, and the fact that she was fun to talk with about non-school topics during lunch and other breaks, are reasons why we were so fortunate to have Faye as an Olin EMBA student.”

John Horn
Professor of Practice in Economics

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

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