2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: John Robert Foley, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

John Robert Foley

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

“A force for positive change because I believe that we are always capable of improvement.”

Age: 42

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Family Members: Rossie Foley, John Michael Foley (Age 5)

Fun fact about yourself: I am a Sommelier and enjoy teaching others about wine no matter their level of knowledge.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Tulane University, Bachelor of Arts

Where are you currently working? Printpack Inc.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Now that I have completed my program, I plan to take my next level Sommelier exam. For me, the joy of wine is a lifelong passion that I will continue to share with those around me.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I planned and conducted a cohort wine tasting focusing on Spanish and Chilean wine regions ahead of our International Immersion Week, which was followed up with a 2-day Chilean wine country tour for a small group of MBA students.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Led strategy, international business development, and held responsibility for the Chinese manufacturing assets of a business unit in a Fortune 1000 company. This opportunity afforded me the ability to work and grow my network on a global scale.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have two – Professor Walt Clements and Professor Charles Bamford – Corporate Finance and Strategic Thinking, respectively. These two courses provided me with the skills I wanted to develop during business school. The methodologies and the art behind human biases, what disciplined strategy means to successful businesses, and coinciding with “getting the numbers to talk” provided me a foundation to evaluate future partnerships, deals, and investment opportunities.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? It is a 17-month intense classroom learning in downtown Chicago with a small, hypercompetitive, yet collaborative group of bright people.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The relationships I built with my classmates and professors that developed into lifelong friendships.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Know your numbers better than anyone else.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? It is difficult but manageable. You must reprioritize what is important in your life and what you can live without. For me, I stopped watching TV and grew accustomed to waking up early or staying up late to study and work with my team on class projects. The only way you get through an executive MBA program is by teamwork and the support of your family as no one does this by themselves. Good time management is crucial to one’s own success.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I waited too long to enter a program telling myself next year would be the right year. In truth, there is never a “right” time. If this is important to you professionally and personally, then just do it. I will say it gets more difficult managing time and expectations as you get older (on account of family obligations), but it is doable. Remember that you are not the only one going through this. An executive MBA experience is one about teamwork; you are never alone and there is always someone there to help you through it.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I expected getting back into the academic grind would have taken a lot more effort than the actual reality. After a couple of weeks, you will figure out the right academic cadence, trim the excesses of your daily life, and make time to coordinate around your professional and family life.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The time I lost with my family in order to pursue the degree. You are not the only one going through the program, your spouse and kids are right there with you on this journey.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admired Susan Merkatoris for her insanely high level of EQ.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I realized that I needed to develop my EQ in order to grow professionally.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Build companies from the ground up, lead M&A, and create the proverbial 1 + 1 = 3. I have always been an entrepreneur with a tremendous amount of grit and self-discipline.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A mentor who is always willing to listen and help.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? African Safari family vacation and restore a 1966 Ford Shelby GT350-H by hand (I expect this project to take me a couple of years to complete)

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

“John Foley is a forceful, intellectually curious leader. I had the pleasure of working with him in two courses during his EMBA program and was able to see how he challenged his fellow classmates to be ‘real’ in their analysis and recommendations.

During the Consulting Immersion in Santiago, Chile, John was impressed by the efforts and dedicated people at the non-profit organization that the group of almost 50 fellow EMBA students were advising. He organized an effort supported by everyone involved to raise almost $14,000 for the organization. His influence and poise made him the perfect person to present findings to the executive team and encourage them to push far beyond their current efforts.

John is anything but shy, embodying the type of push-back you hope to see in an EMBA student. He has deep business experience that consistently drives his desire to use the material from his coursework. It was truly my pleasure to have the opportunity to work with him during the program.”

Charles E. Bamford, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship
University of Notre Dame

Founder / Managing Partner
Bamford Associates, LLC



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