2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Lewis Emery, UCLA (Anderson)

Lewis R. Emery

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

I seek challenges as a means to grow in knowledge and capabilities.”

Age: 36

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Fun fact about yourself: While in my undergrad, I went on a month-long glacier expedition in Alaska.  There, I had my first exposure to leading in arduous situations.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Naval Academy, Bachelors of Science – Systems Engineering

Where are you currently working? US Navy SEAL Team SEVENTEEN, Operations Officer

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

My extracurricular activities have revolved almost entirely around my family! Prior to entering UCLA Anderson’s EMBA, I typically spent 10 months a year away from my family.  So the surge of extra time I’ve had with my family during the pursuit of my MBA has been a blessing!

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In the first week of class, Professor Eric Sussman provided us an overview of business and business school. He repeatedly used an acronym that I had to ask about.  It turns out I had started business school not knowing what P&L was. With that humble beginning, I still passed Accounting!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Though I cannot cite a particular achievement, I am very proud of having created or led teams that not only achieved great things in very difficult situations but also enjoyed being a team.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Terry Kramer is my favorite professor. His energy for educating in the classroom is unparalleled, and his ability to consistently tie in and reinforce leadership lessons throughout his courses makes him a top-notch professor in a school of management.                        

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program?

1) It is a respected program.

2) UCLA values and harnesses the unique background military veterans bring to a business environment.  In fact, they deliberately place a veteran in every study group.

3) I get to spend the drive up to UCLA and back down to San Diego with my brother, who is also in the EMBA program. Because both of us had been in the military, it had been about a decade since we had spent time together. Full disclosure: he got accepted into the program first, and convinced me to apply, a year before I intended to do so.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I have most enjoyed the incredible amount of learning!  Learning about my classmates, learning about the business world, learning about business concepts – it has been an invigorating experience.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Strategy. All activities in an organization must support or be in alignment with the overall organizational strategy. If not, the activities create tension and friction against success.

Part way through my MBA, I transferred to a different Navy command and saw that many internal activities it performed were counter to the overall strategy of the command. Because of my business strategy course, I was sensitive to what I was seeing, and importantly, could articulate it. The changes I have been able to effect are tied directly to what I have learned at UCLA Anderson’s EMBA.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? This is a story of teamwork, supported by the best teammate with whom I have ever worked. Right from the start of the EMBA program, I was balancing my time working in the Navy, with my duties helping to raise two children (hint: my wife, Irene, is the champion in this story), with the laborious process of separating from the Navy (the Navy does not make this easy) and finding my next career. On top of this, of course, I had grad school.

In mid-September of 2018, after my leadership development week at UCLA Anderson, I sat down in a shed-turned-office my wife had made for me before my last deployment. There, I reviewed the syllabi for my first quarter of classes. Irene was right there, with my work and our family calendars open. She and I created a daily rhythm that allowed me to engage with her and the kids in the morning and evening, and then we plugged in every assignment, reading, class, and meeting in the free spaces (which was before the kids woke up, and after they went to bed).

She and I did this after every class weekend.

And before every class weekend, while I was studying, Irene would line up and pack my wardrobe, print my weekend schedule and hide away into my suitcase notes the kids had made.

Really, I was able to juggle work, family and education because I have an incredible wife, who decided that my MBA was going to be a family endeavor.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I had heard that one could do well with 45 minutes of work a night, or a cram session before each class weekend. For me, 45 minutes would not have been a recipe for success… but I also have never been strong in math. I was putting in more time than 45 minutes a night to achieve decent marks in class.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I cannot think of a single regret. I entered the program fully aware of the fleeting opportunity that it was.  Each class weekend was a mini-sabbatical from the Navy and family to personally develop and engage with incredibly interesting people who I would not have otherwise met.

I cannot even say that the pandemic has caused regret – this has been a fascinating experiment in further developing relationships with my classmates, remotely.  And this habit will serve me very well after graduation when we spread to the wind.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ross Felix.  Aside from our pursuit of the MBA, we have very little in common, and that perhaps makes him the person I had the opportunity to learn the most from. Three things about him have inspired me: his energy to learn; his unconditional willingness to help others succeed; and the amount of Diet Coke he consumes.  I aspire to his dedication to intellectual growth, and his generosity of time and talent for others’ benefit.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I knew I wanted to go to business school when I made the decision to leave the Navy, mid-career. I needed something to help shepherd me into the civilian world.  A close friend planted the idea after one of my deployments, and three years later, I began with the UCLA EMBA class of 2020.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I had many people assist me in my transition from the military into the civilian workforce (I start at the end of July 2020). For all the guidance and support I have received, I’ll be paying it forward for years to come. I aim to become a known resource for future service members making the very difficult life switch to the civilian world.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope my peers remember me as one who is genuinely interested in them and understanding their backgrounds, skills, and passions.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

1) Grow old with my wife.

2) Traverse the Open Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula.

What made Lew such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“It is my sincere pleasure to nominate Lew Emery for the Poets&Quants Best and the Brightest of 2020! Lew Emery is an invaluable member of the UCLA Anderson EMBA 2020 cohort. He entered the program as an active duty Operations Officer, responsible for the training, readiness and wartime deployment of a 300+ person SEAL Team. A recognized Navy Seal himself, Lew transitioned out of the military during the course of the UCLA Anderson EMBA program.

Lew entered the EMBA program with strong academics and organizational skills, but Lew’s leadership is where he continues to truly shine. Lew is the exemplar of leadership. There are many demonstrations of his strong leadership ability, but one example stands out among others. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a state of transition to all university programs, and the UCLA Anderson EMBA program is no different. As is the case with change in general, some people embrace it while others find themselves anxious.  Lew had the emotional intelligence to recognize the different levels of comfort in the class.  Therefore, he took it upon himself to address the COVID-19 situation with the class, recognizing his past role in the military and how he could best inform and benefit his cohort. He took time out of his busy schedule to address the panic amongst some members of his cohort, and cared enough to put everyone at ease. It should be noted that this was unprompted; he recognized that some of his fellow classmates were hurting, and wanted to help. This caring nature combined with action is the definition of a true leader.

Lew has transitioned his strong leadership skills to a new industry: management consulting.  While not an easy path for an Executive MBA student, Lew has committed his skills and abilities (not to mention countless hours of training!) to this difficult industry pivot. Lew has earned a position in one of the Top 3 management consulting companies, ensuring that his leadership skills are highlighted well beyond graduation. It is because of his demonstration of leadership and excellence that we are nominating Lew Emery for the Poets&Quants Best and the Brightest of 2020.”

Sarika Thakur, MPH, EdD
Executive Director of Admissions, UCLA Anderson EMBA and UCLA-NUS Programs




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