2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Saadia Sheikh, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Saadia Sheikh

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

Positive, passionate, and driven to influence change through leadership.”

Age: 32

Hometown: McKinney, Texas

Family Members: Winston, my 5-year-old French bulldog.

Fun fact about yourself: I use sign language frequently.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Texas at Dallas, Bachelor of Business Administration

Where are you currently working? Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL), Vice President

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Founder of PowerSense, a local nonprofit creating a community to connect, inspire, and empower deaf and hard of hearing children.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of having launched a nonprofit and holding our first event during business school, mainly because I had my classmates to help and participate in its success. Classmates served as volunteers to help children and their families. Some classmates even signed up as advisory board members.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of being on a team that launched a new technology platform at JLL during my time at SMU Cox. I was able to utilize critical skills I learned in business school and apply them in real time at one of the largest corporations in the world.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Dr. Robin Pinkley, Advanced Negotiations, was my favorite professor. She taught with the latest research and real-world case studies that allowed us to take back real strategies to our companies. Her lessons will be valuable throughout our careers.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose the SMU Cox EMBA program because of the caliber of professors, alumni, and the global network. Having a global network was key to my career goals and SMU Cox provided that connection.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed getting to know my classmates and learning from them. They taught me so much even outside of the business world. I have gained life-long friendships.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? My biggest lesson learned during my MBA was gaining efficiency. I became more efficient at decision-making, critical thinking, and time management, which are all skills that I have applied to leading teams at work.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I was planning for and attending my cousin’s wedding in a different country. While COVID-19 was beginning to take hold overseas, I had to travel outside of the country twice. Through these challenges, I could only contribute to school and work by email. The only way I was able to juggle everything was with the help of my classmates and my team at work, who picked up the ball and ran with it when I couldn’t. That’s what it takes to juggle the three balls of work, family and education: a supportive team.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would tell a student looking to enter an EMBA program to go for it and that only they will know when the time is right. I was motivated to enter the EMBA program, but it took a leap of faith for me to do it. I knew it would be a challenge, uncomfortable, and at times, I questioned myself, but I chose to move forward to empower myself. Prospective EMBA students should know that the experience and the sense of accomplishment they will get from being in the program will change their lives. They will forever be grateful.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that it will be the same as an undergraduate degree in business, only with updated information. Not even close. It is completely different, mainly because your mindset and the experience itself are so different.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is not spending enough one-on-one time with my classmates. We were all moving so fast, especially with continuing to work full-time, that it was hard to devote time to each other.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my SMU Cox EMBA classmate Meredith Brammer. I watched her accomplish many things while in business school: a promotion at work, being hired away by another company, becoming a Bar Method teacher, and supporting my nonprofit with me. She truly showed us that you can do it all.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I decided that one of my main goals in life was to be a leader who changes the world.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My main long-term goal is to build and grow something impactful, through whatever role is within a company.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as the person who inspired others to do more.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? My top two bucket list items are to travel to a new country each year and to see Mount Rushmore.

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

“Saadia wrote numerous times in her application essays about how having a vision is the key to success in general and to her own success in particular. Further, she explained, was the importance of knowing the “why” of success.

Saadia has the gift of presence. She looks and acts like the leader in most situations. She does it with grace and humility, not an easy thing to do. Early in the first term of the EMBA program, I asked Saadia if she could put together ONE relay team of runners for the SMU Cox-sponsored marathon relays. Until that time, we had never had ONE student team before. Within two weeks, Saadia had THREE relay teams. She duplicated the effort the next year. She exhibits leadership without formal authority, has the vision, and gets it done.

Halfway through the program, Saadia changed companies with a promotion to one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world. Her goal (vision) is to become the CEO of a large real estate firm. While on our Global Studies course to South America, Saadia was able to secure a visit for the EMBA group to one of her firm’s offices, along with a presentation from one of the company executives. This is another example of sharing the “why” of her success with others (classmates).

In addition to her very demanding job, Saadia serves on numerous boards and is heavily involved in several philanthropic organizations. She will graduate with a cumulative GPA above 3.7.

Saadia has had a huge impact on the SMU Cox Executive MBA Program. Her vision for success and her belief in the why of her own success makes everyone who interacts with her better.”

Tom Perkowski
Assistant Dean
SMU Cox Executive MBA Program

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

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