2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Martial Byrd, Texas A&M (Mays)

Martial Byrd

Mays Business School, Texas A&M University

Age: 45

Family devoted, mission focused, learning professional – striving to serve and do a great job.” 

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Family Members: The inner circle of my family starts with my loving wife and closest friend Maryam, my wife’s amazing Mother Tasneem (who is now my mother), Mazhar my ever supportive father-in-law, and my inspirational sons – each working on their own journey: Aidan (17), Quentin (15), Silas (13), Faizan (13), Shayan (12), Keegan (5), and Nile (~2)

Fun fact about yourself: I have 7 sons which is amazing for me, but I may never be able to retire.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Texas A&M University, Bachelors Business Administration

Where are you currently working? I work for Hess Corp. which is a large cap leading independent energy company. I am a Finance and Planning Manager supporting Hess’ Guyana and Suriname business.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

My extracurricular activities revolve primarily around my family. We do all kinds of craziness to create shared experiences and lasting memories: STEM projects, game night, movie night, camping in the yard, hide and go seek in the dark, 90’s dance competitions, and indoor picnics (to name just a few). I strive to be present in my sons’ activities and am often on the diamond or field coaching youth sports teams.

As a veteran, supporting veterans who are transitioning out of the military is a big deal for me. I’m very proud to be leading the formation of a Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Hess, something the company authentically cares about.

I also deeply care about supporting the success of under-privileged youth. I can’t claim any victories in this area yet, but I am very motivated to make a difference going forward.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of graduating with a 4.0 GPA despite having a newborn baby, an intense workload at Hess, and oh yeah – a global pandemic. When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, I had to work full time to pay for my education and I just couldn’t or wasn’t focused enough perhaps to deliver the academic success I felt I was capable of achieving. Performing very well in my MBA program does make me proud. This was only possible with my wife Maryam’s support.  

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’ve been lucky enough to work on very complex and strategic projects across the energy industry. I’m most proud of my work supporting Hess’ game changing multi-billion-dollar investments in the Stabroek exploration license in Guyana. These investments develop giant oil fields sitting offshore in the deep water (greater than 2,000 meters) using floating production storage and offtake (FPSO) vessels. Each of these FPSOs is larger than an aircraft carrier, and way more complex. My role has been very broad and includes aspects of strategy, finance, planning, economics, capital allocation, investment approvals, JV partner engagement, government interactions, and investor relations. This is all such a team effort at Hess, so really not much personal credit I can claim except I’m proud to be in the room.

A huge part of my pride and job satisfaction comes from the incredibly positive change that’s happening for the average Guyanese. This is a direct result of local industry growth and social responsibility investments made possible by oil and gas revenue — and that’s so very cool to be a part of!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Mary Lea McAnally. Dr. McAnally was so impressive, and I enjoyed her instruction. She was incredibly engaging, inspirational, and exuded a wealth of knowledge about all things accounting, leadership, and life. Her teaching style appealed to me because she made a difficult topic easy-to-understand. She also emphasized the important stuff while moving quickly through the more tedious but necessary details. Mary Lea led very thought-provoking and interactive class discussions (difficult to do with financial accounting). She’s simply exceptional and If you had to be stuck in an elevator with someone – fingers crossed it’s with Dr. McAnally.

My first runner up in the Mays EMBA professor beauty pageant would be Dr. Arvind Mahajan. I have the most to learn from him, and he’s a true academic giant in the fields of economics and finance – both theory and application. I wish I had his brain.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program?  I focused my search on executive learning programs in the Houston area because logistically it made sense. I knew I wanted the best executive level MBA education I could find. International rankings consistently placed Texas A&M, the Mays Business School, and the Mays MBA programs near the top. The EMBA curriculum was well-structured and strong – plus a little digging demonstrated to me that the Mays EMBA professors were exceptional. Beyond academics, the Aggie values align very well with my own, and the Aggie network is a powerful thing! When I first met Julie Orzabal, the Director of the EMBA program, it was clear that she was truly passionate about delivering value to students through an exceptional program. It was an easy choice.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned a few new tricks, I sharpened my business chops, and I gained a lot of new knowledge. Historically, I feel I consistently delivered excellent work but that didn’t always translate to advancing in my career – especially given the volatility in the oil industry. However, the biggest lesson I gained is that the secret sauce to cracking major career success is developing exceptional communication skills and investing heavily in your network.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education?  Hmmm… this is an easy one. Here’s the sitrep: Difficult statistics exam from the infamous Dr. Shetty due in t-minus 6 hour; I’m on the hook for latest revision of the board of directors budget and plan slide pack to be presented to my senior leadership in the morning; and my 12 month old had a 104 degree fever. My wife bailed me out and took my son to the ER alone (leaving me appreciative, but with severe bad dad guilt), I did about an 80% “good enough” effort on the board of directors slide pack (luckily my PowerPoint ninja skills are better than most), and I managed to pull off an A on my statistics exam. I didn’t sleep that night, and I wouldn’t call it juggling so much as surviving – but I got through it!   

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that it won’t be worth the investment (it won’t help your career, so save your money). I heard this from multiple people (none of whom had an MBA). I can say without a doubt that this is a myth. As with anything in life, you get out what you put into it. I’ve recently been promoted at work and it’s largely due to what I’ve learned and applied from my EMBA program. The ROI from this EMBA for both me and the family I support is very high.  

What was your biggest regret in business school?I didn’t take the time to really get to know and connect with everyone in my cohort. COVID got in the way to a certain extent, but I regret not making a more concerted effort.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I truly hold admiration for all my classmates. But I most admire Christopher Johnson. He’s given more to this country than most as a former U.S. Army Ranger, a combat veteran, purple heart recipient, and currently a special agent with the FBI. He’s a devoted family man, and his faith and integrity are beyond reproach. Having worked in public service his entire life, Chris had little background in business before entering the Mays Executive MBA program. Despite this and an incredibly demanding job, he truly excelled, and I learned a ton from his insightful perspectives and philosophical wisdom. He doesn’t waste words, but when he does speak, the room listens. He’s just…solid.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted an exceptional learning environment that was appropriate given my experience. I was also seeking a class cohort that I could truly learn from. You get what you pay for – and I didn’t think I could get those things from an online, or part-time program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal is to be the CFO of an international energy company – creating economic and social value by being a part of the energy transition solution.

What made Martial Byrd such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Martial Byrd is an amazing combination of smart, hard-working, focused, all-around nice guy. His analytical skills are exceptional and he was consistently willing to help his fellow students up the curve. During the COVID pandemic, he remained dedicated to his education journey despite the chaos of the economic downturn in the energy sector and the resulting stressful fallout. What made him an invaluable member of the class however, was his unflagging optimism and positivity during 2020 – Martial was instrumental in buoying the class’ esprit de corps during a really rough patch. Martial is a true leader whom we are proud to call an Aggie.”

Dr. MARY LÉA McAnally
PwC Professor of Accounting



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