2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Michael Long, University of Virginia (Darden)

Michael Long

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Age: 35

An everyday person working to be a catalyst for positive change in the communities and businesses I serve.”

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

Family Members:

Melody Long (Wife)

Christopher Long (Son)

Madison Long (Daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: I am huge Duke Basketball fan. I once met Duke Basketball player, Jason Williams, at a high school basketball game. I went up to him and asked, “Can you sign this dollar, because you are the one.” He laughed and signed it; I have since lost that dollar bill. Sorry Jason, you are still my one of my all-time favs!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

B.S., Computer Science, 2008
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, NC
M.S., Computer Science, 2010
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, NC

Where are you currently working?

The MITRE Corporation

Cyber Security Engineer, Group Lead

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Award: Photography Enthusiast – one out of a selection of winners for the 2020 Darden ART (DART)

Community Work: Board member for Homestretch – Non-Profit Falls Church, VA enabling stability and independence for families

Leadership Role: Co-President for MITRE STEM Council

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud of my in-class room experiences, but it is truly the outside of class achievements for which I am most proud. Being a part of the Black Executive MBA (BEMBA) team at Darden and the EMBA Diversity team was truly rewarding. As part of being with both teams, we achieved great things together, not only for our cohort, but for Darden overall. We were able to leave the program in better shape than when we started. We achieved the following:

  • Establishment of an EMBA Diversity Committee
  • A required course on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)
  • Creation of a cohort welcome video made by BEMBA
  • Creation of a Darden MBA Oath
  • Creation of Diversity Dialogue Videos by our cohort, and
  • Raising ~$20,000.00 to make impact in communities of color with Amazon

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have truly found myself during this past year, deliberately taking a moment to reflect on achievements and the impact I have been able to make at work, while in the EMBA program full-time and during a global pandemic. Without deliberate action to reflect, I may not appreciate leading an Intelligence Community (IC) Agency in building a capability to better detect adversarial or suspicious activity within their Enterprise environment. My work has enabled a more efficient capability for the IC Agency I support and has become a standard to be leveraged for other Federal Cyber Operation Centers.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I must be that person who rebels and cannot follow simple instructions. I also must state I truly valued the teachings of all my professors, yet I still cannot settle on just one. I have two, Yael Grushka-Cockayne and Laura Morgan Roberts. They both are phenomenal professors for what they bring in the classroom. What cemented their induction in the Michael Long Hall-of-Fame (it’s a thing) is the space they were able to create in the classroom on tough topics. Their time, support, and flexibility in a challenging time from the pandemic to racial unrest during the cohort was a solid answer to “Why Darden?” for me. Their presence transcended my expectation!

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I needed the support of my wife to go back to school for my MBA. However, quitting my job was not an option. When I discovered Darden had a presence in Arlington, VA, that sealed the deal for me. Residing in the National Capital Region, Darden’s presence allowed me to be close to home and work. Then, when you add Darden’s teaching style, ranking, and general management approach, it was an easy choice.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Confidence is the biggest lesson I was able to truly gain from my experience in the program. Not just sitting in a meeting and finally understanding the financial jargon being thrown around, but being able to speak up and share my thoughts and not second-guessing myself and the value of my input. At the same time, I learned to be able to listen to others and the feedback they provide. Those two things may seem trivial, but for me it was a huge lesson and tool gained.

For example, I had an idea for my organization. Prior to Darden, I might have just sat on the thought. Now, I have been able to strategically deliver my idea and pitch it to my leadership. The response to me speaking up and presentation in an effective way was resounding and allowed my idea to move forward – from thought to action!

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? While the pandemic was tough on everybody and an uncharted territory, the silver-lining was that it also allowed me to be a bit more presence at home. The virtual learning and Zoom offered an opportunity for my daughter (4 years) to take part in the virtual learning. After all, she had always wanted to come talk to my “friends,” and she was able to see and understand my schedule and routine.

For work, I was given a lot of support, but being home during the pandemic helped as well. No longer did I have to contend with DC traffic going to and from work and daycare. I was able to eliminate “muda” (my Ops II Professor will be proud) and spend that time sitting with family, focusing on a work deliverable, or prepping for class. It is worth mentioning that “Zoom fatigue” is real, but at least I was at home with family.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Every person I spoke to about joining any program told me not go in with a mindset of what the program “will do for me.” Instead, I needed to find ways to be intentional in what you can do for the program. Our experiences do not need to be a one-way experience, but can be two-way.

Lastly, they told me it will be hard to do an EMBA by yourself in isolation, so engaging with your peers in your program and being able to lean on them and contribute with them is key. I learned in one of my courses how effective teaming can be, especially when all members feel apart of something. The program is tough, but it does not have to be a challenge faced alone.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I do not have any. Things happen for a reason out of my control, but I can say I made the most out of my experience with my EMBA ‘21 Darden friends! I guess, in a way, I regret the scheduled classes for us to come together has come to an end.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I love all my classmates because everyone is awesome and impactful. I even contend that our 2021 class might be the best of the best. However, I must give a nod to my Co-President of BEMBA, Aja Sae-Kung. Aja is a fiery yet passionate lawyer. Not only does she do great things for her organization, but she truly worked just as hard in leading the impactful achievements made within Darden. She led great conversations and also motivated me to keep pushing — specifically academically — and not just settling. Aja will never admit it, but academically she is competitive, and I had to make sure I tried to keep up. I am not sure if I kept up or if she was just dragged me along. Lastly, Aja has a hilarious portfolio of TikTok videos for every moment in life.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to go to a business school, but I wanted my experience to be as much immersive as possible like a full-time program. In addition, I wanted to go through a program as quickly as possible and not take more than two years to finish. It was important to get family and work support to go through a full-time program with Darden’s Executive MBA. I did not want to have to add additional months of commitment to school through part-time was enough for me. It also helped that Darden does not offer a part-time MBA.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Coming into the program and being asked this very question, my answer would have been a bit robotic. I want to leverage this degree and experience to someday be a Chief Technology Officer or Chief Information Security Officer. Leaving this program, my answer is less granularly focused. I want to be a leader and put my Darden experiences to use. Darden has enabled me to confidently know I am going to be successful professionally. I just don’t know if that success will come leading an organization, a cyber security department, or my own start-up. I do not know what it will be, but coming out of Darden, I am excited by obtaining my long-term goals and the impact that is in store!

What made Mike such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“It is hard to fully articulate just how impactful and transformational Michael Long’s presence has been during his time as a member of the ExecMBA 2021 cohort. Mike has demonstrated what leadership can and should look like, teaching us all—students, faculty and staff— that leaders must be brave, curious, humble, and persistent. Mike, with an incredible amount of elegance, pose, positivity, and intellect, inspired conversations that will likely change his classmates and the program from today onwards. Mike is courageous and speaks up empathetically for issues related to inclusion, social justice, and setting new norms for business leaders. Mike holds himself, his classmates, and the institutions he is affiliated, accountable to take action and follow through. It is inspiring to have such uncompromising leaders in our community.

Beyond his leadership outside the classroom, Mike is simply a joy to have in class. He is always prepared, positive and willing to engage. He is thoughtful in his remarks and positively engages others. He demonstrates the absolute best that Darden has to offer in spirit, rigor, and accomplishment.”

Darden Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne

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