2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Alex Besse, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Alex Besse

W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University

Age: 46

“Citizen of the world, data driven, authentic and supportive leader, winning team builder, lifelong learner.”

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada; Geneva, Switzerland

Family Members:

My wife, Ma. Two sons, Emile, and Walter. My parents and my brother who live in Switzerland.

Fun fact about yourself: I love traveling and visiting new countries. I have been in 52 countries on 6 continents and still counting.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Master of Sciences in Mechanical Engineering

Where are you currently working? Norgren Kloehn, Inc. part of IMI PLC, General Manager

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Beta Gamma Sigma; Outstanding Graduate Student Speaker Nominee.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? We had great and more challenging times during the 18 months of the program. In the cohort, we were able to help and support each other when needed. I am proud of the deep relationship I built and will last a lifetime. Being perfectionist, I am also proud of the 4.0 GPA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2017, I became general manager of a US-based subsidiary of the group I work for. It was extremely exciting to move from Switzerland to Las Vegas, Nevada with my family. The Las Vegas site was one of the worst performing sites in the group and my mission was to turn it around. A month after I started, I realized that about everything possible was broken. The culture of the company was terrible with leaders blaming each other. Managers were not aligned and did not work as a team. Employees were not following health and safety rules or work instructions. After three months and some changes in the management team, I started to deploy my strategic improvement plan. We quickly started to see some improvement and were able to celebrate successes. Of course, we had some bumps on the road, but we continued to learn and improve. At the end of 2018, the site was awarded the “Most Improved site of the Year” award. And in 2019 we won the “Site of the Year” award. I am very proud to have built and led a winning team delivering outstanding results.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I cannot choose only one. All professors were outstanding to teach us the fundamentals and how to apply them to our respective businesses. Professor Douglas Olsen – Marketing, did an excellent job to give us tool like business model canvas to map and understand where the business competes, how the business wins, and how to capture value. Professor Gary Nauman – entrepreneurship, shared his experience how to start a business. The class linked concepts from all previous courses into how to start a new business, how to manage scared resources and make fixed costs variable. We also covered funding, valuation and exit strategy, which was eye-opening. Riva Drummond – innovation, taught us how to test concepts with customers, fail and learn fast. This a key concept that I apply every week now.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? W. P. Carey has a great reputation and good ranking which was important to me. However, the deciding factor was the focus on innovation from ASU and the discussions with former students who were very enthusiastic about the program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I had experience in my field with most of the concepts that were covered in class. Understanding why concepts are what they are and how to use them in different industries was eye-opening to me. It helped me to connect the dots. The biggest lesson during the executive MBA was adaptive leadership. Being an engineer, I am focused on the technical aspects of problems and understanding how to impact the culture allowed me to become a better leader.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? My family was key to support me during the whole program. My wife Ma was fantastic as always. She was there to support me and was really understanding when I had to work long hours and evenings. She took care of everything at home to allow me to focus. To juggle with the workload from work, school and the family, planning was essential. I scheduled my weeks to allocate my time and sticked to it. I must admit that I sometimes submitted assignment that were not as good as they could, but that was the only way to keep the schedule.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Starting an executive MBA is a huge time and financial commitment. It will allow you to learn a lot about yourself as a leader, get out of your comfort zone, and improve your skills. It will allow you to connect the dots between all elements of a business. My advice is to carefully choose the program. Ranking is important but look at the diversity of students from a cultural perspective and which industry they work in. I learned so much discussing problems with classmates from diverse backgrounds. For me, diversity is essential to share best practices and learn from others.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school was the workload and the big question, “Can I be a student again after over 20 years in the industry?”. The workload was high, but an EMBA is quite different than graduate school. A big part of the learning is based on business cases. It is so interesting to analyze and debate cases with classmates with different point of views that time flies extremely fast. I also really enjoyed taking a step back to better understand the why of concepts and tools presented.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I cannot believe how fast the last 18 months went by. My biggest regret is that the program is over. I will miss the week ends with the cohort discussing and brainstorming ideas around a beer. We will try to meet regularly in the future, but being based out of Phoenix will make it more challenging for me.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I cannot choose one. Each and every member of the cohort was great to work with. It has been an honor to be part of such a fantastic group. We had physicians that I admire for the work they did during the pandemic and military veterans that I cannot thank enough for their service. Some shared stories that were absolutely breathtaking and inspiring.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? By joining an MBA program, I wanted to grow as a leader and take a step back to better understand how businesses work, especially in different fields and industries. I was also looking to develop my network with experienced professionals. An executive MBA was the best option. Online alternatives did not allow that much interaction and to build relationship. Most of the part time MBA participant have less experience. Therefore, I choose an executive MBA.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to become a recognized leader of a large organization delivering terrific value to customers. The organization should allow employees to use their creativity and keep learning to develop themselves and grow. I want as many as possible of talented employee to be promoted within or outside the organization.

What made Alex such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

Alex Besse is a leader in and outside of the classroom. During his 18 months in the program, Alex not only excelled academically but was a continual source of knowledge and experience to his peers during classroom discussion and team projects. Alex’s leadership experience translated particularly well to the classroom, where he used it to help drive case discussions and generally improve the classroom learning environment. Outside the classroom, Alex built strong working relationships with his fellow students and faculty to the benefit of the program. He approaches difficult situations with an open mind, navigates challenges with positivity, and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Alex is highly respected by his fellow students, faculty and staff.”

Kevin Corley
Professor, Management and Entrepreneurship

Molly Loonam
Program Manager, Program Operations


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