2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Ryan McKee, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Ryan McKee

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

Age: 40

“A son, brother, husband, father, and aspiring servant leader with personal drive, passion and gratitude.”

Hometown: Needham, MA

Family Members: Wife: Tonya McKee. Children: Jack McKee (11) and Jameson McKee (8)

Fun fact about yourself: I have officiated 7 weddings.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Northeastern University, Summa Cum Laude, B.S. Finance and Marketing

Where are you currently working? Fidelity Investments, Regional Director/Senior Vice President.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Jog Your Memory Board Member (Alzheimer’s Care & Research), Marathons and Long-Distance Running, My Family.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? We had a classmate, Michael Carroll, pass away suddenly and unexpectedly during the program from a heart issue at the very young age of 46. Several of us rallied together to create and raise money for a scholarship fund in his name and a memorial bench in his honor on campus at the University of Notre Dame. In less than a year, we helped raise over $370,000 through various fundraising efforts and brought awareness to who Michael was as a person. Michael now has a permanent memorial bench on campus directly across from the Mendoza Business School.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have been fortunate to be part of several investment mandate wins and successful financial results, but I am most proud to have been promoted to Senior Vice President at Fidelity Investments at 30 years old. My father did not have the opportunity to go to college and had raised 5 children (I’m the oldest) for many years on his own with a single income. To achieve that title at the organization that early in my career meant a lot to me as it recognized my effort and accomplishments, but was something that I felt like we had achieved together and being able to share that with him was very special to me.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Like many others, it was important to me to select a program that was considered a top program nationally and globally. However, the real attraction to the University of Notre Dame EMBA program was the program’s national reach, collaborative approach, diversity of backgrounds, industry & expertise, incredibly strong alumni network, and its values-based approach. Most MBA programs have compelling, but similar, curriculums. Notre Dame is very rare in its ability to combine that with these other important elements.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? It was how powerful a strong and diverse team can be when it is constructed, organized, and managed well, how to be a more servant leader, and the value of keeping yourself in a learning mindset. While in the program, I took over leadership of a small pod of individuals at work and have tried to bring these lessons to the team. More recently, I have been working on a task-force around culture. Again, I have been bringing these lessons to this working group as we approach our challenge with an open mind, a learning mindset, and our own culture; which hopefully helps facilitate team success.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Unfortunately, there is not an easy way to simply juggle work, family, and school when it comes to these programs, but success comes from being very intentional with all of your time. I would organize the work I knew I could complete on flights, in a hotel, etc., I would listen to the readings and cases via audiobook or podcast whenever available and do the same when re-listening to lectures (allowing me to exercise, travel, stand on sideline while reading/refreshing). I would time-block my day with school work typically in the evening after the kids went to bed. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, when school was on break, I would get away with my family. We had some great summer vacations and local trips around the Holidays during the program. I was also able to get my kids out to a Notre Dame football game, which was a highlight of the program for them.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it. Be ready for the work. Get agreement from your spouse, family, and friends so it is clear that you will be a little less available over the next year or two. That way, it doesn’t cause tension, and don’t measure a program simply by the classroom activities as the benefits and takeaways are much broader.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That it’s only for people looking to make a jump to a new role or new career. Yes, we have seen dozens of our classmates move into new roles and careers partly as a result of their involvement in the program. However, I believe that the benefits can often be harnessed even when advancing your personal and professional skills in your existing role. I expect to move into another role in the future, but I have already felt the benefits of the program in my existing role and even in my personal relationships.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? (Please specify full name and specify why?) It is very difficult to name just one. George Arce because he has a huge heart, is incredibly successful, and didn’t “need” to pursue the program for the traditional reasons of advancing his career, but he brought his whole self to the cohort and the program and we were all collectively made better because we were able to learn from him in and outside of the class both personally and professionally. Danny Hill because at age 29 he is already incredibly bright, accomplished, and dynamic. Danny had the ability to excel in the classroom, in his social relationships outside of the classroom, and in social causes for the cohort and University at an incredibly impressive level. In our VC class, Danny presented to several VC Firms and was subsequently asked to join one of their start-ups as CEO; which he did. Incredible. And lastly, Michael Carroll. Michael passed unexpectedly after our first year together, but he was a beautiful person, a true renaissance man who had a law degree, could play multiple instruments, a successful commercial real estate business, movie production credits, and he was even more impressive in his social connections with his Family, Friends, and Classmates. We are all better people because Michael was part of the program – both before he passed and since.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? My perspective on this program, and in life, is that if you’re only going to do something once, you better do it right. I knew that I wanted to go to the University of Notre Dame for this program and if I took a part-time or an online option, I would always be second-guessing myself that I didn’t get the full immersive experience (and may end up doing it again later anyway).

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I aspire to run a large division at a multinational company and believe that I have the skillset, experience, and aptitude to do that successfully today. But if that path narrows, I could also see myself going out on my own with the hope of creating enough success that I could spend more time with my Family and the causes that I am truly passionate about.  

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

“Ryan McKee was everything we could hope for in a Notre Dame Executive MBA student. Academically, he was at the very top of his class, hard-working, always prepared, willing to participate in discussions, and submitting written work of the highest caliber. But, in addition to his academic talents, what made Ryan stand out was his caring for his fellow classmates. He was always kind, reaching out with a helping hand when needed, offering words of encouragement, and gifts for every student on special occasions. He was truly a leader in a class of leaders.

I will remember Ryan most, however, for the way he stepped up in a moment of sadness for the class. Between the end of their first year in the program and the start of the second, one member of the class passed away. It was a very traumatic time for the class, as they all felt the loss deeply. The class needed to come together to channel their grief in a positive way. Ryan, with others, led the way. They arranged a prayer service on the opening day of the third semester and Ryan played a leading role in establishing a fund through a raffle, gifts and other ways for faculty and students to participate. The class used the funds raised (several hundred thousand dollars) to dedicate a bench on campus in Michael’s memory, as well as establishing an endowed scholarship fund in his name. The leadership Ryan displayed in these difficult moments showed a genuine servant leader who fully represents the ideals and mission of Notre Dame.”

John Affleck-Graves
Notre Dame Chair in Finance
Vice President and Associate Provost of the University of Notre Dame (retired)

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