(Los Angeles Cohort)
“Raising two wild boys to be curious and compassionate while loving all things aerospace manufacturing.”
Hometown: As of two months ago – Corinth, Mississippi.
Family Members: Husband Thomas, Harrison (3), and Waylon (1)
Fun fact about yourself: I am a third-generation engineer who loves working in aerospace & defense. My late grandpa reluctantly retired at 80 and my dad shows signs of being another die-hard. We have collectively worked on airplanes, satellites, and launch vehicles across many generations of technology.
Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Berkeley – BS in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
Where are you currently working? Northrop Grumman Corporation, Sr Manager of Industrial Engineering
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I balanced a lot of change in a short sprint and came out the other side a more resilient student, mom, and employee. Immediately after putting the deposit down for Ross, we found out my husband got his dream job based across the country flying for FedEx, I was expecting our second child, and I was asked to step into a role with a lot of challenges. All of these (wonderful, positive, and stressful) things would have been valid reasons to postpone my education. With the help of my support system, I decided to buckle down and make it work. I’m grateful for the sacrifices made for me to not only pursue this education, but get the most out of it, and I’m proud of myself for not giving up on it.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Despite not feeling ready to take it on, I led a manufacturing team facing big cost and schedule challenges through a tough season. We were facing constant hurdles from covid, the space industry was getting increasingly competitive, and I needed to learn a lot about RF microelectronic manufacturing very quickly. I am most proud of the relationships built with my team, establishing myself as the leadership team’s advocate for the floor, and sharing a new vision for how the shop could be run – with metrics, civility, and accountability.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? I could speak highly of so many of the professors, but Professor Itay Kama sticks out to me as the most impactful. Accounting has all the ingredients to be a tedious course, but he made it dynamic, memorable, and relevant. I can still hear his distinctive voice narrating as I’m reading through financial statements.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? When I was applying to school, it was important to me to stay in southern California to be near family and I found out about the Michigan Ross LA program through a P&Q article. I was drawn to the quality of the professors, the diversity of past cohorts, and the structure of residencies. I’m so happy I did – Go Blue!
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The concept of ‘strategy’ always felt daunting and ambiguous to me as someone who thrives in tactical and operational domains. But the frameworks and case studies taught me new perspectives on how to develop, elevate, and define strategy. It has changed how I approach problems at work and given me the language needed to communicate big-picture impacts to routine decisions, such as selecting how we measure and report daily shop floor performance.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? On suggestion from a fellow student, I downloaded an app that would turn any textbook or article into a narrated reading. Business education became the soundtrack to my commute, cooking dinner, nursing the baby, you name it for the past two years. When you’re motivated, you find time!
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Ground yourself in what is motivating you to get this education and revisit that when you need encouragement. Remember that each person is pursuing this for their own personal reasons and may have different expectations out of the program than you, so there isn’t value in comparing.
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? You can learn all the traditional MBA curriculum for free. Sure – there is an amazing amount of information available via podcasts, books, and Youtube videos. I am an avid consumer of all those things! However, the ability to apply that via case studies, have it distilled into what is important by experienced professors, and work through the details in our group projects is where I derived the value of the tuition. And the cherry on top was the informal learning from being in the company of my cohort every month.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many that I look up to! Anviti Shastri embodies many things that I can only strive to become. She was a leader in the cohort with her academic discipline, maturity, and engagement. She handled challenging classes and situations with grace, gave me poignant feedback during our ExecMAP project, and cracked me up with stories about her kids.
What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I am not suited to online education – I love the experience of being in a live classroom setting. But it didn’t make sense for me to sacrifice years of my career as I have always intended to stay in the same industry, so the EMBA structure was a perfect fit for me.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have a ways to go, but I am working to earn the opportunity to stand-up and run a final assembly line for a new major aircraft. The prospect of building a team to solve all the engineering, people, and business challenges is incredibly enticing to me.
What made Alex such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?
“From the moment Alex joined our program, she demonstrated her passion for continuous education despite facing numerous challenges. Just one week after committing to the program, Alex found out she and her husband were expecting their second child. Then during the first Executive MBA residency, Alex’s employer asked her to be interim VP of Operations and then eventually promoted Alex to this new role. In this role, Alex led an organization of 85+ employees of high-mix, low-volume factory to include manufacturing assembly, test, manufacturing/process engineering, safety, and supply chain.
Even amidst personal challenges, such as eight weeks on bed rest and taking care of her newborn during residencies, Alex never faltered in her commitment to her education. She brought her baby to school where he would be cared for in the hotel room by her husband, a friend or nanny while Alex attended class and met with her teams. During breaks and lunch, Alex would check in and feed her baby.
Recently, Alex and her family made a bold decision to move to Mississippi where she took on the role of Senior Manager of Industrial Engineering at Northrop Grumman. Her ability to juggle multiple responsibilities and excel in her professional and personal life is truly commendable.
Throughout her journey in the Executive MBA program, Alex has earned profound respect from Ross staff, professors, and fellow students. Her dedication to her education, unwavering determination, and resilience in the face of challenges have been truly inspiring. We are grateful to have Alex as a part of our program. We cannot recommend Alex more highly for this honor. Thank you for providing us with the opportunity.”
Sue Ann Gonis, M.A., MCC
Executive Coach & Career Management Coach for Executive MBA students and alumni
Ross School of Business
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