2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Pamela Wilson, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Pamela Wilson

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

Age: 41

“Strategic executive and impact leader operating at the intersection of business and public policy.”

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Family Members: Lots! My mother, Margot, and her partner, Tom, as well as my father, David, are all in the D.C. area. My sister, Laura, and brother and fiancé, Andrew and Molly, are in NYC, and my brother and sister-in-law, Chris and Zanny, are in Richmond.

Fun fact about yourself: I was born next door to McDonough Business School at the Georgetown University Hospital.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Wisconsin – Madison

Where are you currently working? Executive Director, Strategy and Innovation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Year one class representative, avid barre enthusiast, novice rower.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? One of my favorite recollections from the Executive MBA is the Global Business Experience. My team was responsible for devising a market entry strategy for a Brazilian mineral mining company looking to expand into North America. Our team was comprised of five individuals with no prior relevant experience.

Throughout the semester, we engaged in exhaustive research and conducted interviews with private and public sector experts. Drawing on the frameworks we had learned in class, we mapped out the North American market, identified key customers and geographic regions, and crafted a comprehensive entry strategy. Armed with our plan, we traveled to Brazil, uncertain whether we would hit the bullseye or miss the mark entirely.

We spent a day at the mine with the executive team, and at the end of the week, we presented a detailed recommendation to their board. Our clients were more than impressed; they followed up with us in the subsequent weeks to inform us that discussions with industry experts had validated our recommendation, and they were keen to execute on it.

The experience helped me realize that I possess the skills required to tackle complex projects involving new and unfamiliar subject matters. Furthermore, it instilled in me the confidence to take on future challenges.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of serving as Deputy White House Liaison during my seven-year tenure as a political appointee at the Department of Defense (DoD). As a deputy advisor to the Secretary of Defense and primary liaison with the White House for Presidential appointments, I represented the interests of the Secretary of Defense in high-level workforce discussions with the White House and communicated outcomes to the Secretary of Defense and to the appointee workforce. My responsibilities included directing a complex inter-agency process to identify, recruit, and place over 280 Presidential appointees ranging from Senate-confirmed senior executives to junior-level support specialists, into positions across DoD.  My experience taught me how to operate at the C-suite level of government and develop key leadership skills such as executive communication, the ability to navigate complex organizational structures, collaboration across diverse stakeholders, and organizational behavior. I am grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to DoD’s mission by building and maintaining the political human capital required to craft and execute the Administration and Department’s national defense policy objectives.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Bardia Kamrad, Senior Associate Dean and Academic Director for the Executive MBA program, is one of my favorite professors of all time. He was with us before day one, leading the prep course for his Decision Analytics class, and has been a continued source of guidance, support, and encouragement throughout the program. Bardia set the bar high both in terms of academics and performance. However, he did so with a message that instilled the value of the opportunity in front of us, and let us know he believed we were all up to the challenge, even when we didn’t necessarily think that of ourselves. He cares deeply about the success of the program and everyone who goes through it. That is evident by the almost 30 years of alumni who still drop by his classes and sing his praises. Every student should be so lucky to have a professor who is as deeply invested as Bardia is. He is a great credit to the Executive MBA program, the McDonough School of Business, and Georgetown University.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? This is a funny question because, in retrospect, there were so many reasons to choose Georgetown I can’t believe I considered anywhere else. Georgetown has one of the best business schools in the country, so there’s the academic appeal. It has an extensive network, particularly in Washington. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where I work, has several past and present employees who have graduated from the program, among them, our CEO, Suzanne Clark, which was indicative of its value to my work. I also felt a personal connection to Georgetown. I was born at Georgetown hospital and have been a life-long member of the congregation at Holy Trinity. My sister and my mother are alumni of Georgetown University and Georgetown Law School. So much of my life has been spent in and around Georgetown, it felt like home.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? To achieve meaningful progress, you have to take risks. Deciding to go through the Executive MBA program was a risk. It’s a huge commitment requiring a massive amount of time away from work, friends, and family, not to mention the financial commitment. I tend to be risk averse, so naturally I put off applying for several years. However, the tools and perspective I’ve gained from the program have helped me advance in a way I never could have anticipated. It enabled me to harness the lessons I learned from my career in the public sector and apply them to the private sector, to articulate my viewpoints in a corporate context, and perform with greater confidence and agility. Now more than ever, I believe that taking risks is a key ingredient to achieving both personal and professional fulfillment, and I plan to continue to embrace this mindset throughout my career.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Honestly, I was incredibly lucky to have a strong support system both at work and at home. That being said, in terms of balance, it was a giant game of whack-a-mole for the duration of the program. Sometimes I had to lean on work more, sometimes home, and sometimes classmates. During one week of the summer mod, my father wound up in the ICU with complications from heart surgery and I had an emergency trip to the animal hospital with my very sick dog. I had class projects due on Friday and Saturday that week and would not have been able to pull them off without my teammates who covered for me without hesitation. It happens to everyone – at some point in the program something goes disastrously wrong in some part of your life that you can’t control. It’s important in those scenarios to give your classmates, and yourself, a little grace to get through it.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Friends and colleagues from outside of the program often remark that they don’t know how I do it or that they wouldn’t be able to do it. I think most people assume that they are uniquely ill-equipped to handle the Executive MBA experience. In reality, nobody is fully prepared before they start. The Executive MBA teaches you how to stretch yourself. You graduate having gained the ability to extend yourself beyond your limits, you don’t start out that way!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Though Georgetown made a point of randomly assigning group projects, I didn’t have the opportunity to work with everyone in the cohort. We had a very diverse class with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise and I appreciated the opportunity to learn from them and get to know them through our group work. I wish I had that experience with everyone but I’m hopeful it won’t be my last chance.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sindhu Adini has been one of my favorite people in the cohort since our orientation. Not only is she exceptionally smart and funny, she is also one of the kindest and hardest-working people I’ve ever met. Sindhu is from India and emigrated to the U.S. with her husband in her early twenties. Having graduated in the top ranks of her class in India, Sindhu set about getting a masters degree from Virginia Tech in computer engineering. Always the multi-tasker, Sindhu simultaneously grew her family, raising two amazing young daughters while building a career as a tech leader, and achieving professional certificates from MIT and Harvard. During the course of the Executive MBA program, a time when lowering professional workloads would have been ideal, Sindhu took on even more responsibility. Not only was she promoted to vice president, but after her company was acquired, Sindhu quickly became an indispensable advisor to the new leadership team, deftly navigating their path forward as they chart a new course for the company. Despite all this, Sindhu has always been the first to offer assistance to a struggling classmate or a burnt-out team, whether it was taking on extra work or offering words of encouragement. Sindhu inspires me every day. She is easily the classmate I most admire and I am so lucky to count her as a friend.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? With the Executive MBA program, you still get the value of a cohort experience, which I think you miss out on as a part time or online student. There was a lot of collective learning and group work that built on our shared experiences and the relationships we developed. Coming out of the program, I consider my cohort network to be one of my most valuable assets.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To harness the power of business and government to create meaningful impact in the world, solving unique and complex problems through thought partnership, strategy, and collaboration.

What made Pamela such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023? 

“It’s a pleasure to write on behalf of Ms. Pamela Wilson, with a very strong endorsement.

I met Pamela in August 2021 when she started her studies in the Executive MBA program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I had the pleasure of having her as one of my top students in the Opening Residency and later, in the Decision Analytics core courses in her first year of the program, where she also served as the Cohort “Rep” for her class. She is a deeply respected member of our community as a graduating Executive MBA and soon alumna.

Pamela has spent a 16-year career operating at the intersection of business, policy, and emerging issues as a mission-driven impact leader. Pamela’s impressive professional ascend to the position of Executive Director of Strategy and Innovation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is her latest accomplishment. She has developed key initiatives at the local, state, and international level.

Pamela’s academic performance parallels her professional accomplishments. She is regularly on top of her class.

Pamela is an exceptionally thoughtful, perceptive, and intellectually engaged individual. She is low-key but steadfast, goal-oriented and efficient, and she enjoys her tremendous capacity for strategic rationale. She also carries herself with tremendous confidence and professionalism.  Her other qualities might, in a nutshell, be characterized by integrity, trust, kindness, reliability, and hard work. From a professional standpoint, she registers very highly on the emotional I.Q. gauge, and she carries herself with tremendous poise, competence, and composure. Nevertheless, these remarkable qualities are wrapped in the sort of modesty that make her approach an easy impression. Pamela has an adapting and flexible communication skill that is defining of her other leadership skills.

To add, she is socially aware and perceptively acclimatized to her environment and others’ presence, abilities, and needs. These exceptional qualities are complemented by her unwavering integrity, kindness, reliability, and hard work.

Pamela is a team-oriented problem solver. She is a mission-driven, impact leader, with tremendous professional experience within the White House; Department of Defense, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She has the proven ability to build relationships at the C-suite level while growing the business through market research, data analysis, and marketing programs.

It’s been a pleasure to know Pamela and to be part of her trajectory and accomplishments.”

Bardia Kamrad
Senior Associate Dean
Academic Director: EMBA & EML-Q Programs
Professor of Operations


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