2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Philip Rigueur, MIT (Sloan)

Philip Rigueur

MIT, Sloan School of Management   

Age: 44

“Proud son, husband, and father. Confident. Authentic. Driven. An innovative, resourceful leader with an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Hometown: Uniondale, New York

Family Members: Leah Wright Rigueur (wife), Austin (10), Audrey (8) + Jameson (3)

Fun fact about yourself: My wife is way cooler than I am – Professor Leah Wright Rigueur. She’s a renowned scholar, author, keynote speaker and an ABC News Contributor. She was just named 2023 Podcast Host of the Year by the Ambies and the Webbys.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Cornell University | Ithaca, New York

  • Master of Public Administration; Institute for Public Affairs
  • Bachelor of Science; School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Where are you currently working?

  • Previously VP, Enterprise Transformation at Hartford HealthCare (10/1/20 thru 2/1/23)
  • Mgt Consultant, Rubye Sears, Inc + The McCoy Group (2/1/23- present)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Hartford Public Schools Board of Education, Chairman of Board
  • BlackGen Capital, Board Advisor
  • Open Startup International, Corporate Advisor
  • University of Saint Joseph Board (CT), Trustee
  • City of Hartford Redevelopment Agency (HRA), Commissioner
  • MIT Sloan Dean’s DEI Award (2023)
  • Uniondale (NY) School District: Wall of Fame Inductee (2021)
  • Hartford Business Journal’s 40 under Forty Award (2018)
  • Savoy Magazine: Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America (2018)
  • The Network Journal 40 Under Forty (2017)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During my time at MIT Sloan, I’m most proud of the work I did with the IDEA Lab (15.704) As one of the traditional EMBA Action Learning Labs, my lab focused on “Innovation,” a track that usually explores the corporations and large organizations’ potential for expanding engagement with local innovation economies. Our Spring 2023 group went one step further by becoming the first EMBA IDEA-LAB Innovation group to focus on a foreign country – in this case, Tunisia, North Africa.

Historically, wealthy nations have attempted to address poverty in the African continent through various forms of aid and assistance (i.e. financial, technical, etc.). The focus has been on providing immediate survival needs of impoverished people, such as food, shelter, and other necessities. But addressing poverty in a sustainable way requires more than short-term assistance and intervention. It requires addressing the systemic underlying causes of poverty, while also promoting economic development and growth. Long-term change requires long-term investment and commitment, as well as meaningful collaboration with local stakeholders.

Our EMBA Team (“Team Tunisia”), in partnership with MIT-Africa, the Legatum Center and Open Startup International, responded to the challenge by creating a hands-on, five-day, deep-tech entrepreneurship training bootcamp for Tunisian scientists who hold PhDs. Our approach was doubly impactful given that 60 percent of PhDs in Tunisia are unemployed. The bootcamp (known as “BRAIN” or Bridging Research and Innovation) and curriculum addressed customer discovery, market segmentation, business and revenue modeling, competitive analysis, team development, and IP/legal considerations, all tailored and grounded to a North African Tunisian growth market context. Likewise, the training and our instruction leveraged practical hands-on techniques, business case studies, and North African regional role-models as well. Team Tunisia’s aim was not to offer a “quick-fix” solution to an immediate problem or to solve a business challenge for one organization; instead, our goal was to begin to address the country’s societal need with a high-skilled labor force seeking to gain prosperity through entrepreneurship. One of the most rewarding parts of the experience, for me, was that BRAIN’s groundbreaking international efforts exemplified MIT Sloan’s mission to “develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world.”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2018, the CEO of Aetna tasked my business unit with what seemed like an impossible assignment: move into one of our largest competitor’s territory and establish a new market. For the CEO, this was a moment of potential based on the national employers in Minnesota. But few leaders among the senior executives believed the idea was feasible. In fact, most of their initial discussions focused on convincing the CEO that his idea was pointless.

However, I believed that the CEO’s directive was both achievable and savvy, especially since moving into Minnesota had the potential to reform the payment structure in the area, radically upending the payor-hospital model and connecting the local hospital system with an insurance company. I had to convince my skeptical colleagues that creating a new model would produce new business. As part of an effort to encourage my team and senior leaders to take a “leap of faith” on my vision, I took a risk and made the decision to build out the infrastructure to support the new business model; I did this to demonstrate how the concept would be implemented. This meant doing several critical things, including reprioritizing my budget to direct funding toward the new venture, and hiring multiple sales representatives and underwriters, while redirecting one of my team members to act as a liaison between service staff and field-office staff. We needed to ensure that the internal operational and clinical network infrastructures were prepared to support the new model, and that pricing, sales, marketing, and underwriting staffers were all on-board.

My team and I worked directly with brokers, consultants, and prospective clients to educate individuals and groups on the vision of the new operating model. We convinced them of the value that a “care delivery model” would bring to their networks, by partnering local clinical care with a large insurance company with significant national reach. Most important, I talked with all the sales teams that worked with our clients to better understand their apprehension of the new model. We learned that there were reservations about the “newness” of the model and fears that a large insurer wouldn’t be able to deliver quality service in a new or innovative manner. We overcame these concerns by partnering with our sales team on a “go-to-market” plan that empowered and reassured our potential clients, and ultimately earned their confidence.

The project debuted successfully with the full support of the internal leadership team – including all the former skeptics – and with the support of two mid-sized clients. Within a year, we grew a “zero market presence” area into a territory with 20,000 members and we received widespread accolades for our success. In an interesting twist, our performance caught the attention of an industry competitor (the same one that motivated our CEO’s initial directive), who subsequently tried to recruit me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? John Sterman was my favorite professor at Sloan. He is a renowned expert in the field of system dynamics, and his class offered a comprehensive understanding of the concepts, tools, and techniques used in the discipline. It’s the kind of special course that you can only find at MIT.

I first walked into Professor Sterman’s class with reservations. His nickname, after all, is “Dr. Doom” due to his cutting-edge research in environmental development and climate change. Within days of entering his classroom, it became clear that Prof. Sterman is an exceptional educator. His interactive teaching style makes working on even the most challenging issues stimulating and enjoyable. The MIT Sloan Beer Game, for instance, is a simulation game that Professor Sterman uses to teach the principles of supply chain management. Our in-class exercise and discussions were exciting, insightful, and timely – especially given the supply-chain challenges that many organizations faced in the Fall of 2021. Professor Sterman’s System Dynamics course (15.736 – System Dynamics, Summer 2022) also highlighted his brilliance as a teacher. This course was by far one of the most challenging classes I’ve ever taken – and it was also one of the most rewarding. I gained such a deep knowledge of system dynamics and its application in a wide range of fields, from business to environmental management to public policy. Most important, I now truly understand how to incorporate such learning as a means of offering innovative solutions to real-world problems and challenges.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? For the longest time, my “grit” and ambition were enough to propel me from college, to graduate school, and into corporate America. These transitions haven’t been easy, and I’ve navigated my career with sustained support from a cadre of mentors who recognized my skill and determination. I had reached a critical moment in my career where “determination” and support – while still crucial – weren’t enough. I knew that an MBA from MIT would make a difference in helping me become an innovative, transformative thought leader who would positively disrupt an entire industry and support the broader community.

MIT is known for educating innovative and cutting-edge leaders. One of those leaders left an indelible impression on me when I worked for him at my previous corporation. He also left an unforgettable mark on the entire company, teaching employees the definition of a “high-performing organization.” I was convinced that the classroom and lab environment at MIT Sloan would allow me to learn skills to enhance my leadership abilities. I was also eager to learn from the university’s world-class professors who specialize in Action Learning. Since I’ve been at MIT, that concept has allowed me to take theoretical knowledge and apply it to real-world scenarios, including my corporate and non-profit work, and in global arenas like the Tunisia BRAIN Lab. Through MIT Sloan, I’ve started the work of transforming traditional systems and institutions into visionary and holistic models of accountability.

Before I joined MIT, and as I considered my career path, I was faced by a daunting reality: most Black men don’t make it in corporate America (and it’s not for lack of trying; according to EEOC data, only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEOS and 3.2% of senior executives are Black). With an EMBA from MIT, I know that those statistics won’t be my reality. Instead, I’ll leave as a principled, innovative leader with the practical skills and knowledge to transform my community and industry.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? When I arrived at MIT, I knew I would receive an incredible education, but I didn’t anticipate the sheer level of support that I would receive from the MIT Sloan community: staff, professors, my immediate cohort, and the EMBA program alumni. I’ve worked in Fortune 100 corporations and attended elite universities, and the support from MIT Sloan and the entire EMBA community and program was far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. The community here genuinely wants you to succeed at everything and anything you can envision.

My professional career has been unorthodox in some respects. I’m the son of Haitian immigrants, which means I’m often the only person in the room who either looks like me or has had a vastly different lived experience (with very little in common) with my colleagues. At MIT Sloan, this hasn’t been the case – many of my classmates shared similar experiences or were also the “firsts in the room.” Beyond that shared background, my classmates, who were from all walks of life, were often a source of encouragement, especially as challenges mounted due to family, work, and school. It’s incredible how something as minor or as “trivial” as a quick between-class-conversation turned into a source of inspiration, or motivation to keep going. It was a valuable lesson of support and community bonding that I immediately brought into my work environment, and which has had an immediate impact on team-building and morale.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The same week I received my acceptance letter from MIT Sloan, my wife accepted a job as a tenured professor at Johns Hopkins University. As a family of five, we are used to juggling time, place, and space. We thought our family would be fine with both parents commuting – we had done it in the past, so why would the present be any different?

Almost immediately, my wife and I understood everything was different. In my case, my job, school, and family all demanded their own version of 100%. And when my wife’s new job started in earnest in February 2022, with her commuting to Baltimore on a weekly basis, I realized I had to radically rethink how I was juggling work, school, and home. For instance, during one week in February 2022 – while my wife was at work and I was home going back and forth between school and a major project at work – our daughter contracted COVID-19. In that hour, balancing everything felt impossible. But as I worked through the chaos, the adversity of the situation imparted valuable lessons. First, there’s no such thing as “perfect balance.” I’d compare my time in the EMBA program to a high-stakes sports game – there is no such thing as perfection, but you can anticipate and adapt to the context. Second, flexibility and high-demand prioritization go together. You learn what really matters and you adjust in order to tackle one challenge at a time. Third, do what you can, when you can, ahead of time so that when the unexpected arrives (because it will!), there’s more than enough room for error. Finally, I learned that your family and friends are everything. In our case, our family and friends have provided us with a support network and a crucial safety net. There is no getting through this process without them.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Don’t underestimate the support and the commitment that your family, friends, and loved ones must make as part of this process. Your family is part of the experience. The support of your family and friends is what will allow you to embrace the MIT Sloan experience fully.

Second, I would encourage anyone embarking on this journey to “maximize their learning” and put an equal amount of effort into getting to know your classmates outside the profile book. While grades are undoubtedly important, harnessing the MIT EMBA network will play a critical component in the future success of many EMBAs.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? When I entered MIT Sloan, I was fully aware of how hard it would be. In some ways I was overprepared after multiple conversations with EMBA alumni and current students. I also assumed that given the broader competitive nature of MBA programs MIT Sloan would be no different. I thought the ruthlessness of the application process would show up in the classroom. I quickly discovered I was wrong! The students at Sloan and in my cohort are completely invested in community, sharing, and team-building. They are committed to collegiality, in the truest sense. There’s an unspoken rule at Sloan that truly encapsulates the environment at MIT: “No EMBA left behind.”

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not engaging with the MIT Legatum Center, MIT-Africa, and Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship sooner. Unlike many of my classmates, I caught the entrepreneurial bug later in the program. Still, while it took me longer to meet with the key stakeholders at each of the centers, I quickly made up for lost time by completing the requirements for an Entrepreneurial & Innovation certificate. I’m so grateful that I was able to connect with and fully embrace MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem before my time at Sloan came to an end.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? What a tough question given that I’m part of a cohort full of rock stars! I have so much admiration for my classmates given all their accomplishments. The 1523 cohort is comprised of CEOs, private equity executives, world-class clinicians, distinguish service men and women, and founders of publicly traded companies. But I want to highlight Seun Johnson Akeju, MD and Rouse Slape, two people that many wouldn’t put together given that they operate in radically different professions and have very different personalities. And while that’s accurate, it’s also true that both gentlemen have remarkable and inspiring backgrounds and life narratives. And their personal stories overlap in incredibly similar, unconventional ways that leave me in awe of their resilience and sheer determination. Both embody the very definition of “grit,” which I so admire. Their path through life and dedication to their craft/profession inspires me daily.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I applied to the EMBA program at MIT during the first full year of the global COVID-19 pandemic. I applied knowing that I wanted an experience that was similar to a full-time MBA program, but flexible enough to allow for family and working a full-time job. It was important to me that the program be in-person – I wanted to be on a physical campus and become part of a “traditional” MBA community along with experiencing and leveraging the resources, connections, and networks of an elite institution. The unique qualities of the EMBA program at Sloan was apparent on our first day on campus, especially since we were the first cohort to experience in-person classes fully since the beginning of the pandemic.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? When I started at MIT Sloan, my long-term professional goal was to be an innovative, transformative thought-leader who would positively disrupt and change an entire industry. As I graduate from MIT Sloan, my goal is still the same. I want to lead, transform, and change large-scale institutions for the better. While my aim has not changed, I have – because of my time at MIT Sloan. I now have the skills, knowledge, and experience to realize my long-term goals, and disrupt for the greater good.

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

“Phil has been an exceptional EMBA student. He is passionate and purposeful when it comes to Action Learning, having collaborated with numerous departments and faculty across campus to bring BRAIN-Tunisia to life. Phil led his team in a way that exemplified MIT’s “mens et manus” motto, which translates from Latin to “mind and hand.” First, he saw a need and wanted to make a change. He built consensus across the different parties and used data to exemplify the importance of the challenge. Then he organized and executed travel and funding, creating the bootcamp for Tunisian PhD scientists, and meeting with stakeholders to make this project last beyond his and his team’s graduation. Phil also leads with his heart. He creates lasting impact, truly cares and is inspired by the communities he aims to help, and gains buy-in from his personal passion for the work. Phil is an inspiration to the MIT Sloan community and beyond. His cohort and MIT Sloan are all the better for his contributions. We all look forward to hearing how he continues to live out MIT Sloan’s values.”

Becca Souza
Director of the Action Learning Office
MIT Sloan School of Management


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