2017 MBAs To Watch: Dave Conway, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Dave Conway

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

“I am a husband, student, dog dad, and intramural athlete past his prime.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Evansville, IN

Fun fact about yourself: I worked at a space camp one summer, and each week I had to pretend with my campers that we were on another planet.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana University, Bachelors of Science in Economics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Nashville Preparatory Charter School, Founding 8th Grade Algebra Teacher

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Auburn Hills, Michigan

Where will you be working after graduation? Raytheon, Sr. Financial Analyst

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Co-Director of MBA Ambassador Program

ASU MBA Pickup Basketball Administrator

W. P. Carey Scholarship Award Recipient

Prospective Beta Gamma Sigma Member (Invitation Received Recently)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of working as the Co-Director for the MBA Ambassador Program. My role consists of staffing candidate interviews, matching up next year’s class with current student mentors, and improving the candidate interview experience as a whole. The job has allowed me to forge much stronger relationships, particularly with students in the class below mine, and reminds me how grateful I am to be enrolled in the MBA program.

For example, I volunteered as a student representative for a W. P. Carey MBA prospective student open house back in October and met a candidate interested in joining the program.  Throughout the last few months, we have corresponded by phone and LinkedIn. His passion to make his application perfect reminds me of my own application process and how ecstatic I was when I received my acceptance letter. Just last week he informed me that he would be interviewing on-campus at the end of March, so I hope that he has a similar good fortune.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest moment was when Dynesha, one of my Algebra students, earned a 94 on the Tennessee State Exam.

Dynesha had transferred from another school. She was a strong reader, but her math skills were lacking. She could only mentally calculate her times tables up to five. In the first quarter, she struggled, but she always asked for help. A few times a week, she would call me after school to ask about homework problems, and soon I was receiving more calls from her about homework than I did from my then-girlfriend, now wife, about anything. The last week of the first quarter, she jumped from a 64, an F, to a 65, a D. I told her about the grade jump the day before progress reports came out, and she joyously clarified, “I passed?”

Throughout the year, Dynesha worked hard in class, called after class, and gradually saw her grades rise. She was still only a C student when the big test came around. By that point, I was creating personalized materials for her and other students to target the concepts they struggled with most. On the day of the exam, I did not know what to expect for her, but she did something to make me feel confident. I remember pacing the columns of the room as the students took the exam. I looked over Dynesha’s shoulder and saw her solve a complicated systems of equations problem by substitution, check her answer, circle the correct letter, and move on. In just over a year, Dynesha showed that any obstacle can be overcome with hard work and grit.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Reynold Byers (Supply Chain Management) is my favorite professor. His teaching style is completely focused on the student, and he rarely tells the class anything. Instead, he pulls it out of us through guided questions. For example, he asked us how quickly a troop of scouts can hike altogether and eventually led us to understand that bottlenecks in manufacturing operations act the same way. The slowest hiker is the bottleneck.

While other professors settle for an answer, Professor Byers pushes for the how and why. He challenges every student and knows that they can be pushed to achieve more, while still making the class fun. He has a genuine interest in learning and sincerely enjoys the academic setting. For example, I can distinctly remember him giggling with glee when he figured out a new way to solve a network optimization problem in Excel. I will remember Professor Byers as the best professor I have ever had.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite class was Negotiations, taught by Professor Kevin Corley (Management). It is a completely experiential course. Professor Corley gives pairs of students asymmetric information about the same situation and then lets them loose. The biggest insight that I gained from the class is that although many negotiations can be purely transactional, there are many instances where creativity and collaboration are the skills needed most to benefit both parties.

Why did you choose this business school? The business analytics concentration, the sunshine, the students’ down-to-earth attitude, and the fact that my wife had family in the area were all reasons why I chose the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed the challenge. I generally feel that I can grasp most concepts, but that was put to the test in a lot of my classes, specifically the business analytics courses. In one class, we learned how to construct a messenger application in Hadoop; build a recommendation system in Python that improves itself after each additional rating is added; and analyze social networks for key characteristics.  All of this was done within eight weeks.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I was surprised by how kind and encouraging everyone was. I imagined business school students to be snooty and competitive, but I was completely mistaken. People are here to help each other. For instance, I was considering applying to an internship with the Environmental Defense Fund, and I reached out to a student who had interned there the summer before. I was simply looking to gain a few insights to make a better cover letter. He responded with a 601-word email. I was invited to interview in a matter of weeks.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be humble and ask many questions to make sure the program is right for you. I have interviewed over ten candidates for next year’s cohort, and sometimes they ask zero questions after the interview ends. On the other hand, a prospective student reached out to me about investment banking opportunities at ASU a few weeks back. I was able to tell him, more or less, that if investment banking was all that he was after, then ASU was probably not right for him. By asking that one question, he was able to alter his graduate school path to make more sense for him.

What is the biggest myth about your school? ASU is only good at supply chain. It is true that supply chain attracts the most employers of all of the concentrations, and is the highest ranked program here. However, some of the most talented classmates and professors I have worked with have been in other disciplines.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I could have benefited from speaking up more in class and taking specific positions in discussions.I generally avoid conflict, but that is something I am working to overcome. Taking specific positions and arguing them not only would have improved the way I deal with conflict, but it would’ve helped my communication skills. It’s quite easy to believe that you are correct when you never say anything. I think with the tight-knit group that we have at W. P. Carey, I could have been wrong and learned from it without damaging any relationships in the process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I sit by Francisco Lopez Portillo de Gortari in every business analytics class. He is chatty, well-liked by others, and self-deprecating. He often gives the impression that he is barely passing his classes and that he is unprepared for exams. Professors sometimes dismiss him as being disengaged. All of these perceptions are false.

We were tasked with creating a unique dashboard in Tableau. I left our team meeting for a short period of time, returned, and found that Francisco had been able to create a search-enabled dashboard that fetched the appropriate movie poster image to match the titles in our Rotten Tomatoes database. None of it was covered in class. Another time, he had printed out his transcripts and shared them with me. I saw that not only was he receiving outstanding grades, but that he also was also taking eight classes in one quarter. Other classmates took as few as two per quarter. In May, Francisco will graduate with two master’s degrees from a program that wasn’t even taught in his native language. That fact, combined with his easy-going, accepting attitude towards others, is why I admire Francisco and why I will try to be more like him in my career.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when I had earned the nickname, “The Workday Guy,” at my previous employer.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be teaching math in Nashville, TN.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would make classes even more hands-on and project-based. For example, I took a Derivatives course last quarter. It was a lecture-based course in which we looked at PowerPoint slides most of the time. If I were dean, I would get rid of the textbook and put the $100 we spent on textbooks into a group trading fund. At least a portion of the grade would be allocated to the people who earned the highest return in the eight weeks of the course. I believe that students remember far more when they are engaged and making schoolwork their own. They enjoy it more, too.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Long-term I would love to work in finance in the education sector, public or private.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I thank my wife, Tana, for my success. One example can sum up how much she’s helped and supported me. This past summer, I worked in Auburn Hills, Michigan, which is over two thousand miles from our home. Tana joined me for much of the summer as she had a few months off from her job as a high school teacher. She flew out to Michigan since she cannot stand driving long distances. Our dog, Russell, joined also.

Towards the end of the summer, I was given the opportunity to work in Mexico, auditing a parts distribution center outside of Mexico City. I would be gone for two weeks, meaning that our dog would be by himself in our hotel as Tana was set to fly back home to start her job again. Tana saw that I was excited to go. She agreed to drive our car back to Arizona with our dog in tow. For those four days, she did an activity that she didn’t want to do, in a part of the country she didn’t want to be in, all so that I could enjoy a new experience.

Tana has supported me in the same ways throughout the entire two years of my program. I cannot thank her enough for all that she does.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who always contributed to the project and team, regardless of whether I was an expert in the subject material or not.

Favorite book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Favorite movie or television show: Making a Murderer

Favorite musical performer: Drive-By Truckers

Favorite vacation spot: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Hobbies? Hiking, basketball, soccer, walking our dogs, reading, traveling

What made Dave such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Dave Conway is the type of quiet stoic person that you hear about long before you meet him. Without pretense or arrogance and probably without him even knowing it, he creates a reputation for himself for being reliable, fiercely intelligent and a rock amongst his classmates.  Those who interact with him get to reap the benefits of this reputation and see its proof in action.

I currently have the privilege of working with Dave as he serves as Co-Director of our Ambassador program. In this leadership role, Dave has demonstrated the ability to manage his time and responsibility perfectly. He has repeatedly gone above and beyond the expectations of his role by thinking two steps ahead at every turn. In a busy admissions office when it is possible to let things slip through the cracks, Dave does not let this happen. Week after week during on campus interview days, he is there to welcome prospective candidates to our program and he stays through the entire day to ensure that all parts of the visit go off without a hitch. His nontraditional background as a teacher has prepared him to manage an ambassador program consisting of over 100 participants all while fostering an environment of growth and inclusiveness. I have no doubt that Dave will go on to be successful in every endeavor he chooses to pursue and I can’t think of a more appropriate candidate to be honored as one of Poets & Quants – Best & Brightest MBAs, he certainly is in my regard.”

Rebecca Mallen
Associate Director
W. P. Carey Graduate Programs Admission and Recruiting

 

DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: THE STORIES OF 100 EXTRAORDINARY GRADUATES FROM THE CLASS OF 2017