2016 MBAs To Watch: Kirk Smith, Emory (Goizueta)

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Kirk Smith


Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Age: 28

Hometown: Blacksburg, VA

Education: University of Virginia, B.A. Foreign Affairs; Mercyhurst University, M.S. Applied Intelligence

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Booz Allen Hamilton as an associate providing general management consulting services to national security and defense clients in the Washington, DC area.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? 3M in Minneapolis, MN

Where will you be working after graduation? 3M as a Marketing Strategist in the Integrated Marketing Development program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School Executive Vice President, Graduate Business Association; Goizueta Admissions Ambassador; Goizueta Admissions Fellow; Goizueta Welcome Weekend 2015, Co-Chair; Leadership Coaching Fellow; Goizueta Advanced Leadership Academy; Special Olympics volunteer

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Organizing the Welcome Weekend for the 2015 admitted students is the moment I am most proud of during my time at GBS. Over the course of two days, we hosted more than 200 students and their partners at GBS. We organized an intense program that consisted of mock case simulations, career panels, and delicious Atlanta food. Bringing together more than 100 student volunteers was a new experience for me and I learned several lessons on communicating effectively. Managing the event allowed me to have a direct impact on the future of the school by allowing prospective students to make the most informed decision possible about where to attend business school … preferably, GBS.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? This summer at 3M, I worked on a digital strategy project for a division in the Healthcare Business Group. My client needed a compelling story to shift additional resources into developing a robust online presence that would increase awareness of the division’s products. The strategy represented a significant departure from current operations and I only had 10 weeks to make the case. At the end of my final presentation, my client’s manager asked me to present my strategy to more than 40 marketers at the division’s town hall the following week. By the end of the day, my client received an additional resource to work on the digital strategy full-time. The speed at which all of this occurred confirmed that I needed to work in the private sector and that 3M was the place for me to further my career.

Who is your favorite professor? Charlie Goetz is my favorite professor because of the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the classroom. As a serial entrepreneur, Charlie possesses a wealth of direct experience in creating a business idea, developing a concept, and generating profits as a successful company. This real-world experience also allows him to have fun in the classroom by challenging the students to seek alternative approaches to problems. Both of the classes I have taken with him have benefited me in all aspects of my education, not just my focus on entrepreneurship.

Favorite MBA Courses? Product and Brand Management, Applied Entrepreneurship, Consumer Behavior, Global Macroeconomic Perspectives, and Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy

Why did you choose this business school? It was the articulation of a value proposition during my Welcome Weekend visit. Goizueta perfectly blends an intimate learning environment, world-class academics, and a dynamic city into a complete package for students. The smaller class size was important to me given my attendance at a larger state school for my undergraduate degree. I wanted to attend a top-25 business school. Given my desire to work in brand management, Atlanta had several companies I was interested in working for after graduation. Although I applied to several schools, no other could bring all three elements together like Goizueta.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I enjoyed the ability to test different styles of leadership in multiple scenarios. Whether it was leading my core team through multiple assignments or being the “Captain” of a 50-foot boat in the British Virgin Islands, I was constantly pushed to work with different personalities to achieve the best results. We received constant feedback on both our leadership style and effectiveness, and the encouraging school environment allowed us to hone our skills prior to re-entering the workforce after graduation.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Slowing down can help you speed up. Before business school, I would obtain a problem, conduct a massive amount of research, and attempt to put together a solution based on the information collected. Now, I slow down my initial decision-making by focusing on breaking down the problem, determining the right question to answer, collecting the information I actually need, and then assembling a comprehensive solution. That extra step — understanding and breaking down the initial problem — benefited me immensely during my internship at 3M.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was surprised by the opportunities to travel around the world to experience different cultures and businesses. Since enrolling at GBS, I’ve travelled to 10 countries as a part of my program. Whether it was learning from hospitality NGOs in Cambodia or determining international pricing strategies in Chile, the number of international learning opportunities truly exceeded my expectations.

What was the hardest part of business school? During my first semester, I was on a team with very different personalities. There were days when it was difficult to get everyone to agree on an answer to a particular assignment. The case load is too great for any one person to take on by themselves and so you needed to work together as a team to complete the tasks assigned. Even though we may not have been the most cohesive group, we were able to come together and submit high-quality assignments to pass our core curriculum.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Think through your career progression beyond your first job out of business school, especially if you are seeking nontraditional career paths. Although my career goal is to work for a global athletic apparel company, positions for MBAs are rare and incredibly competitive. By plotting out my career and building skills that would be attractive for my ideal companies, I laid out a distinct plan two, five, 10 years out. This demonstrated my understanding of not only the skills required for my future job, but also the reason why I needed an MBA from GBS to get there.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… the change I envisioned for the world was not going to be accomplished through the current structure of the public sector. To have the impact I desired, I needed to move into a different industry that moves at a faster pace to address social and technological needs in society.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… working as an independent contractor for a government agency while coaching athletes outside of the office.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire I admire Kevin Plank, the founder and CEO of Under Armour. His original business idea was to improve athlete performance by building a better shirt. What started as a simple concept turned into a multibillion-dollar empire. In addition to wanting to improve athletes, he also wanted to directly take on the industry leader, Nike. I respect the competitive spirit of Mr. Plank and I love the underdog role that Under Armour is playing to take over the world of sports.

What are your long-term professional goals? Become CMO of a Fortune 500 company, preferably focusing on sports apparel; serve on the Board of Directors of the Special Olympics.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would have to go back to my childhood and say my father. When I was 10, he called me out for not taking advantage of an opportunity to learn golf at a clinic in my hometown. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that moment fundamentally transformed who I was and created an incredible work ethic that sustains me to this day. In addition to this formative experience, my father also had a heart transplant in 2012. During his time in the hospital, I realized that I needed to take control of my career and not rely on the circumstances handed to me. That introspection led to me applying to business school and attending GBS to completely change my career progression.

Fun fact about yourself: I am a personal trainer with a Level 1 CrossFit certification

Favorite book: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Favorite movie: Gladiator

Favorite musical performer: Third Eye Blind

Favorite television show: “The Blacklist”

Favorite vacation spot: Charleston, SC

Hobbies? Teaching and playing golf, CrossFit, reading on the beach, swimming, running, cooking with no recipes, road-tripping with friends, soccer, flag football, volunteering with Special Olympics

What made Kirk Smith such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Kirk’s desire and willingness to develop his leadership skills are unmatched by any MBA student I have ever seen at Goizueta. He has been active in every leadership opportunity possible, including the highly visible role of executive vice president of our student government, as well as in the behind-the-scenes work of helping the program improve its operations. Kirk stepped forward early and often in his efforts to develop and help the school. The best example of this is that immediately following his MBA orientation activities, Kirk showed up in my office with thoughtful feedback and ideas for improving the experience and outcomes. This led to a semester-long project, primarily influenced by Kirk’s enthusiasm to “always be a consultant,” which resulted in a complete redesign of our on-boarding process for all incoming full-time MBA students. A key feature of this redesign is one week of academic prep for all incoming students, led by our core faculty members, immediately preceding the first week of class. The scale of this change was significant. However, the outcomes have been well worth it from the standpoint of our faculty and students. There is no question that for this reason, and many others, Kirk Smith is leaving Goizueta a better place than he found it.”

Brian Mitchell

Associate Dean

Full-Time MBA Programs 

Emory University, Goizueta Business School



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