2019 MBAs To Watch: Eric Castle, University of Texas (McCombs)

Eric Castle

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Picture Andre 3000, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Don Cheadle, and Eeyore on a long road trip.”

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Fun fact about yourself: Every year I challenge myself to learn a new skill. I’ve tried my hand at all kinds of things from photography to motorcycles to DJ’ing. This year I’ve taken up boxing. I’m going to keep this up until I can put “Renaissance Man” in my LinkedIn tagline.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I completed the Dual-Degree Engineering Program at Morehouse College in partnership with the Missouri University of Science & Technology, receiving Bachelor of Science degrees in General Science and Engineering Management, respectively.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Before graduate school, I worked for General Mills for seven years, across two manufacturing sites in roles of increasing responsibility. My last role was as a maintenance manager.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I spent my summer in Boulder, CO working for Google on their gTech Global Customer Care team.

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation I will be returning to Google, gTech Global Customer Care working as a manager out of the New York office.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow – McCombs Co-Liaison
  • McCombs Board Fellows – YMCA Austin
  • McCombs Center for Leadership & Ethics Fellow
  • Elevate: McCombs Diversity & Inclusion Conference – Committee Member
  • Austin CAN Academy – Volunteer Mentor

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of being a part of the planning committee for the Inaugural McCombs Diversity & Inclusion Conference, “Elevate,” which was created by DeAndrea Staes and Ashley Fox. We had dynamic speakers and enthusiastic attendees who showed that there is a desire for programming focused on diversity and inclusion in Austin that takes a candid approach to help underrepresented minorities excel in the current business environment. I can’t wait to see how this grows over the next several years, and I take pride in knowing I was present for the beginning of something great for both the school and the community.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Over the course of seven years at General Mills, I am most proud of the work I did as a member of the Black Champions Network, the resource group supporting African American employees. I served in several capacities, including Chapter President, and it allowed me the opportunity to mentor and build relationships with early career engineers. Serving them invigorated me in a way that reignited my desire to obtain an MBA. I am far prouder of their continued accomplishments than any of the other projects I led.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor John Doggett and I have a love-hate relationship that is rooted in mutual respect. His pedagogical approach pushed me to be ready to strongly defend my ideas with thorough data analysis. He also taught me about managing up, picking my battles, risk-taking, and seizing the opportunity. Professor Doggett manages the case method of instruction better than anyone else I’ve experienced and always finds a creative takeaway from the lessons that I don’t see coming. He is also one of the most well-traveled people I have met and his global experiences bring a lot of interesting context to the classroom.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite course was Opportunity Identification & Analysis taught by Professor John Doggett. Through our analysis of numerous business ventures, I learned how much our own experiences, biases, and motivations impact the way we approach new opportunities. It highlighted how my engineering experiences incentivized a tendency towards risk mitigation. However, the risk mitigation mindset can be a hindrance in executive decision-making. By the end of the class, I had learned a lot about how I will need to embrace risk-taking when pursuing growth opportunities.

Why did you choose this business school? McCombs, by way of its Austin location, finds itself at the intersection of tech and entrepreneurship. My interest in tech operations and the opportunity to join the program at an inflection point placed McCombs at the top of my list. The construction of our state-of-the-art MBA building, and the increased focus on diversity and inclusion made McCombs the best environment for me. I am grateful to look back at my time on campus and be able to confidently say that I made the right choice.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? At McCombs the two quotes you will hear most often are, “What starts here, changes the world” and “Human-Centered. Future Focused”. As you build your application and prepare for your interviews, take time to do some serious reflection about how your life’s work aligns with these statements. What are you doing to impact the world around you now and in the future? Who is motivating you to bring your best self to that effort? When you can answer those questions, then you will have the key to communicating the value you can bring to this campus. And if you can get all of that into an elevator pitch without sounding thirsty, you have as good of a shot as anyone else!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I haven’t been keeping up with what the kids are saying in the MBA forums these days, but I would like to make an important distinction for those considering McCombs: While McCombs is one of the more collaborative and team-oriented business schools, it is not any less academically rigorous. You will earn your degree.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I’d known for sure that I belonged in a top-tier graduate program. Imposter syndrome is a very real mental health issue and any success I achieved at McCombs was directly facilitated by getting that worry off my shoulders. If I could coach myself from two years ago, I would tell myself that MBA programs do extensive vetting to reduce the chance of imposters sneaking in. Your acceptance is the confirmation that you are ready to go be great.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school was most transformative through the exposure to seemingly endless possibilities. As I got to learn about my classmates’ previous work and future goals, I was most surprised by the number of roles I never knew existed. My McCombs education has reinforced my belief that the root of every job title is “problem solver” and that with the right mindset, I can become a solution.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Picking one classmate is difficult. As a collective, the McCombs Class of 2019 is incredibly impressive, and I must say that I am particularly fond of my Consortium for Graduate Study in Management family who has kept me focused on my mission throughout this journey. Of that awesome Consortium family, I must highlight the tag team of Ashley Fox and DeAndrea Staes. What the world needs more of are leaders who can not only come up with new ideas but also execute to bring those ideas to fruition. Ashley and DeAndrea are the best examples of that kind of leadership at McCombs.

Both women held multiple leadership roles on campus: Ashley as President of the Graduate Marketing Network and Vice President of the Sports, Entertainment and Media Association and DeAndrea as President of the Black Graduate Business Association and Co-Liaison of the Consortium. They applied their skills and passions towards creating something new at McCombs. Together they developed and executed McCombs’ first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Conference, Elevate.

From developing the conference vision to raising funds, and securing outstanding speakers, Ashley and DeAndrea worked tirelessly for the better part of a year to bring this event to campus and delivered a high-quality experience on top of all their other responsibilities. As a result of their efforts, the Elevate conference has established a Diversity scholarship fund and created a way to connect McCombs to the diverse Austin community. These rising stars have my utmost respect and I am grateful to have served under their leadership.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I always hoped to complement my engineering background with an MBA that would give me the analytical skills and credibility to lead technical teams at an executive level. However, my continued advancement and loyalty to General Mills led me to postpone making a move. My then-girlfriend (and now amazing wife), Ryan, gave me the nudge to revisit my goals and most importantly, my motivations, which got the MBA ball rolling again. She gave me the gentle reminder that sometimes complacency is the enemy to progress.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Pursuit of Happyness is one of Will Smith’s best performances and teaches a valuable lesson about how grit and networking can take you further than talent and intellect alone. Another less obvious gem is that if you can sell, you will always have a competitive advantage in business – granted you aren’t selling obsolete tech.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? I wish I could have created a supercut of all the times “synergies” was used in class. After two years of observation, my best guess is that it means, “I didn’t read the case, but I’m not going to let that stop me.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a project engineer in New York, coaching teams about the value of preventative maintenance practices in waste reduction and safety improvement, while contemplating the next sneaker to add to my collection.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I’m not sure what the NPV is on my McCombs education, but I am certain that it is far more than I paid for it (opportunity cost included). My MBA facilitated a pivot to my dream company where I will get to solve problems I’m passionate about with the kind of people who motivate me to bring my A-game. Along the way, it introduced me to some of the most impressive people I have ever met and friends that I will keep for life.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Take an ancestry test and visit the ethnic groups of my lineage.
  2. Join the board of a Fortune 100 company.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as a man who earned his participation grade with only his most value-added thoughts, who never passed up a chance to wear a fresh pocket square, and who genuinely cared about helping others succeed.

Hobbies? Portrait photography, boxing, movie binging, sneaker collecting, lemon pepper wing mastery, tech enthusiast

What made Eric such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Eric Castle is an agile and humble leader in the class of 2019. Eric embodies the typical Texas McCombs student in his easy-going yet passionate pursuit of excellence. Eric came to the program with high expectations for himself, his peers and our program. That commitment to a high standard in all he does—in the classroom, the program, and the greater Austin community—raises the bar for everyone around him. We are all better off for having Eric in the program.

During his time in school, Eric served as a Center for Leadership & Ethics Fellow, Co-Liaison for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and a member of the committee that developed our inaugural Elevate: McCombs Diversity and Inclusion Conference. In the greater Austin community, Eric represented McCombs as a Board Fellow with YMCA Austin and a mentor with Austin CAN Academy, where he helped a student get back on a path to high school graduation and on track to pursue an engineering degree.

For his classmates, Eric raises the discourse in the room. During his time at McCombs, Eric participated in conversations both formal and informal to raise the bar for the program and our development of truly inclusive leaders. As Professor Ethan Burris says, “Eric is a rare combination of being soft-spoken and fierce. His insight into leadership and establishing compelling team cultures pushed his peers, elevating their understanding of the nuances involved in managing others.” He served as a mentor to first-year students to help them develop their leadership skills, and he was an ever-present resource for prospective students imparting wisdom and insight well beyond the scope of the standard conversation about why business school.

Professor John Doggett characterized Eric as “a breath of fresh air in class. He is always prepared, very insightful and consistently adds to the development of an understanding of his classmates. What is really cool about Eric, however, is his understated brilliance. I love pushing him on his ideas because invariably those conversations reveal a level of analysis and understanding that is truly breathtaking.”

When he leaves McCombs, Eric will join Google in New York City. I know that his ability to work with others, raise the bar and make things happen will be a legacy he leaves wherever he goes.”

Tina Mabley

Assistant Dean of the Full-Time MBA Program

Are you a friend of Eric? Leave a comment to congratulate him.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.