2020 MBAs To Watch: Brian D. Washington, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Brian D. Washington

Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University

“I may not be the strongest or smartest, but I will always work the hardest.”

Hometown: Dallas, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I spent a month of leave while on active duty in Ambalongoda, Sri Lanka volunteering on a sea turtle conservation project. We fed them manually since, due to the ingestion of plastic pollution and losing fins from becoming entangled in fishing nets, all of them were disabled beyond their ability to submerge themselves to feed.  We removed parasites and cleaned their shells (living in stagnant seawater promotes algae buildup), scrubbed their tanks, cleaned the local beaches, tended to their wounds, and I even got to nest over 150 Leatherback sea turtle eggs.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Maryland Global, BS in HR Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? U.S. Navy, Sr. Acoustic Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? I interned in T-Mobile’s L2E program developing performance analytics in the Nashville, TN call center.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’ll be working with T-Mobile as a Senior Associate in their Leaders to Executives (L2E) Development Program. I’ll also be working with my fiancé to expand LadderTop Interiors, our executive interior design firm.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Serving as President of Pride@Cox for a year-and-a-half has been one of the most fulfilling positions I’ve held to date. The role has enabled me to work with some fantastic Dallas non-profits like our local branch of the Human Rights Campaign, the Dallas Hope Charities, The Family Place, DFW Pride, and the GLBT Chamber of Commerce. Pride@Cox was also able to raise over $2,500 dollars for the AIDS Services of Dallas in 2019. Aside from my position in Pride@Cox, I served as a Cox Admissions Ambassador, a Brierley Institute for Customer Engagement Fellow, and as an Orientation Leader for the MBA class of 2021. I am also a proud recipient of the David B. Miller Scholarship. The scholarship has allowed me the opportunity to attend SMU Cox and I will be forever grateful to Mr. Miller for his generous gift.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I became the President of Pride@Cox (then known as Strategic Alliance) before matriculating. Although it was unorthodox for a first-year student to lead a club, I believed in the club’s ability to work together to create change and had a strong support system among faculty members. I immediately became passionate about strengthening the relationship between SMU Cox and potential LGBTQ candidates. During our first year, Pride@Cox formed relationships with several local charities, Reaching Out MBA and the Greater Dallas LGBTQ community. I am very proud to say that my team, with the help of our amazing admissions team, was able to establish a ROMBA Fellowship at Cox.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In the summer of 2017, while deployed to 7th Fleet out of Yokosuka, Japan, I was honored with the designation of Search & Rescue Team Lead. Although this position was collateral to my primary duties, it became a personal passion of mine because it granted me the ability to directly assist in search and rescue missions when a sailor or marine fell overboard during missions and exercises. I occupied this role during the collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain and was able to contribute to the process of locating the 17 sailors lost in the incidents. Although it is extremely unfortunate that lives were lost in those events, I will forever be honored to have been recognized by my command with that responsibility and grateful to have had the opportunity to obtain the specific skills required to be successful.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Marcus Butts teaches Leading Teams and Organizations as well as People and Organizational Analytics and does a phenomenal job of teaching how to solve the myriad problems facing teams at work and how to apply an advanced level of statistical analysis to solve “softer” business problems. His method of teaching set a high bar for my business school professors, and I hope students continue to take advantage of the value that he brings to SMU Cox.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Boulevard, SMU’s version of tailgating. It was a fun way for the familial nature of the alumni and current study body to come together and root for the SMU Mustangs.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose SMU because, throughout the application process, Cox School alumni and students treated me as if I were already one of them. The familiar nature of Mustang MBAs indicated to me that throughout my time in b-school, I would be surrounded by people who considered success to be second nature. Our career resources are second-to-none as well. Pivoting from the military with my management background, they helped me narrow down what I should look for when targeting firms and specific LDPs (Leadership Development Programs). They did a fantastic job of helping me find what I’m passionate about in a career.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Don’t try to be the candidate you think admissions wants. Beyond the typical “be yourself” advice, I recommend digging deep and being vulnerable. At your very core, find what makes you unique because that is where you’re also going to find what makes you valuable – to business school and employers alike.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Being from rural Texas, I had always heard that beyond their intelligence, Cox grads are known for their work ethic. You’ll hear echoes of this myth while attending. Just as you’re about to realize it may be true, you realize you should be working on something.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? There is no shortage of things to do while in business school. Going into my first year, I wanted to take it all in and make the most of my two years. I went to every networking event I could, joined every club, committed to community service, and still wanted to do more. Fortunately, I realized that burnout was imminent because of some conversations with Graduate Services. It’s encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities given to us throughout business school, but I needed to be a bit more deliberate in choosing commitments with the highest value for my particular goals. Thankfully, I realized this with enough time to make my second year much more deliberate.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’ve had the pleasure of being in several classes and group projects with Wesley Clingman, along with the distinct joy of having her as a friend.  Wesley is by far one of the kindest people I know. She is extremely intelligent, courageous, and is always enthusiastic about helping others. I speak for my entire class when I say that we are all fortunate to have her and look forward to hearing about her achievements.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? During my first two years of undergrad, I worked as a store manager for a retail chain and had the most amazing mentor, Mohamed Elsadig. He was the embodiment of a strong business leader and helped me realize I was passionate about learning to be a great coach and mentor. When I would come to him with a problem, he always had the answer. What made him special was his ability to make me realize that I also had the answer, I just needed to look at the problem from a different angle, trust in my own abilities, and never fear failure.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Write a book
  2. Earn a seat on a Board of Directors for a Non-Profit

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered as someone that lives a life full of purpose, and that maintains a strong set of values that permeates every decision I make.

Hobbies? Skeet shooting, scuba diving, horseback riding, weightlifting, cooking, taking our dogs to the park, and spending time with family.

What made Brian such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Brian Washington brings together the best qualities of a military veteran, a multicultural student, and the LGBTQ community. His pioneering spirit has motivated his leadership of Pride@Cox and made a broad, positive impact by bringing our LGBTQ students into collaboration with Women in Business, Veterans in Business, our International Club, and Net Impact. Brian builds bridges and brings communities together to focus on common problems and opportunities. His great care for others enables him to lead by example, always supporting and encouraging his team and those around him. As an Asian American LGBT veteran of the US Navy who has traveled the world and encountered any number of cultures and challenges in working with others, he approaches new projects and situations strategically—putting to use the best of his military and life experiences. If I could, I would clone Brian Washington, or at least his tenacity as a trailblazer.”

Steve Denson
Director of Diversity and Adjunct Professor, Management and Organizations
SMU Cox School of Business


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