Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Jackson Keyes, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Jackson Keyes

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“I’m not the smartest person in the room, but I’ll always be the most resourceful.”

Hometown: Chesapeake, Virginia

Fun Fact About Yourself: In my free time, I manage music talent in the Hip-Hop/Rap genre.

Undergraduate School and Major: (Include Graduate School if Relevant)

Old Dominion University, BA, English

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deloitte Consulting LLP, senior management consultant

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Fit. Culture is critical and I felt right at home with UNC Kenan-Flagler. I think so many elements are important, like geography for recruiting, industry strengths, campus life, etc., but if you aren’t a good fit your experience can suffer.

UNC Kenan-Flagler culturally felt much like the things I loved about Deloitte. After speaking with students who either came from or went to Deloitte, I saw many cultural similarities that resonated with me.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Everyone I have met so far has been not only friendly but also approachable and very willing to help each other. It was this brand of helpfulness that drew me to UNC Kenan-Flagler in the first place. It’s encouraging and energizing to see classmates with similar qualities and values were drawn here as well.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? The Emerging Markets Club!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I helped develop a strategic planning initiative for a very large organization. Usually, with my clients, I get exposure to key decision-makers, often at VP or C-suite levels.

With one particular engagement, part of this planning effort involved a sentiment analysis with employees at every level of this organization’s hierarchy. This process gave me the opportunity to hear from everyone at the organization, not just the top brass. Being able to work with the employees who fuel such a large entity was incredibly rewarding because the work we did was able to make their work lives substantially better. Helping others has always been important to me, and it was great to experience this first hand in my role as a consultant.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I always knew that I wanted to leave consulting and commit to a single industry.

I have five years of experience and have been able to be successful in my functional roles thus far. With my recent promotion, more business development responsibilities were expected of me; I knew that I did not want to continue on that path in the consulting space specifically. So at this point in my career, it makes sense for my trajectory as I am ready to “pivot to industry.”

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UVA Darden, Cornell Johnson, USC Marshall, Vanderbilt Owen

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?

“Please describe in detail a time when you disagreed with a supervisor/boss about a decision they made. What happened?”

This is a very challenging question because, in my opinion, there are a lot of “fluffy” ways to tackle this question. I chose to take a risk and talk about a time in which my boss and I disagreed on the direction of a client deliverable, in which I had to defend a dissenting opinion that ultimately was accepted.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized a few things when determining my fit. The first of which was that I pulled out the things I loved about my work, my learning style, and networking preferences. Once I had my list, I started reaching out to students and alumni and tried to find patterns and draw parallels between what I wanted out of a program and what UNC Kenan-Flagler, along with other schools, had to offer.

The second was an element of student camaraderie, which can be quite difficult to measure from the outside. I always have found that in my work life, it didn’t matter if you were the brightest person on a work team. If you couldn’t play nicely with the other boys and girls, it didn’t matter. You had to have some level of camaraderie to be a truly high functioning team, and I wanted a similar culture with my MBA program.

Lastly, I evaluated consistency. Other programs were spotty on communications or came across as unprofessional at times, which can be a huge turn-off when evaluating programs. UNC Kenan-Flagler gave me an immensely positive and consistent experience from start to finish and that is what helped seal the deal for me.

All of the aforementioned aspects are important to me because this is the type of program I wanted to associate myself with, and the types of people I wanted to spend the next two years building relationships with. These elements of community are what I am looking to find with my next job, as I further my career.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? During the recent recession and while we faced COVID economic consequences, Deloitte executed many layoffs in staggering, abnormal numbers. Many jobs were lost and promotions were scarce for those who remained.

I was, fortunately, able to not only keep my job but also be promoted amidst all of the chaos. I have had highs and lows of my career, as we all do. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to see how good you truly are at your job. Being promoted during a critical time in firm history gave me the confidence to recognize my strengths and help me realize that I am indeed good at what I do. I think this was the final push that helped me believe in myself, that if I can be successful in “the field”, then I can use this confidence to help double down on my talents and strength areas during my MBA program.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? The Walt Disney Company. Speaking specifically to culture, Disney has been an industry leader in the last several years in strategic acquisitions and has done a fantastic job with keeping unique cultural elements of acquired entities while still successfully integrating these entities into the company at large.

Being a practitioner in M&A myself, it can be incredibly difficult to integrate cultures while retaining the value and uniqueness of acquired entities. The Disney/Pixar acquisition is a great example of this. Business students could take many lessons from Disney in this regard, as they are able take a very complicated, intimate aspect of a business and navigate mergers and acquisitions very effectively from this lens.

DON’T MISS: Meet The MBA Class Of 2022: The COVID Cohorts

                            Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2022