2021 MBAs To Watch: Roderick Milligan, Dartmouth (Tuck)

Roderick Milligan

Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business

“An optimist that sees the best in people and their ability to transcend challenging situations.”

Hometown: Augusta, Georgia

Fun fact about yourself: Based on 23andMe, I share an ancient paternal lineage with Pharaoh Ramesses III. Of course, I had a big head for a year; ask my wife.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S., Electrical Engineering, Tuskegee University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Chevron, Characterize and Define Drilling and Completion Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Apple, Cupertino, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Apple, Global Supply Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Diversity Equity & Inclusion Chair
  • Dartmouth College Inaugural SVP/Senior Diversity Officer Selection Committee
  • Center for Digital Strategies Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?
I was on the search committee for Dartmouth’s inaugural SVP/Senior Diversity Officer. I was honored to be a part of the search committee because the role will report directly to the president of Dartmouth and will help foster a culture that the board of trustees sees as the true values of the Dartmouth community. It is rewarding to have an impact during the moment, but it’s more fulling when that impact will outlast your time at the institution. Helping to select the candidate who will help transform Dartmouth’s campus made me proud of the role I played in Dr. Delalue’s future contributions to the faculty, staff, and students of Dartmouth—even if it is one person.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
Completing the development of a Saltwater Disposal Well (SWD) was my proudest career moment. The project lasted eight months and required an intensive amount of cross-functional collaboration to bring it to completion. The project taught me the importance of communication and leading with uncertainty. As an engineer, I was managing multiple stakeholders who required different levels of guidance and detail. This SWD tested my ability to manage a team of experts to safely drill a well that was critical to our asset’s success. Overall, I grew to appreciate the transformative power of collaborative leadership.

Why did you choose this business school? Tuck’s network was a focal point for me. I graduated from a small university, but the network was strong and responsive. I wanted to join a business school that mirrors the same experience I received from my alma mater. My alma mater’s supportive network enabled me to start my energy career, and I saw the same support from Tuck’s alumni before I decided to matriculate at Tuck. In my experience, networks can create opportunities that are not available to the masses. I wanted those opportunities to be open to me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Teresa Fort is my favorite professor at Tuck. She brings her whole self to the classroom, and I love the passion that she exhibits during class. She is one of the professors who teaches Tuck’s Managerial Economics course. For me, she made economics exciting and digestible. In her Research to Practice class, she compelled us to make practical managerial insights from the researchers’ findings. Professor Fort is a fantastic lifelong mentor who has an open-door policy.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Tuck Talks is by far my favorite tradition. Tuck students and partners share their life stories with the Tuck community and inspire us to grow in empathy and appreciation for fellow members of the Tuck community. Tuck Talks reflects the transformative experience one acquires while at Tuck and will make you appreciate the individuality of people as well as the similarities we share.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?
I would be more intentional in building relationships with people outside of my classes and extracurricular activities. We usually build relationships with people who share our common interests or backgrounds. I started speaking to people that I didn’t know well right before school went virtual. If done differently, I would be more open to meeting people earlier in my MBA journey. People are the foundation to one’s future success, and having a broad network of individuals that one can call on is invaluable. The people I’ve met at Tuck have given me perspective, support, and an ear when I’ve most needed them.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: It’s a small, close-knit community.

Reality: It’s more of a family. I expected the Tuck faculty and staff to be open but not extremely receptive to the students. In reality, the dean, faculty, and staff even participate in Halloween and Christmas parties for Tiny Tuckies. You can quickly contact professors if you have questions during your internship or career search, and they do not turn down a problem. They participate in student-led events/traditions and add to the “Tuck experience.”

What surprised you the most about business school? I figured I would get some financial, strategy, marketing, and operational hard skills. But I didn’t think I would grow as much in my soft skills. Business school has given me a better insight on how to communicate effectively, lead with empathy, and learn from my failures while recognizing my successes.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I talked mostly about my failures and briefly about my successes. My failures helped shape me, and they gave me the capacity to empathize with others. Failures are a beautiful thing if one can really grow from them.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Anna Douglas T’21 is a humble, self-aware individual who speaks from the heart. She’s comfortable admitting her areas of improvement while being confident in her strengths. She’s open about her experiences as a Naval Officer and her passion for spotlighting the workplace’s inequities. She speaks to these issues in a way that invites others to listen and change. She is an inspiring leader that will better the world of business.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Very disruptive! I had a son who I had to watch during class and a wife who was working full-time. Like others in a similar situation as mine, I had to balance paying attention to my son while being attentive during class. Eventually, my wife started working part-time, which allowed me to focus more during class.

However, where there is disruption, there are opportunities to innovate and evolve. I spent more time with my family and found new friendships within my community. I learned how to smoke meat and cut my hair. And while nothing is like in-person classes, the virtual classes allowed the case protagonist to be present during the class discussions. I enjoyed hearing the protagonist’s perspective after analyzing the case.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mentor, Boun Sananikone, influenced me to pursue my MBA, although he advised me to explore all my options before I went to Tuck. I wasn’t ignorant of the role I played to help the company deliver its financial objectives, but I only knew my part. I wanted to learn more about the business side, and Boun enlightened me on how my contributions aligned with the corporate strategy. Engineers can get tunnel vision when it comes to executing their projects. It’s great to deliver a project under budget and on time, but knowing how one’s decisions affect the enterprise is empowering. Boun inspired me to be not only a great engineer but also an effective business leader that understands the big picture.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to lead a team that develops a technology that transforms the way we engage with one another. And I want to start a company that will provide former inmates with a career that expands beyond the jobs available to them today.

What made Roderick Milligan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Roderick Milligan has been a standout scholar and leader in the class of 2021 because he is a smart, strategic thinker who gets things done by inspiring others to show up for themselves and each other with authenticity, curiosity, and hope. His ability to acknowledge the trials and tribulations that his peers have faced this past year, while also encouraging them to continue to pursue their goals and dreams, has been remarkable to watch. Rod has consistently inspired action and change with his strong work ethic, sound judgment, and a dedication to co-creating a Tuck culture that values high performance while also lauding collaboration, empathy, and inclusion. Students like Rod care deeply about others, and work to ensure that their peers emerge from their shared MBA experience with more skills, tools, resources, and relationships to help them continue to evolve into the leaders that they want to be.

I have worked with Rod most closely in his role as a member of Tuck’s Student Board in his capacity as the Chair for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. In light of the events of 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the national reckoning with race in America, Rod’s peers began to look to him as an example and tone-setter with his high integrity, optimism, and his ability to build trust across all facets of the community by leaning into vulnerability. Rod earned the appreciation and admiration of the administration because we could feel his genuine affection for his peers illustrated through his non-judgmental approach to relationship and community building and the humility that he brings to each team, project, or endeavor.

I have so enjoyed watching Rod lead groups and teams because he has an ability to create an environment that has a wonderful blend of high energy, high performance, warmth, and collaboration that leads to high quality and high impact. From leading the “Controversial Conversations” program during his first year to bringing his vision of an Allyship conference co-hosted with multiple peer MBA programs to life in his second year, Rod is the real deal. He is a hard-working self-starter who is a natural “unifier” that everyone wants on their team. It is his ability to really listen, to organize and motivate his peers, set and articulate a vision and execute to achieve his goals that make him a particularly effective agent for change. Finally, I have to laud Rod’s ability to learn new skills quickly, his resilience in the face of challenge and change, as well as his great sense of humor and lack of ego that make him a much sought after teammate, collaborator, and leader.

I cannot wait to see how Rod’s journey beyond Tuck unfolds; he and his family made the last two years a Tuck brighter, more inclusive, and better for having them with us. They will be dearly missed.”

Dia Draper
Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Tuck School of Business