Meet The MBA Class Of 2023: Nicholas Heyward, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Nicholas Heyward

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Passionate, business-minded person who loves new adventures and pushing the boundary of what’s possible.”

Hometown: Bowie, Maryland

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a huge car enthusiast! Instead of Netflix, my quarantine hobby became modifying my car in the garage to Stage 2 performance.

Undergraduate School and Major: Morehouse College, Business Administration

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:  PepsiCo, Finance Analyst

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Kenan-Flagler’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I previously had a successful career in corporate finance but was looking to explore opportunities in a new industry. My first attraction to UNC Kenan-Flagler’s program was the cooperative environment it fosters for students. Collaboration is strongly encouraged, bringing people with a wide variety of prior work and education experiences together. This in addition to opportunities for real-world application of what is learned in the classroom fit my personality and how I’d like to develop as a leader in the business world.

Aside from the learning environment, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s real estate concentration played a big part in my decision to attend the school. UNC has one of the largest real estate programs in the nation, making it the perfect place for me to be exposed to and learn about the industry. During my search, I had a great conversation with Jim Spaeth, executive director of the Wood Center for Real Estate Studies, who reassured me that the transition was not only possible at UNC, but also would set me up for long-term success in the industry.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Kenan-Flagler? I hope to join many clubs during my time at UNC. With clubs for professional help and others for hobbies and other interests, it’s truly hard to choose which ones to join. Diversity and inclusion are very important to me and so the clubs I’d like to join are centered around those efforts at UNC Kenan-Flagler. The Alliance of Minority Business Students and Black Business Student Association is exciting because they foster the development of other students like me who are seeking to further their education and brainstorm ways to attract potential students in the future. I’m also a Vetter Dean’s Fellow, which is a great opportunity to connect with students, faculty and employers coming to campus. My goal is to leverage these organizations to help improve diversity and inclusion efforts within UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment so far was the successful creation, launch and implementation of a model I developed to track potential and closed national new business accounts within Frito Lay’s Foodservice Sales organization. Prior to the model I developed, each region had a siloed file to track over $500 million of potential accounts, which was hard for leadership to aggregate and develop new business insights. Through cross-functional partnership with the sales organization, I developed a standardized way to measure and evaluate sales across the U.S. Implementing these standards into a functional tool. It was challenging, but through research I created a user-friendly tool with reports that can be leveraged cross functionally during sales and finance reviews.

I also oversaw the implementation of the program across each region and the newly-formed National New Business Team. This meant developing training materials and sessions informing stakeholders on how to leverage the new tool to manage accounts in their territory. This project gave me exposure to many people in the sales organization and senior leadership, while deepening my knowledge of programs like Excel, and was crucial to my success at Frito Lay.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? During the pandemic my perspective shifted in many ways. First, my gratitude for the small things in life increased tremendously. Never before would I have imagined a day that grocery store shelves would be empty or toilet paper would be nowhere to be seen. Luckily, I was able to continue working but I know many people who lost their jobs due to COVID. Appreciating all of the small things seemed lost in my daily life but now I wake up grateful each day.

My perception of work, more specifically the office, changed as well. Transitioning from the Frito Lay headquarters to walking downstairs to log in from my living room made life more convenient, but also meant not being able to grab lunch with coworkers I became close with. Zoom made days feel much longer, but also turned the family pictures that once sat on my manager’s desk to young children popping in to say hi during meetings.  As I’m looking for where the next steps of my career will be, I’m re-evaluating what my own expectations of an ideal work environment looks like.

What is the most important quality of a leader…and why is it so important to success? The most important quality of a leader to me is empathy. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen how different people have reacted to change and unrest. In order to succeed, effective leaders need to understand where their teammates are coming from to develop a strategy both the leader and team member could follow to succeed. Knowing the strengths each person brings to the table provides the foundation for leaders to think strategically, communicate effectively, and develop the skills of their team.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? While I loved my experience in corporate finance, I wanted to pivot from the food and beverage industry. I felt like I was reaching a plateau in my career and wanted to push myself to reach the next level of opportunities while expanding my network. I saw an MBA as my opportunity to do just that, providing the space and time to explore new industries and challenge myself academically.

After graduation, I would like to pursue a career within real estate. During my senior year at Morehouse College, I took a course on real estate finance and really enjoyed it. Looking to expand on that, I’d like to learn more about the industry while at UNC and pursue roles within development or corporate real estate services post-graduation. I’m also looking forward to becoming involved with non-profit organizations primarily focused on mentoring youth.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UNC Kenan-Flagler was the first and only MBA program I applied to.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Kenan-Flagler’s MBA program? First and foremost, be yourself! My class at UNC Kenan-Flagler is a collection of students coming from a wide variety of places, industries, and backgrounds. It may sound simple, but make sure you give the school a holistic view of you not only within the application but in your conversations with admissions, students and faculty. Second, having a plan for school is very important to communicate. The full-time program at UNC Kenan-Flagler is two years, but it goes by fast. Even if you’re not 100% certain, having some form of plan for what you’d like to study and pursue for internships and post-graduation is very helpful.


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