2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Ryan Gilbert, University of Florida (Hough)

Ryan Gilbert

The University of Florida, Hough Graduate School of Business

“Servant leader, loving father and husband, passion for continuous learning and career development.”

Hometown: Palm City, FL

Fun fact about yourself: My wife and I had our first baby, Noah, during my second year of business school

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Florida, Bachelor of Science in Finance and Sports Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Dick’s Sporting Goods, Manager of Financial Planning & Analysis

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Lowe’s, Remote

Where will you be working after graduation? Target, Senior Manager of Financial Planning & Analysis (Finance Leadership Development Program)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership Roles:

Graduate Career and Peer (GCAP) Mentor – Captain: Co-managed career mentorship program for 900+ specialty masters students. Directly managed 10 GCAP mentors and 50+ specialty masters students.

Gator MBA Gear – CEO: Led 7-person MBA retail company to generate sales to fund MBA events

Miller Retail Center – Guest Lecturer: Lectured in seminar course on data analytics in the retail industry to 100+ undergraduate students

University of Florida Athletic Association – Varsity Athlete Tutor: Tutored University of Florida varsity athletes in business and sports management courses

University of Florida MBA Admissions Office – Student Ambassador: Served as ambassador between the admissions team and prospective UF MBA students


Full-Merit Tuition Scholarship

Certified Management Accountant Scholarship Recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of serving as a Graduate Career and Peer Mentor Captain where we provide career mentorship and preparation to over 900 specialty master students. In my past job with Dick’s Sporting Goods, I discovered my passion for career development while working in various mentorship positions for the internship and full-time rotational programs. When I learned about the GCAP program during orientation, I immediately knew I wanted to be involved with this program. What I love most about working with the GCAP program is seeing students’ progression and confidence build over time from our first resume review appointment all the way to the “official LinkedIn post” where they announce their acceptance of their dream job.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My greatest professional achievement was being selected to serve on two cross-functional strategic initiative teams at Dick’s Sporting Goods. The teams, which were comprised of director and above senior leadership, were established to develop, implement, and evaluate strategic initiatives for key areas of the company. Despite being only a senior financial analyst at the time, my department Vice President and business partners elected me as the single financial representative for these teams based on my past work performance. During my time on the teams, I had the opportunity to manage the financials for strategic projects valued over $20 million and present my recommendations to company leaders like our chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, and senior vice presidents.

Why did you choose this business school? Other than the fact that I bleed Orange and Blue, I chose the University of Florida for the return-on-investment proposition. On the investment side, I was fortunate to receive a full merit-based tuition scholarship for the program, which will allow me to graduate from my program debt free. On the return side of the equation, the University of Florida MBA program is a top tier program with key relationships with top employers in the retail and CPG space. After speaking with the career services team during my interview, I felt confident that I would be able to achieve my post-graduation career goals.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? One important aspect of the UF MBA experience is to network with your cohort on an individualized level. Since most events are inclusive of the entire cohort, our program instituted Donut Chats, which randomly match you with another student every two weeks to coordinate an informal meet up. The introduction of Donut Chats speaks to the emphasis that the UF MBA puts on their students as individuals and the value of experiencing diversity within the program.

What is the biggest myth about your school? When I announced my decision to attend the University of Florida for business school, many of my peers questioned the merit of pursing an MBA if it was with an institution outside of the “top ten list”. They questioned whether the UF network would afford me the opportunities to interview with top-tier companies and if employers would even hire a Hough business student over one from Wharton, Fuqua, or Darden. While these doubts sat in the back of my head when I initially stepped foot on campus, they were quickly eliminated once I began working with our career services team. Not only does UF have a strong pipeline to some of the nation’s best employers, but our small cohort sizes allow our career services team to provide students with individualized career coaching. As a result, I was fortunate to have successfully competed with students from the nation’s premier business schools and been extended over 10 full-time job offers.

What surprised you the most about business school? I anticipated the culture of business school to mirror that of a quintessential corporate office. I expected some degree of collaboration with my peers, but really expected a high degree of internal competition and self-serving behavior for career advancement. To my surprise, these preconceived notions could not have been farther from the truth. From the moment I stepped foot on campus, my cohort fostered a supportive and caring environment which instantly bonded one another together. Everyone was quick to assist with coursework and interview preparation despite also competing for the class curve or job position.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? After submitting my application, I reached out directly to the Executive Director of Recruiting at the Hough Graduate School of business to introduce myself and set up a 1:1 phone call. By being proactive in my application process, I was able to gain another advocate within the program and showcase my interest in the University of Florida MBA program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Taylor Oldham.

In an MBA program, you rarely come across someone who is not bright and driven to succeed in their career; however, Taylor Oldham combines that mental horsepower with a rare combination of intellectual curiosity, charisma, and genuine respect for everyone that he meets. Taylor’s abundance of humility has created an obvious mindset where he approaches each interaction with his peers as a learning opportunity and a way to gain a new perspective by asking insightful questions. As our program president, Taylor has used these attributes to foster an inclusive environment of highly integrated students, which I can personally say has bettered my experience in the UF MBA program.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My biggest influence to pursue a career in business was my dad, who recently retired after 35 years of service with IBM. Although he never spoke the words, my dad was able to teach me two important aspects of business that drove me to pursue a career in business.

First, a career in business allows you to fully own your career growth and trajectory. My dad started with IBM as an on-call computer technician in Kingston, NY. I recall stories from my mom where my dad would have to abruptly leave family gatherings and holiday celebrations to service a customer’s computer. Despite the low-paying, demanding job, my dad had a vision to grow within IBM into a sales role. After, 35 years of hard work including night school, multiple geographic relocations and horizontal job movements, my dad retired as a respected sales manager for the eastern region.

The second aspect of business that my taught me is the potential for work life balance. Despite my dad’s commitment to his career over 35 years, he was never absent in my life. In fact, I cannot remember a time that he missed a ball game, skipped a family vacation, or prioritized work over family. Now that I have a child, I also strive for this balance in my life.

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

(1) While my short-term goal is to lead a team within the finance organization, my long-term goal is to have been a team leader within three distinct business functions. I have always possessed a curiosity to learn about cross-functional roles and as I will explain in the following question, the pandemic has only accelerated the need for holistic problem solving. Even if the growth opportunity is a horizontal move, I would love to challenge myself to learn new perspectives of the business.

(2) I want to serve as an executive sponsor for a post college graduate rotational program. In this role, I want to aid in the talent evaluation, program design, and participant mentorship. After completing the summer internship and 2-year leadership development program at Dick’s Sporting Goods, I became involved with their university programs, specifically as an intern project mentor, LDP rotational manager, and interview panelist. Through my career, those activities with the University Relations team have been by far the most rewarding as I knew first-hand how impactful these programs are to students.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? My career aspirations have stayed consistent throughout the pandemic. However, what has changed is my perspective on what inputs and experiences are needed to achieve my goals. First is the need to have a diverse set of experiences spanning across multiple business functions as opposed to mastery within a single area. The pandemic has been a catalyst for operational change, especially in the retail industry. The retailers that were able to successfully navigate the pandemic were those with robust leadership teams who were able to anticipate the holistic impact of the pandemic across all areas like supply chain, store operations, and treasury. This change in perspective fueled my decision to join a rotational program post-MBA, which will allow me to experience multiple areas within Target. The next significant change is where and how I need to conduct my work. Prior to the pandemic, I spent 50+ hours per week working at the Dick’s Sporting Goods office in Pittsburgh, PA. Coming out of the pandemic, this mindset of working in a physical office has shifted to working remotely to cater to my personal career goals, specifically my family. As a husband, my career aspirations also include my wife’s career goals, which is growing as a pediatric nurse practitioner at Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville, FL. The new perspective on remote work led me to accepting a fully remote job which allows both my wife and I to achieve our career goals together.

What made Ryan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Ryan Gilbert, UF MBA Class of 2022, has earned an incredibly high reputation in his program over the last two years. First, he displayed an utterly selfless approach to the job/internship search. Certainly, Ryan was tireless in his pursuit for a great post-MBA career path, but he seemed to have even more energy when it came to helping his peers. Rarely did more than a week go by without Ryan sending me a position he thought would be good for a classmate (even when he was completely finished with his own career search). He consistently asked how he could help his fellow full-time MBA classmates, and never failed to over-deliver when he was matched with more junior students for purposes of sharing career-related insights.

Additionally, Ryan’s formal supervisory role within the University of Florida’s Graduate CAP Mentorship program made him stand out for his mature and dedicated leadership. In this role, Ryan not only served as an effective career mentor for 40+ Warrington students, but he also managed a team of 10 other graduate students with similar mentee portfolios. Within this capacity, Ryan excelled for his ability to engage and excite his mentees and his direct reports alike, all while supporting a new full-time staff member within the Business Career Services office.

If all of this wasn’t enough, Ryan spent the last year fulfilling the role of CEO of Gator MBA Gear, a student-run organization that sells UF MBA branded merchandise. In this capacity, Ryan manages a team of five that are responsible for finance, product innovation, operations and strategic marketing. Ryan spent countless hours collaborating with the team researching, developing and executing enhancements to a business plan that would allow for the business to see an increase in sales and gain exposure with our current students and alumni. Additionally, he worked closely with members of the MBA administration to ensure the business was present at as many events as possible—most happening on the weekend—and developing relationships with vendors to develop a pre-order process that would allow for GMG to maximize inventory/sales. Lastly, Ryan drove the team through the appropriate channels to develop the first alumni logo that would soon be used on merchandise.

The icing on the cake of Ryan’s MBA-related accomplishments is the fact that he managed to make such an impact on our program during a very eventful time for his family; in Ryan’s second year of the program, he and his wife welcomed their first child into the world. Accordingly, it was commonplace for Ryan to cheerfully join and contribute to Zoom meetings and appointments and set up Gator MBA Gear at student-facing events, all while bouncing baby Noah in his lap. Watching Ryan learn how to balance sleepless nights as the father of a newborn with all of the impacts we have listed above has been one of the highlights of 2022 for our UF MBA program.”

Carly Escue
Director of Graduate Business Career Services

Shane C. Van Deree
Assistant Director of Engagement


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