Indeed, you could argue that versatility defines this year’s Best & Brightest. That quality is personified by Andrzej Antoszkiewicz, the pride of the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. The first-ever intern in the Canadian Space Agency, Antoszkiewicz led several public and non-profit teams before joining NATO, where he planned its 2014 and 2016 summits. Since then, he has moved to FIFA – soccer’s governing body – where he heads up its event planning and innovation operations.
“Leading the digital transformation at FIFA ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar allowed me to fundamentally change how the organization delivers its iconic tournaments and events,” he tells P&Q. “Throughout the process I helped define strategy, organizational transformation, and technology priorities, helping the organization become more efficient while fundamentally improving how we operate and provide services. I couldn’t have done it without the support, empowerment, and encouragement of my Chief Officer.”
McDONALD’S EXEC SHOWS SHE’S ‘LOVIN’ IT’
This is just one of the high-profile roles held by this year’s Best & Brightest. Boasting a Ph.D. in Tissue Engineering, HEC Paris’ Emma Kearney is the former head of clinical innovation and advanced research for L’Oréal. When Leslie DeMoss started at the University of Chicago’s Booth School, she led strategic advisory and business development for a boutique consulting firm catering to Asian-Pacific clients in the aerospace and defense sectors. Now, she is chief of staff for JP Morgan’s Commercial Banking, Credit Finance and Business Management division – thanks to being recruited by a Booth classmate. A decade ago, Christian Blanchet was a professional golfer who’d made 7 hole-in-ones and posted a competitive-best score of 62. Today, the NYU Stern grad is running his own men’s swimwear and travelwear brand, Marèa Maréa. And you couldn’t find a better place to be an organizational strategist than the U.S. Department of Defense – home to 2.8 million civilians, active-duty soldiers, and reservists. That’s the role played by Wharton’s Vicky Partenope, whose scope has extended well beyond her background in finance.
“Over the years, I have provided direct support to military units in the field, generated and provided information that influenced and drove U.S. government policy, led large organizations through difficult staffing and fiscal positions, and strategized and lobbied for long-term investments that will drive the direction of US international relationships for years to come. If I am proud of anything, it is of my ability to step into varied situations, assess and survey the circumstances, and drive toward the best course of action.”
Sana Mohammed beams with pride over her job too. The director of global loyalty strategy at McDonald’s, her team recently earned the Circle of Excellence Award for revenue generation. Notably, her team tripled the loyalty business from 12 to 40 markets in just two years. In the U.S. alone, Mohammed’s team built the program to 26 million members whose rewards drove a billion dollars in sales in just its first nine months. It wasn’t easy, however – as the loyalty program required coordination and collaboration between five functions and over 20 teams globally. Just how difficult was it to launch an “on-brand” program that was “consistent”, “flexible”, and “valuable”? How about this…
“Once the program construct was baked, the work had just begun,” the Kellogg MBA tells P&Q. “It included creating a new training simulator and crew incentive program; building an inter-disciplinary hub and its processes; managing a brand-new vendor to crafting 10+ market guides and manuals; developing a turnkey fraud plan; and continually iterating on the program functionality itself —all while consulting folks from every corner of the organization to do so…They then worked with markets individually to sell loyalty into leadership and franchisees, create a tailored plan—including technology, operations, and marketing, leverage learnings and best practices from other markets, pilot, and launch, step-by-step.”
OVERCOMING PTSD AND LEUKEMIA
Their career paths could be equally treacherous – and rewarding. The Haas School’s Kunal Cholera admits that he technically “failed” his first year of college – before rebounding to become top of his class and eventually director of engineering at LinkedIn. Daniel M. Prevedello started out playing in rock-n-roll bands before he entered medical school. It was a journey that led the Fisher MBA to head up academic affairs and skull base and pituitary surgery programs at the Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. George Kang came to Columbia Business School hoping to move from investment banking to the buy-side of the house – a goal he achieved…after 15 final round rejections. And David Ramirez has lived the MBA dream to its fullest. Not only did he earn an A in IMD’s ESG module, but he also turned his decarbonization model into IntellSol – a venture where he has been appointed CEO.
At Rice University, Pierre S. Aristide has a penchant for turning misfortune into opportunity. A 30-year combat veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Aristide developed the U.S. Air Force Fitness Program. During his service, he also suffered from PTSD. It was a struggle he turned into a venture – Impireum Psychiatric Group – to provide care for those experiencing similar ailments. However, Aristide endured another setback during the second semester of his EMBA program, when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Despite this, Aristide continued to pursue his degree – a decision that inspired classmates who’d considered dropping out due to the stress of work and school. Of course, Aristide found his inspiration in one of his classmates: Jason Johnson.
“Jason is one of the oncologists in our cohort who truly understood my cancer diagnosis from the onset, while my family and I were trying to make sense of it,” he tells P&Q. “He literally saved my life by coordinating my admission into MDACC, which coincidentally is one of the premier cancer treatment hospitals in the world. I can now walk across the stage and continue living a full life because of him.”
BRINGING BACK MARIAH
For Timothy Brandon Parsons, a Washington Olin MBA and mining general manager, that full life involves volunteering at church, restoring classic cars, and hiking with his daughter. Outside of Google, Cambridge Judge grad Max Silin coaches startups at Accelerate 2030 and the Google for Startups Accelerator. At Georgetown, Peter Leszczynski is raising money and devising strategy with classmates to grow a hospital in Tanzania.
“To date, our philanthropic outreach has raised over $3 million for the development of a new maternal care clinic that will break ground this summer,” he explains. “The sustainable business strategy we developed over the last six months will expand and improve care for over 200,000 Tanzanians in the next five years.”
Looking for a class celebrity? The nod would undoubtedly be given to Johntá Austin, a new graduate of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School. His claim to fame? He has won two Grammy Awards, including co-writing Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.”
“It was during a time in Mariah’s career where a lot of people had stopped believing in her even though, in my opinion, she was still a legendary artist,” Austin points out. “The song and that album (which I co-wrote four other songs on) reaffirmed what we all knew: Mariah had never lost a step. It won a Grammy and was named by Billboard as the Song of the Decade (2000s) and the No. 1 Hot 100 song of all time.”
FINDING COMEDY…IN BUSINESS
Speaking of musical talent, Seo Yeon Yoon has played cello in five symphony orchestras. Carlos Andrade, a McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA, is a standup comic whose act is “based on over 20 years of first-account observations in corporate life.” Peter Leszczynski found an original Rembrandt sketch in his parents’ attic, while U.C.-Irvine’s Anthony Chavez has been featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times – twice. And how about ESADE’s Patricia Díaz-Tendero? A Ph.D. in Psychology, she specializes in talent management and high performance, which has led her to consulting during natural disasters and terrorist acts – not to mention a stint with Real Madrid CF.
“I was an unsuccessful tennis player, but I always dreamed of the Olympics, and I made it,” she tells P&Q. “I have participated as a performance advisor to the Spanish sailing team in two Olympic campaigns, and we even won a medal in Tokyo!”
Most surprising fact about a member of the Class of 2022? Listen to this admission from Joel Harper, who builds and scales content platforms for Apple. “I didn’t have a cell phone or personal computer until I was 25, yet was able to carve out a career in the digital space,” writes the Texas McCombs grad. “When I look back at my career path, it’s astonishing how quickly technology has shaped my life.”
Pages 4-5: 101 profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest Executive MBA grads.