2022 MBA To Watch: Rob Maloney, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Rob Maloney

Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School of Business

“Average talent and natural gifts, but miles of heart. Empowering teammate and multiplier. Thinking Different.

Hometown: Rocky Point, New York

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve never come across a song that I can’t Macarena to!

Undergraduate School and Degree: 

Stony Brook University, Bachelor of Mathematics

Stony Brook University, Master of the Arts in Teaching Mathematics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? A series of international/entrepreneurial endeavors that landed me at a scaling start-up blockchain company called Ritzer Technology (Translated) where I had a highly adaptive utility role as an International Finance and Product Manager in Beijing, China.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Business Development Program Manager, Customer Success, Microsoft

Where will you be working after graduation? Program Manager, Microsoft

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Founder, “Heart and Hard Work” Podcast | Director, Hispanic Business Association | Women’s Leadership Association Male Ally | Co-President, Golf Association | Leader of the Graduate Finance Association | CSL Scholar | MBA Ambassador

These are just titles and roles that individually can only tell fragmented snapshots, but in unison share the narrative of my philosophy of compassionate leadership. This MBA experience has shown me the undeniable and infectious power that being authentic and caring has in generating positive social/emotional contagion. It’s proof of the opportunities and progress that we can make possible when leading with our hearts. The influence that follows from genuine connection and consideration for ideals that are greater than us as individuals is something that I’ve put to the test in my leadership experience and will continue to for life.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Still working on it, but I would say living up to the character of teammate that I want to be for the people that care and are with me. I get a much more meaningful sense of pride from what I am able to do or share that supports someone else’s success. There are always going to be people who deserve recognition, but we get so caught up and hyper-focused on the obstacles in front of us that we forget to be recognizing. Everyone is fighting a battle most of us know nothing about, so witnessing someone for who they are and all their potential is tremendously uplifting. I especially feel proud/fulfilled when contributing to that empowerment.

Despite how overwhelming things get and how taxing the program can be, mutually supporting friends and teammates through challenges and struggles in our journeys together requires staying focused on what matters most: people. Life showed me that from when I was young, and it’s still true today: the time to be there for others is not just through adversity or only in spite of it. There are going to be obstacles at every stage of our lives and careers, but we face them in such an isolated way that we are conditioned to feel like we’re the only ones who experience them. We miss the point that we all want to be helpful teammates, partners, and friends to others, but so often we are not willing to accept help or we might not even realize yet how much we would be better off if we used some support ourselves. How can anyone be helpful if we don’t foster that community of support on both sides? That means being willing to accept, and furthermore, actively finding ways to include help and support around us. We’re so trained to think that we should be able to “go it alone” or else it makes us weak. The same patterns are everywhere, and I’m sincerely against the notion, especially acknowledging the detriment that it’s had to me personally and my mental health since I was young. Countering that, the time to support is not just when it’s convenient, but instead, right now because enduring and empathizing through personal challenges together and celebrating mutual successes are the most meaningful ways that I can imagine devoting myself. We > me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Even going back to my decision to leave for China to start working, I would say I’m most proud that I consistently chose to pursue my passion, challenge myself, and empower teammates and loved ones to not always make the stable/comfortable choice. In any language, “Hello”, “Please”, and “Thank You” have built connections and taken me further (physically, personally, and professionally) than any other 3 words. There is literally a world of possibilities and opportunities for our lives and careers if we are bold enough to ask why not.

Why did you choose this business school? With ASU being the most innovative school in America, I saw it as a place where my unconventional thinking and taking bold action cannot only be understood but would be celebrated. It is a place where my life will be impacted while being surrounded by the excellence of peers and mentors who will challenge me and constantly bring my level up. It is a place where I can make as many mistakes as I do, look like a fool as often as I do, and succeed not despite shortcomings, but because of them. It’s only because of how much I fall short, and the time spent reflecting, that I can be better for the future. The W.P. Carey School of Business has given me the chance to do that and more. My experience has been filled with incredible connections from outstanding peers to professors to professional staff who have shaped me and grown with me. I’ll carry them with me in everything that I do and everywhere I go.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? People always have such great things to say about other people in memory, but it feels so uncomfortable to bring up face-to-face. Why is that? Combating that, I’m a personal believer in giving people their kind words and flowers before it’s too late so that they have a chance to enjoy them while they are still around. It’s conflicting to make me choose only one because it feels like I am leaving the others out. I don’t have enough pages, however, so I’ll have to let them know how much they have meant to me and all of the candidates on their episodes of the podcast… Let this one be representative of the stellar quality of professors that I’ve been fortunate to learn with and from.

If I can only write about one, then I would like to recognize Ned Wellman, Associate Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship and Executive Connections Coordinator who has been so much more than just a leadership professor. He has been invested in our success since before day one at orientation, planning and preparing to maximize our experience. Ned is relentlessly searching for ways to provide better feedback and learning experiences so that we can improve in and out of the classroom. He is meticulous about the details because he does everything in his power to provide us a bounty of support, tools and resources geared towards our success. He is passionate in his beliefs, yet always open-minded to learn about how he can re-think and refine.

He takes his roles seriously and practices what he preaches as a leader by example. He stays personally invested in our success, well beyond the bounds of his job description, by making time for advice, mentoring, negotiating job offers, and even more career support. What’s more, he’s given his free time to be with us at events, has conversations about sports/interesting topics, and has even made time to join us for some friendly competition on the golf course on multiple occasions.

Ned is an exemplary model of what “Business is Personal” is all about and he is someone whom I’m grateful to stay connected with. I trust that he would make himself available to support any of us for the rest of our lives and careers because of the quality of person that he is.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Current MBAs vs Alumni Kickball event that we brought to life last year for the first time now seems that it will be a standing tradition for years to come. It’s a great example of the silly and fun creative ideas that this special group comes up with, and further reflects our bond and continued involvement after graduation. It started with a fun idea from one of my sincere friends, classmates, and role model for information transformation, Pitu Sim, and we were able to take action to make it a reality. At the time, we couldn’t get funding from traditional administrative channels. As a true testament to our resilience and “make it happen” bias for acting, we persisted in circumnavigating obstacles with innovative thinking and getting back to the basics of Stone Soup. Far beyond kickball, don’t be surprised by what this small group of big kids can and inevitably will accomplish.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? It’s tough to say that I have regrets because everything that I’ve done was a part of shaping who I am today. When we were just starting the program, in a visioneering future success letter with Dr. Janet Bruno, I wrote, “…you don’t have any regrets or what-ifs to question…”. Every mistake throughout this time has been a lesson learned and I use them as fuel to keep progressing. There have been plenty of times when I’ve come on too strong, done or said the wrong thing at the wrong time. As I continue reflecting and learning from those experiences, I hope that we don’t have to be judged by the worst thing that we’ve done. Even though it sure feels like we often are, I take solace knowing that I rooted my actions in principles and I hope that the way I strive to lead my life as a “learn-it-all” with a genuine heart is what will shine through in the end.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The mantra of W.P. Carey is that “Business is Personal”. When I showed up, I was naturally curious and skeptical about what that really looked and felt like or if it was just another marketing ploy. I have been amazed by how much this community fully buys-in to the shared belief, and I’ve spent the last year and a half maxing it out. Given the sheer breadth and number of “weak tie” connections that you make in business just by going through the motions of networking and events, I’ve been blown away with the depth of connections and meaningful interactions we’ve shared. From co-developing extracurricular and core course material to playing golf with professors and even going as far as challenging them to “students versus teachers” fitness competitions to raise money for underprivileged communities in Arizona, being in a place where ideas catch so much support and become reality brings me an incredible sense of belonging. It could be a case study to serve as an example of the power of culture.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was pleasantly surprised by how important emotional intelligence and building relationships are. Surrounded by so many professionals with years of practice and technical expertise, I was worried that I wouldn’t have the business acumen or technical skills to be able to keep up, and that I was going to be a burden and fall behind. While we are surrounded by individuals with impressive skills, what’s more, extraordinary is the care and consideration that this community cultivates to empower everyone to bring their abilities and bolster the team. This also explains the evolution of my “Stone Soup” approach to leadership by looking to bring together the best of what each member of the team has to offer and make something greater than any of us could have achieved alone.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I told the story of my life as I am one who is perpetually taking on challenges and cultivating my growth mindset. All the things I have applied myself to and achieved are an homage to how my resilience has been shaped from my previous experiences. I wrote about my resolve to make a better life and honor the sacrifices of my parents and loved ones; rather than dwelling on the hardships, I chose to stay grateful for the bounty of privileges that I have been afforded. That’s what keeps me insistent to make the most of it and create more opportunities. As much as I prefer to not talk and instead be doing, I’ve come to understand the importance and need to be able to communicate and celebrate both what I’ve done, as well as my conviction to continue to persevere. Making ourselves smaller and limiting ourselves certainly does not serve anyone, so that’s why I strive to play full-out in everything that I do. With that, what’s crucial is the follow-through because words are only powerful when we align them with action. I described my drive and how it’s bigger than me. More than just wanting to “succeed” it’s a commitment to self and honoring the sacrifices of everyone that was a part of getting me to where I am. Whether ASU, any future employer, a teammate, or a friend, when they are willing to bet on and believe in me, I’m adamant about proving them right.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Again, seriously killing me with this Most/Favorite challenge because my classmates have been so invested in both supporting me as true friends and shaping me in different capacities. If I can only choose one, then I would take this chance to recognize Monica Loza because I don’t know that she would ever get the recognition that she deserves otherwise.

Both personally and professionally, Monica is relentlessly giving for others. She is highly committed to diversity and inclusion and making sure that everyone has a seat at the table. Never in the spotlight herself and never outspoken for all that she does, but she is always curious and ready to learn. From the very first few weeks, she has been tremendously supportive and consistently made time to be there for everyone. She is often checking in on me and willing to listen when I could use someone to talk to. As someone who has overcome a variety of factors in multiple dimensions, she is a true symbol of perseverance, discipline, and picking yourself up time and time again.

I’ve felt so welcomed by her sisters and family and we have had so many great conversations at dinners as well as breaking it down on the dance floor at her sister’s wedding. We’re still working on her dance moves but we’re getting there!

Getting to know her and her choosing to invest the time in getting to know me and my story is not something everyone does. If we did, then we would have a much more understanding world. However, the fact that she does is an example of the people we meet in our lives who make us feel like we are cared for and that what we do matters. She is a part of the core group of extraordinary people who inspire me to want to be that person for someone else. I’ll always think of her looking to take care of everyone and doing it all with grace and a smile.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I didn’t know for sure at the time that I needed an MBA to live the life that I can be proud of, but especially in reflective times like these, I think back to the impactful phone call I had with my friend and fellow current MBA candidate in the program, Casey Spink. I was feeling relatively low during that time when COVID disrupted everything, but I called him for his birthday to catch up and wish him well. He started to tell me about ASU and the programs that he was looking at. The more we spoke the more I started to entertain the idea of going back to school. I already had my master’s degree, but I didn’t feel that I was where I wanted to be, and I was still driven to prove that I can be more if I get to a place where I can expand my impact. 

The theme of never wanting to look back and ask “what if” or leave an opportunity on the table came up once again. I remember that I was annoyed that I would have to study and pay the fees for the G.R.E. just for the chance to apply and I almost let that deter me. Investing in the expenses for that exam is probably the most impactful R.O.I. I’ll have in my life and career. When making decisions whether to act, I often go to a place where I imagine being at the end of my life, on my death bed surrounded by unfinished dreams and unexecuted aspirations, blaming me. It’s the fear of everything that I have the power to control and no real excuse why not that keeps me from staying complacent. I don’t want to let “one day” take my ideas and visions to the grave with me.

Growing up my father always said that “A father’s goal in life is for his kids to have a better life than his,” and he was perpetually guiding me and my siblings by instilling that, “You don’t have to be the best, you have to be your best.” He was a man who dropped out of community college because of learning disabilities and financial stress to support his family, battled depression, worked 3+ jobs, and sacrificed throughout his whole life. He did everything to make sure our family didn’t get evicted and had food, clothes, and school supplies. He gave everything for his family to try to give us a better life at the expense of his personal happiness and even health. He often didn’t know better or how to navigate all the tensions of financial burdens and was consumed with stress, but he always gave everything he had for us. I’ve stayed determined to do and be more so that I can honor everything that he, my mother, my family, and everyone who has been a part of my development has given so that I can have the opportunities for a better life. On August 17, 2016, three years before he passed, he earned his associate’s degree from Nassau Community College in Long Island, New York… 40 years after dropping out. That’s grit.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?  Less of a bucket list and more of actionable goals that I’m working towards today:

To have Adam Grant, Brene Brown, and Eric Thomas join me on an episode of the “Heart and Hard Work” podcast where we recognize how ordinary people achieve the extraordinary and shape what’s possible for others by taking action with their heart and hard work. I want to be more than just a motivator or motivational speaker, I truly enjoy being in a coaching position and leveraging my skills and experience to bring more success for teams beyond me individually. Although the form that this takes is still variable in our rapidly changing times, I aspire to be someone that empowers others to actualize their greatest potential, by witnessing and recognizing them for more than they can see and connecting them with their own personal drive to radically improve the quality and perspective of lives. The most rewarding would be for them to then go forth and do the same.

When my professional career is over, to be a leader who challenged the conventional narrative of business life, who had difficult conversations, rethought, and challenged what it meant to make business fun, personal, and inclusive. A leader who found joy and gratitude in the most adverse times and empowered his teams as a multiplier. One who elevated both people and organizations by being a leader who welcomed mistakes and was prepared to own, learn from and share them. Someone who refused to be shaken by the criticism of those who are too ignorant, too bound by conventional thinking and social constructs, or too unwilling to understand the intentionality behind the passion with which he acts.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? After COVID-19 displaced me from life in China, my friends, and my things there, I was pretty defeated for a while dealing with reverse homesickness, depression, and anxiety. Not to mention, all in addition to the concern for the health and well-being of my mom, grandma, and the whole family. Throughout it all, I continued believing that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% what we make of it. Knowing the severe pain the pandemic caused for so many, rather than seeing it as the tragedy that ruined my dream international career, I kept reading, learning languages, and applying for jobs and business schools. I was determined to find the next opportunity and make it even greater. I decided coming out of the pandemic with my MBA would ultimately provide the mastery and professional business expertise that I craved to catalyze the impact that I desired for my work and the teams that I lead. Believing in my full potential, leveraging my experience and skills, and wielding these to achieve the extraordinary have dramatically+changed my life and career and will continue to drive them both.

DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: CLASS OF 2022

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