2022 MBA To Watch: Ryan Staples, Texas A&M (Mays)

Ryan Staples

Texas A&M, Mays Business School

I am a change agent who transforms ambiguity into actionable insights and catalyzes others’ success.”

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: One of my dearest ambitions is to sail around the world.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brigham Young University-Idaho, Bachelor of Science in Biology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was a Business Development Specialist for a blood plasma company called BPL Plasma.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Ford Motor Company, Dearborn Michigan (remote internship)

Where will you be working after graduation? Ford Motor Company’s Ford College Graduate rotational program in purchasing

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I led a team of four cross-functional students (from the business school and the agricultural leadership school) to 3rd place in the world in a case competition hosted by BI Norwegian Business School. 75 teams from 65 top business schools around the world competed to develop innovative solutions to food systems insecurities. We were essentially tasked with solving world hunger. Our idea centered around empowering women in rural Uganda. I took our case competition idea and drove it further than an academic exercise and founded a non-profit organization 6 months after the competition. I convinced the Ugandan-based Non-Government Organization Field of Hope to partner with me and I raised $3,000 to fund a pilot, which is currently under way in Uganda, to test the proof of concept of our case competition idea.

I was one of three project managers for the Humana-Mays Healthcare Analytics Case Competition which is the premier healthcare analytics case competition in the United States. Over 700 students competed for $80,000 in prize money

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of leading my underdog team to 3rd place in the world in an international case competition. When the MBA program asked who would be interested in competing, I had reservations about throwing my name in the hat due to imposter syndrome. I felt moved, however, by the purpose of the competition (finding innovative solutions to food systems insecurities) and my drive to serve others overcame my fear of not being good enough. Not only was I chosen by my MBA administrators from among my peers to lead the team, but I was also tasked with selecting my three team members. I chose three subject-matter experts in food systems insecurities from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Agriculture Leadership, Education and Communications.

None of us had ever competed in a case competition like this before and I knew we would be going up against case competition teams who had been working together with coaches for over a year. Despite our apparent lack of experience, we had the passion, knowledge, and the grit to make up for it. Each of us stepped up to the plate and poured our hearts and souls into preparing a top-notch final deliverable. I am so proud of the synergy and psychological safety I crafted, the way my three team members flourished under my leadership, and the passion for international development I discovered within myself. Most of all, I am so proud I overcame my fear of failure and discovered I am an effective leader that can make incredible things happen for myself and others.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the results I have seen from challenging the status quo. One example occurred when I started at BPL Plasma. I was led to believe the corporate director who oversaw my role was terrible and unsupportive. Rather than believing the word of those around me, I proactively chose to initiate a positive working relationship between the director and myself. I was the change agent that supported her initiatives on team calls. I was the person who chose to focus on the action items she prioritized. I went out of my way to provide meaningful feedback and make suggestions rather than complain and dig my heels in. As a result, my plasma center was given resources, opportunities, and preference others were not. By the time I left the company, that director would call me and ask for my feedback on upcoming programs she was considering rolling out to the 49 other plasma centers in the company.

Why did you choose this business school? My primary goal in getting my MBA was to become a more effective servant leader. Texas A&M’s core value of Selfless Service was perfectly in line with that goal. It was a no-brainer to attend an MBA program that would prepare me to “advance the world’s prosperity” (Mays Business School’s Mission Statement) through the lens of Selfless Service.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr Janet Marcantonio was my favorite MBA professor. She taught individual leadership development. Her course armed me with the one of the greatest nuggets I took away from business school, deep self-awareness. Apart from the incredible content of her core course, she also ran my capstone self-directed entrepreneurial course. I decided to do a solo project launching a non-profit organization in rural Uganda. I was very passionate about the idea, which stemmed from a case competition I competed in earlier that year. It focused on leveraging technology to empower women so they could lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty. About 5 weeks into the project, I ran into several seemingly insurmountable roadblocks. My original passion for the project was waning and I felt discouraged and had begun to put off working on the project. I had a check-in call with Dr Marcantonio and expressed some of my frustration. Perceptive and tactful as ever, she teased out how discouraged I was. I felt ready to throw in the towel, but she encouraged me to take a step back from the details of the project and reflect on why I wanted to do the project in the first place. In my introspection, I rediscovered a smoldering passion. That hint of rediscovered passion and sheer grit gave me the strength to push forward with what ultimately became the most meaningful learning experience of my entire MBA journey. Had it not been for the pivotal influence of Dr. Marcantonio, I would have gleaned but a fraction of the joy and learning from my capstone project I ended up experiencing.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event was the Consulting Challenge we did as an MBA class. Groups of four were assigned different start-up companies. We were tasked with being free consultants and offering meaningful insights into next steps for the company. We all competed for a $2,000 cash prize by presenting our ideas for improvements to a panel of judges. My team placed 2nd out of 17 teams in this challenge. This experience with a real company gave me practical hands-on experience into the mindset of consulting-level problem solving. The Consulting Challenge reflects Mays Business School’s commitment to fostering deep experiential learning experiences for its students.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I can honestly say I have no regrets from my time at business school. However, I did go to business school during a global pandemic. As a result, I missed a lot of in person experiences I would like to have enjoyed. I believe the increased in-person networking with my peers would have proved to be a valuable addition to the overall MBA experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the expectations I had going into Texas A&M was that students were die-hard fans about their football team. My expectations were not let down. I had the opportunity to go to a football game at Kyle Field and more than 105,000 people were in attendance. It was the second largest attendance at a game in the history of the school. The atmosphere was electrifying, and the students were going crazy with A&M zeal!

What surprised you the most about business school? I was most surprised by the number of technical skills I learned in business school. My undergraduate degree was in Biology, which was 99% technical. I imagined business school would focus mostly on discussions around how to react to situation X or motivate person Y with very little in the way of technical content. I am pleased my expectations were not met in this regard.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I sought out a mentor who used to work in Cornell’s MBA admissions office to get help on my resume. He also gave me valuable insights into how to prepare for the interview process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Aaron Buchanan is the classmate I most admire from my MBA class. He carries himself in a confident, capable, and compassionate manner. I cannot help but be inspired by him. We worked together in a group of five our first semester in the program. One example of Aaron’s character occurred when we were doing a negotiation simulation with another group from our MBA class. One of our team members wanted to approach the situation as a shark and humiliate the other team by strong-arming and bullying them into accepting an unfavorable deal. Aaron immediately shot that down, expressing his willingness and expectation to come prepared to win, but not at the expense of being jerks or humiliating the other team.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father most influenced me to pursue an MBA degree. Like many young people, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. My father led a successful 30-year career in the Air Force and retired as a colonel. He is a skilled listener who rarely gives advice. But when advice does come, it comes from a deep understanding of the person and the situation.

About 8 years ago, when I still did not know myself very well, my father suggested I consider business school. I was actively pursuing a biology degree at the time and did not think much of his idea. After graduating from college, I quickly found myself feeling unfulfilled in my biology-focused career. There were, however, a few elements of my career I found exciting. Upon reflection, I realized most of the aspects of my career I enjoyed centered around influencing others to achieve results. Once that realization hit me, I recognized the wisdom of a father who knew his son better than he knew himself. I immediately began to prepare for entry into a top tier program like Texas A&M’s full-time MBA program.

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

1. Start my own strategy board game company.

2. Mentor someone like I was right after graduating from my undergrad. Someone who is a young firecracker full of ambition and drive but completely lacking the emotional intelligence and direction necessary to realize their full potential. I was lucky enough to have mentors who saw past my rough edges to see a diamond in the rough. I look forward to paying that forward.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? I used to view supply chain as a “soft option” compared to consulting or investment banking. Now that supply chains have brought nation’s economies to their knees, I recognize the need to have a broader, less arrogant view of the value of different roles in business. I now see supply chain roles as critical to the business landscape. So much so, that the excitement, complexity, and challenge of supply chains have led me to pursue it as a career.

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

“Ryan Staples combines a deep-seated passion for helping others with a sixth-sigma talent for running a Swiss train station.  Based on peer feedback, Ryan’s classmates viewed him as “a fantastic leader,” “the glue of our team,” “a great colleague who genuinely cared for the well-being of others” and “a catalyst for productivity and personal development, who kept a positive attitude and held others accountable without diminishing their confidence.” Just as Ryan strove for excellence while pursuing his MBA, he will no doubt shine in his new procurement leadership role with Ford Motor Company.  It is his after-hours calling, however, that most distinguishes Ryan among members of the Class of 2022.

Last year, Ryan led a cross-disciplinary team that participated in BI Norwegian Business School’s global case competition hosted in preparation for the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit. Ryan’s team achieved a top-3 finish with an innovative solution to equip women in Uganda with situation-specific farming education. Following the case competition, Ryan could easily have let the idea drop. Instead, he chose to continue the effort through a capstone project aimed at identifying a Ugandan partner organization and launching a pilot program. Despite COVID disruptions, time zone differences, language barriers, and cross-cultural communication challenges, Ryan successfully gathered direct feedback by interviewing ten female farmers in Uganda. He also developed a relationship with Field of Hope, a Ugandan NGO, and raised funds to provide the smartphone that will allow women to test the new digital agricultural extension platform.

Ryan does not frequently seek the spotlight, which makes me especially delighted to swivel it in his direction. As a disruptive innovator, process improvement specialist, and resolute humanitarian, Ryan’s answer to Clayton Christensen’s famous question “how will you measure your life” involves a deeply personal yardstick: Am I making a positive difference in the lives of those who bear the heaviest burdens? Along these lines, keep a sharp eye on Ryan in the years to come as he continues to distinguish himself through initiatives that impact those at the bottom of the pyramid.”

Dr. Janet Marcantonio
Executive Professor for Individual Leadership Development & Capstone Project
Mays Business School, Texas A&M University

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

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