2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Ryan Wilson, UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Ryan Wilson

University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management

“Passionate leader, military veteran, MBA student committed to bridging the gap between military and business.”

Hometown: Sacramento, California

Fun fact about yourself: On my return journey from Afghanistan, I had the unique opportunity to fly in the cockpit of a C-17 during mid-flight refueling procedures.

Undergraduate School and Degree: San Francisco State University – Bachelor of Science in Finance & Computer Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? United States Army – Infantry Staff Sergeant 11B3P

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? Senior Financial Analyst for Intel in Roseville, California.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’ve acquired Scheidel’s Fleet Service and will serve as the CEO of the newly formed WilsonTech Services, Inc., offering military-grade fleet management to the greater Sacramento Valley Region.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President, UC Davis Graduate School of Management Veterans Association; Advocate for veteran support and resources within the UC Davis community.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Founding the UC Davis GSM Veterans Association to offer support and resources for fellow veterans. Through my six years of higher education, I’ve discovered that over 60% of veterans I’ve spoken to are unaware of their entitled benefits or where to access resources.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My most significant accomplishment as a leader was spearheading a pilot program aimed at demonstrating to Congress that both men and women are capable of serving in combat-focused units. The exceptional performance of my team, both before and during deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012, has had a lasting impact on the pursuit of equal rights for women within the military. Thanks to our overwhelming success, today both men and women serve in all military occupational specialties.

Why did you choose this business school?  I chose the UC Davis GSM for its strong community, commitment to diversity, and focus on fostering leadership skills. As a veteran, I was particularly drawn to the school’s dedication to supporting and empowering veterans. UC Davis GSM has established robust resources and networks specifically tailored to veterans, providing invaluable support throughout their MBA journey. Recognizing the unique challenges and experiences of veterans, the school fosters a welcoming environment where veterans can thrive academically, professionally, and personally. I felt that this inclusive and supportive atmosphere aligned perfectly with my background and aspirations, making UC Davis GSM an ideal choice for my MBA education.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Vanessa Errecarte. Throughout my academic journey, I’ve had the privilege of taking multiple courses with her, and each experience has been incredibly enriching. What sets Vanessa apart is her unwavering commitment to student success and her unparalleled ability to inspire and empower her students.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Vanessa’s teaching is her versatility. Whether she’s guiding us through the intricacies of personal branding or leading discussions on strategic branding for corporations, Vanessa has a remarkable knack for tailoring her instruction to meet the diverse needs and aspirations of her students. Her approach is not just about imparting knowledge; it’s about unlocking potential and instilling confidence.

What truly sets Vanessa apart is her ability to push her students beyond their perceived limitations. Through her engaging teaching style and thought-provoking insights, she challenges us to think critically, embrace creativity, and dare to pursue our boldest ambitions. Under her guidance, I’ve discovered depths of myself that I never knew existed and have developed the skills and mindset to tackle challenges with resilience and determination.

Vanessa Errecarte is more than just a professor; she’s a mentor, a catalyst for growth and a beacon of inspiration. Her impact extends far beyond the classroom, shaping the trajectories of her students’ lives and empowering them to achieve their highest aspirations. For these reasons and more, she remains my favorite MBA professor, and I am immensely grateful for the profound influence she has had on my academic and personal journey.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course during my MBA was “Strategic Branding” with Vanessa Errecarte. I was particularly drawn to Vanessa’s dynamic teaching style and her profound insights into the intricacies of building a strong brand. Her passion for the subject matter was palpable and infectious, making each class session engaging and thought-provoking.

What I appreciated most about the course was its practical relevance to my professional aspirations. As someone deeply invested in building my recently established WilsonTech brand, the concepts and strategies discussed in the class directly informed my approach to brand development and management. From understanding consumer behavior to crafting compelling brand narratives, the course equipped me with invaluable knowledge and skills that have proven instrumental in shaping the identity and trajectory of WilsonTech.

Overall, Vanessa Errecarte’s course not only expanded my understanding of branding principles but also provided me with actionable insights that I could immediately apply to real-world scenarios. It was a transformative learning experience that continues to influence my approach to branding and business strategy.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event at UC Davis GSM is the annual “Big Party” held every spring break. It serves as a memorable send-off for graduating students before they fan out in their careers and post-MBA endeavors. The annual “Big Party” reflects the close-knit and supportive community fostered by UC Davis GSM. It highlights the camaraderie and strong bonds formed among students during their time in the MBA program. The fact that this event occurs before graduation underscores the school’s emphasis on building lasting connections and friendships that extend beyond the classroom. It reflects the inclusive and vibrant culture of UC Davis GSM, where students come together to celebrate their achievements, create lasting memories, and forge lifelong relationships.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back over my MBA experience, if I could change one thing, it would be to attend UC Davis Graduate School of Management during a period in my life without a newborn. Just two months before starting the full-time program, my wife gave birth to our first daughter. During my second year, she gave birth to our second daughter. Balancing the demands of parenthood alongside my studies limited the time I could spend at GSM after hours with my peers and professors.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about UC Davis GSM is that it’s solely focused on agriculture and environmental studies. Those are certainly areas of strengths that UC Davis is known for its global research leadership and that the Graduate School of Management fully leverages. The management school offers a diverse range of programs and opportunities, including interdisciplinary Industry Immersions in food and ag, biotech, sustainable energy, and innovation finance, providing young professionals with the skills and knowledge to excel in finance and tech sectors. With a robust curriculum and strong industry connections, UC Davis GSM prepares students for success in a variety of fields beyond its agricultural roots.

What did you love most about your business school’s town?  What I loved most about the town surrounding our business school was the vibrant atmosphere and the strong sense of community that permeated downtown Davis. It wasn’t just a place to study; it was a place to connect, unwind, and immerse oneself in the rich tapestry of experiences that the town had to offer. Whether it was grabbing a cup of coffee at a cozy cafe, exploring the local art scene, or simply strolling through the charming streets lined with bustling shops and eateries, downtown Davis always exuded warmth and vitality. The close-knit community fostered an environment where students could feel not only welcomed but also deeply rooted—a sentiment that made my time at business school all the more memorable and meaningful.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most about business school is undoubtedly the level of collaboration and support among my classmates. Despite hailing from diverse backgrounds and industries, there was an inherent spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect that permeated our interactions both inside and outside the classroom. Whether we were working on group projects, participating in case competitions, or simply sharing insights over coffee, my peers consistently demonstrated a willingness to lend a helping hand, share their expertise, and celebrate each other’s successes. This collaborative ethos not only enriched our academic experience but also underscored the power of teamwork and collective growth—a realization that continues to inspire me long after graduation.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lanre Akinfemiwa’s journey to our MBA program from Africa speaks volumes about his resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to his goals. Having experienced life outside of Western civilization, I understand firsthand the challenges and hardships that come with adapting to a new culture and navigating unfamiliar terrain. Lanre’s ability to not only overcome these obstacles but also thrive in the face of adversity is nothing short of inspiring.

What sets Lanre apart is not just his academic achievements or professional aspirations, but his remarkable strength of character and indomitable spirit. He has shown an extraordinary level of perseverance, never allowing setbacks or difficulties to deter him from pursuing his dreams. Lanre’s dedication to his education and his unwavering resolve to create a better future for himself and those around him serve as a shining example of resilience and determination.

In addition to his personal journey, Lanre’s humility, kindness and willingness to lend a helping hand to others further exemplify his admirable qualities. Despite facing his own challenges, he always finds time to support and uplift his peers, offering words of encouragement, sharing valuable insights, and fostering a sense of community within our MBA cohort.

Lanre’s story reminds us all of the importance of perseverance, resilience, and embracing diversity. He serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration to everyone fortunate enough to know him, and I have no doubt that he will continue to make a positive impact in both his personal and professional endeavors.

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

1. Establishing a WilsonTech Services shop in every county along Interstate 80 and Highway 50, spanning from San Francisco, California to Tahoe, California, and Reno, Nevada. This expansion would allow us to better serve communities and provide military-grade fleet management solutions to a broader region.

2. Founding a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting veterans. This initiative would aim to provide comprehensive resources, assistance, and advocacy for veterans transitioning to civilian life, ensuring they receive the support they deserve after their service to our country.

What made Ryan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“When Ryan Wilson first came into my class, he looked exhausted, and rightfully so. He was raising a newborn, making the transition from military to civilian life, and starting a business, all as he embarked on the Full-Time MBA program at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. To say I was impressed is an obvious understatement.

As an instructor, it is extremely important to me that my students gain the skills they need to compete in today’s dynamic and fast-paced business world. Ryan is constantly curious and never afraid to immerse himself in a challenge, especially when it comes to applying class concepts to real-life business scenarios. In the two courses I’ve had him in, Ryan always pushes himself to go deeper into the subject matter and applies class concepts and examples to what he is going through in his own business. This obviously shows his own mastery of the material, but it also helps his peers see direct relevancy in what they are learning. In fact, ask any classmate of Ryan’s and they will say that he motivates them.

Outside of class, Ryan also stands out. Specifically, he is always pushing harder to connect what he learns in the classroom to make his own business better. As a business owner myself, I appreciate the numerous hallway chats I’ve had with Ryan. One day Ryan told me he was working on getting a new insurance policy for his business. It was new territory for him, but as with everything else he does, Ryan had become a quick study and knew all the ins-and-outs of corporate insurance within 24 hours. He also showed me and asked for feedback on a new logo that he’d been inspired to design in our previous week’s class. Reflecting on the demands of an already rigorous MBA program, the fact that he accomplishes all of this in tandem is remarkable.

Additionally, Ryan is compassionate and selfless when it comes to his classmates. An example of this is when he obtained a prestigious finance internship at Intel during the summer between the first and second year of his MBA. Not only did he volunteer take over the Graduate School of Management’s social media channels for a week to post advice about how to get and succeed at corporate internships, he also spent ample amounts of his personal time helping classmates in their job and internship searches.

Ryan served in the U.S. Army for more than nine years, including three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been a steadfast advocate for women’s rights within the military and is now a steadfast advocate for veteran’s rights outside of the military. He has directly benefitted our business school by starting an MBA veteran’s student association. He is now working on a business plan for his nonprofit amidst all of his other time demands. I once asked him why he is doing so much all at once and he humbly responded that he feels it’s his responsibility to help because veterans have the potential to be one of the most valued assets of the civilian workforce, but they are missing resources during key transitional times.

Ryan has accomplished more in less than 40 years than many do in a lifetime. He fearlessly and selflessly takes on challenges and uses his vast knowledge, experience, compassion, and collaboration to succeed. Perhaps what is most impressive about Ryan is the way he lifts up others in the process. Ryan always has time for his family, his employees and his business school cohort. He is the epitome of a servant leader. He never asks anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Ryan hopes to scale his business, WilsonTech, to be franchised throughout Northern California. I have no doubt he will realize these dreams, while continuing to raise his beautiful children and help veterans who have great potential through his future nonprofit. Ryan has been a true gift to the Graduate School of Management community and arguably to anyone who encounters his dedication and talent.”

Vanessa Errecarte
Lecturer of Marketing, UC Davis Graduate School of Management


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