Name: Bill Blackstone
Program: Texas Executive MBA
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Undergraduate Institution: Baylor University
What were you doing professionally before coming to McCombs, and what made you decide to pursue your MBA?
As a student in the Executive MBA program, I continued to work full-time at Rackspace while pursuing my MBA. When I started the program, I was a front-line manager, and, through hard work and leveraging what I learned in school, I was promoted three times in the first year of school. Currently, I am the Site Leader and local executive for our Rackspace Austin office consisting of 560 employees. With a background in musical theater and a degree in music, I felt an MBA was an important step to continued success in a business career.
What led you to choose the Texas MBA?
Following the sage advice of the ages, I put all my eggs in one basket. McCombs was the only program I wanted to attend due to its incredible network, world-class professors, and global reputation. Further, living in the best city on the planet – Austin – McCombs was an easy choice since I was able to continue working for Rackspace while attending school just a few minutes south on I-35.
What has been your favorite part of the Texas MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business?
Hands down, the people. You will regularly hear about the faculty being world-class. It’s true. But, so are the students. I will never forget walking into class for the very first time and meeting my fellow classmates: a Navy SEAL, an Air Force Fighter Pilot, a farmer and multiple doctors, lawyers, engineers, and C-level executives. Then, there was me – the Broadway turned Business dude. It was hard not to be intimidated.
Further, over the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of being teamed up with a study group (Team Orion!) consisting of a humorous, type-A doctor; an incredibly polished non-profit consultant; a caring and thoughtful software manager; an Excel genius, bell pepper farmer; and a thought-provoking art gallery owner that we’re convinced is a CIA agent (I really hope the NSA isn’t reading this blog post). Ultimately, the diversity in experience, thought and nationality of the entire class truly created an unparalleled learning environment.
Any particular memories that stand out?
At the beginning of the EMBA program, we have a bit of a “hell week” where all of us “old folks” get re-introduced to school. Towards the middle of the week, our study groups were given a challenge of developing a strategy for a business case and pitching our idea in a competition against the other study groups and the Mexico City EMBA program. Our team made it to the finals. As the first presenter, I was promptly introduced to the brick wall named Professor John Doggett. After successfully standing my ground through the rapid succession of questions, Professor Doggett fired his last shot: “Son, do you KNOW how to answer a question in 17 words or less?!?” I immediately quipped – “Sir, yes I do. However, you haven’t allowed me to speak 10 words without interruption.” A hush of shock fell over the room. Then, Doggett let out a roar of laughter and turned to Dr. John Burrows (EMBA Program Director) and asked, “Is this one of yours?” He immediately replied, “Damn right he’s one of mine.” Thus, my MBA career began.
What about a favorite professor?
This has to be the toughest question. To be fair, I have to mention three professors who have made a profound impact on my career. First, Dr. Rob Adams – New Venture Creations, Texas Venture Labs Practicum – truly opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship. He showed me that success in entrepreneurship wasn’t just luck but there’s a science behind solving market pain points. Second, Professor Sandy Leeds – Investment Theory – made me write out company valuations by hand. Not only did he help me appreciate Excel more than ever, he taught in such a manner that helped me truly absorb financial concepts which will help me in every aspect of my career. Finally, Dr. Violina Rindova – Strategic Innovation – taught me to look where no one else was looking. Her methods of strategic innovation have permanently altered my decision making process.
Any words of wisdom for incoming students?
Get your tail kicked. This is the only time in your career where you can flesh out new ideas, learn tough subjects and challenge others whilst challenging yourself without fear of career altering consequences. Take every advantage of the opportunities presented during your time in school.
How has your education in the Texas MBA Program influenced your approach to your career?
During the first information session I attended, Dr. Burrows described the ability of the program to change the slope and velocity of your career. Originally thinking this was marketing fluff, I’ve come to realize the truth of this statement. I can say, with confidence, the only area of my career it hasn’t influenced is my coffee consumption.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, I love my career at Rackspace. In my current role, I’m able to utilize all aspects of my MBA from Managerial Accounting to Negotiations to Leadership to Marketing and everything in between. Ultimately, I’m excited about the local and global opportunities that are now within reach because of the Texas MBA program.
Join us in congratulating Bill and all of our Class of 2014 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard and have truly earned the Texas MBA. If you’re interested in connecting with Bill, feel free to get in touch with him online via LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/billblackstone/ or Twitter: @BillBlackstone