Edmund Amoye, 2012 MBA grad, shares on how he got into the luxury brand industry, how business school pushed him to the next level, and being part of close-knit school culture - “Tribe Pride!”
Edmund Amoye, MBA 2012
College of William and Mary, Mason School of Business
Business rotation & development program, Moët Hennessy USA (LVMH Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton), New York, NY
What made you decide to get an MBA?
Prior to going for my MBA, I was working at a sign manufacturing company particularly for the hospitality industry. After my MBA, I am now working for a major Luxury conglomerate and it’s a really, really exciting time. With my MBA, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.
Part of the reason I wanted to pursue an MBA was because of my personality. I am competitive! I wanted to compete. I wanted to compete on a larger scale. The company I was a part of prior to my MBA was, I wouldn’t say a small manufacturing company, but it wasn’t Johnson and Johnson or P&G. I had accomplished a lot and I was responsible for about 50% of the revenues. But, I just wanted to do more. I wanted to make more important decisions and I had to take a step back and understand that in order to make those decisions, I needed a rigorous, academic, professional development program that would not only give me good skills and knowledge but also the confidence to be able to go out there and compete with the best and be able to do something on a larger scale.
As I said, before getting into the MBA program, I worked in the hospitality industry on the construction and development side. I really loved working with all the customers but I especially loved working with the more visible, high-end MBA grads. Getting into the MBA program, my ultimate goal was to work for a hospitality company, one of those who are in the top tier. After being in the program and learning about different decision frameworks, economic models and competitive environments, I started to think about more than just hotels and I learned that I had an affinity for the luxury sector. So, I started doing my own research taking what I had learned from class and putting that in the luxury context. Eventually, that led me to form the first Luxury and Retail Club at William and Mary. I couldn’t have done that without the support of my classmates, but more importantly, the faculty. They were so supportive of me going down this totally different path. I had professors give me newspaper article clippings monthly just so that I could delve deeper into this specialty I wanted to focus on.
Even though William and Mary didn’t have a particular “Luxury” tract, the program was able to give me the skills and tools to be able to take that new context and apply it in a totally different way. I came to the program wanting to work in hospitality and my goals ended up growing into something more than that and I am working at a preeminent luxury business services company. So, I wanted to point out that the MBA program at William and Mary led me on a great journey of discovery; taking me to a place I never even thought I could go. So, the MBA program is not just about the credentials, it’s a process of discovery and if you open yourself up to the possibility of doing something completely different than what you had initially intended, the rewards are immense!
What did you like most about your school?
My number one favorite aspect about my time at the Mason School of Business was the challenges that I encountered in the program. Those challenges that make you stop and say “Hold on, why am I pursuing this MBA? Is it really that important?” The challenges from case studies to teamwork to managing family and going to school at the same time to figuring out where you want to be in your career, doing your 5 year plan, your 10 year plan, those challenges really took me to another level. In fact, at the end of the first year, I didn’t understand how I could work so much. It was so intensive. You always had something going on. To be honest, you’re up late at night working with your team finishing your assignments; it just moved me to another level. I couldn’t imagine how much more efficient I was with my time. Those challenges really, really helped because it’s in those times when you really feel like pulling all your hair out, you really move onto the next level and those challenges led to my second most favorite thing about being at the Mason School and that is the process of discovery.
Discovering yourself, who you are. Figuring out “Hey, I really don’t like this class as much or like this subject… but I really like this subject!” or, “Oh, I can see how this relates to what I really want to do…” That discovery really helped me fine tune where I wanted to go. It helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses. It’s something that every MBA candidate has to deal with. We start out the MBA program thinking that once we got those MBA credentials we will be perfectly made for any company. You have to realize that there are certain things that you can and cannot do, just because your passion might not be inclined that way. That’s what that process of discovery helped me do.
My last favorite thing is solving problems. Talking about an intensive program, we literally used to call it the “water oath”. “How much can you take?” It’s very intensive. There’s no stopping. There’s no “Oh, we’re going to rest now, let’s take a break…” You always have something else to do. Being able to solve a multitude of problems really just increases your skill set. You don’t have to know everything about a particular subject. You don’t have to be as “deep” in every business subject but you have to be broad enough to be able to tackle a problem from the point of view of “What is the problem?” “What can I do about it?” “What sort of resources in terms of people, technology and other things, can I use to fix this problem?”
What’s your advice on choosing a business school?
A lot of people like to think about the rankings. It’s not the rankings. The rankings are not even going to be one of my top 3. The number one thing about choosing a business school is the culture. You have to look at your MBA program, or just about any graduate program that you want to attend, as a microcosm of the environment you’re trying to get to. So literally, the teams you’re working with, the professors you have and even down to the admins there, they literally represent what you want your world or your environment to look like after the MBA. Now, you’re not always guaranteed the same thing. But, my point is that you want to be in an environment where you are comfortable because moving onto this next important stage of your life requires that you are around people that are very supportive and “like-minded” towards getting you to where you want to go. If you don’t get the culture right, you end up feeling jaded or feeling like you didn’t get the value for what you put in.
The second piece of advice is to look at the programs. When I got into the William and Mary MBA program, I didn’t do it with a short term view of getting the MBA credentials. I did it with a point of view of looking at myself long-term in the future, where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in the hospitality industry. But, when I got into the program, I discovered so much more and it blew up into something much larger than that reason I mentioned. The program guides you closer and closer to where you want to be, even down to the exact classes that you’re taking. They actually take you to where you want to go. So, definitely look at the programs because if they don’t tie into what you want to do, you might not really get the contextual connection that you need for the career that you are pursuing.
My last piece of advice involves engagement, engagement from the top level of a business school to faculty to your classmates. It’s really important to see how well people are engaged. Even the alumni, how much do they give back to the school? How often do they come back? At William and Mary, we have this thing called “Tribe Pride”. It’s so crazy, when you go out and meet an alum you have to be like “Go Tribe!” It really makes you feel like part of a family, part of something. The fact that you have people engaged and the fact that you’re on the path that they once took make it easier to deal with other difficult things that come up during team assignments, in your personal life and other things. At William and Mary, we have an Executive Partners program where each of us was paired with a retired executive or someone else who is actually in the workforce. Some of these execs are actually William and Mary alumni. It just really helps build a better connection because you realize that if that person has gone through this program and is working in this job or this industry, I can also do this! It makes you feel better about the journey you are taking.
Read part two of Edmund's interview here.