‘Culture Matters’: Why Matthew Stevens Chose Darden’s Executive MBA
Today on the blog, we catch up with current Global Executive MBA student Matthew Stevens (Class of 2021). Matthew is based in Arlington, Virginia, where he works at the nearby Hilton headquarters — focusing on strategic initiatives for the Hilton Honors program.
What is your current job?
I’m currently the Chief of Staff to the SVP and Global Head of the Customer Engagement, Loyalty, and Partnerships team at Hilton’s global headquarters in McLean, Virginia. I handle the strategic initiatives for the team that operates the Hilton Honors program. My role can vary vastly, but in general I am interfacing with the global leaders to establish our team’s goals and priorities and then track organizational performance against those goals. I also inform our larger team’s strategy by thinking of new, innovative ways to deliver even more exciting member perks. I have enjoyed working within the intersection of hospitality and loyalty for the past few years. Ping me if you ever want to talk about travel and/or loyalty programs.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
Upon completing my undergraduate studies in business administration, I directly entered the consulting industry and worked as a health care consultant for about five years. While working, I realized how valuable my undergraduate studies were, and I recognized that I wanted to gain additional academic exposure to these concepts. After transitioning to strategy consulting, I seriously began considering an MBA for a few key reasons: I knew an MBA would allow me to sharpen my business skill set, challenge my current way of thinking, provide me with a world-class education, surround me with a strong network of curious thinkers and allow me to professionally differentiate myself.
Why did you choose Darden?
When I began looking at programs, Darden instantly felt like the most authentic and personal program. I spoke with graduates from programs across the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region, and none of them spoke with the same passion and excitement as the Darden alumni. As I learned more about the program from the Discover Darden blog and podcasts, I knew this program was right for me. It was clear to me that Darden was going to challenge me, both inside and outside of the classroom, to become a better version of myself as a leader who is confident in my abilities to lead with passion.
What attracted you to the executive formats of the Darden MBA?
During my search, I looked at many different formats and programs, including residential, part-time and executive. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that my window of opportunity to maximize the benefit from a residential program had closed. I also really enjoyed my role and did not want to put my career development on hold for two years, so the executive program was the perfect structure for me. I am able to obtain a world-class education from a top business school and apply my learning to my work immediately. I have already applied skills from the program at work and have noticed changes in the way I approach challenges at work.
What’s your favorite thing about your classmates so far?
There are so many great things about my classmates! I think one of the first aspects that I appreciated is that everyone is here for a central purpose — to become a successful, more capable business leader. Having this central purpose allows us to quickly have in-depth conversations about our career journeys and learn together in a safe and welcoming environment. I also really appreciate the diversity of experience and backgrounds represented in the classroom. This helps to substantiate our classroom discussions since someone can always tie a case discussion to a situation in the workplace, allowing all of us to have shared learnings.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Two key thoughts come to mind: Understand both the program’s culture and the program’s format. The program format will dictate both structurally how you will learn (i.e., case method) and how you will interact with professors and students (online, in-person, global, etc.). This is important to understand to make sure you are comfortable with this level of commitment and structure. The other aspect is the culture of the program. Keep in mind this program will become your future network and will most likely be the last stop in your academic journey — so choose wisely! Culture matters. Since you will be spending so much time dedicated to this program, you will want to make sure you get this right. While researching programs, make sure you attend information sessions, speak to alumni and sign-up for networking sessions. All of these methods will give you a better sense of what the culture of the program truly is. Good luck on your journey!
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