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Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2014

mba studentSayeed Mahmood

Few people have heard of Oman (it’s the only country that starts with an ‘O’): that’s where I grew up. I was born in India, moved to Oman when I was in the fifth grade, and then to Wisconsin when I was 17. I’ve always had trouble answering the customary “Where are you from?” question. Perhaps I should introduce myself as a global citizen whose perspective has been shaped by a multicultural upbringing. That does sound intriguing! But for the past few years, my answer has been, “I’m from Raleigh.”

Earlier this year, I celebrated my fifth anniversary at IBM. I joined the company as an intern while working on a Computer Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, I moved to the Research Triangle Park area, and joined IBM’s Software Group as a System Test Engineer. My professional experience, when measured in years, isn’t as extensive as that of most Executive MBA candidates, but the incredible opportunities I’ve had at IBM made it possible for me to be part of Duke’s elite MBA program.

My role at IBM has evolved. I’ve moved from software development and quality assurance to IT systems management to project management. I earned a Master of Engineering degree at North Carolina State University while working full-time. While in the master’s program, I constantly applied class concepts at IBM, and leveraged IBM frameworks and tools at school. It was a lot of fun, and people noticed! In retrospect, this experience helped me develop more holistic thinking, and planted the MBA seed.

Lately, my responsibilities at IBM have expanded to include the internal adoption of two software solutions that have introduced a paradigm shift in IT management. The most exciting part of the adoption project, for me, is dealing with people’s resistance to change. I am fascinated by the non-technical challenges encountered while developing and marketing new software products. Duke’s Weekend Executive program, I believe, will increase my capacity to lead by helping me explore the factors that promote group effectiveness, and  understand the symbiosis among the various pieces of an organization.

weekend mba studentMatt Sumner

I’m currently the Director of Global Video at MetLife working towards becoming their Unified Communications lead. Prior to that I was the Senior Program Manager for Avaya in Global Emerging Technologies. I spent my early career at ESPN/Atlantic Video in Washington, DC and New York City on their shows Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn and First & 10. While there, I led a small team and quickly realized that I enjoyed being an effective, dynamic, people-centric business leader. I ultimately moved out of my PR/marketing focus to pursue general management positions in emerging and unified technologies.

Despite working in tech, I actually lead a simple and relaxing home life. I own a small hobby farm in North Raleigh complete with bees, chickens, dogs, and the occasional goat (which by the way make terrible pets). I also enjoy escaping to the mountains on a regular basis to take part in exciting outdoor excursions and marveling at the natural beauty of this great planet. And then of course what better way to take in that beauty than to ride atop a completely overpowered machine like my jet skis or motorcycle.

I graduated from UNC–Chapel Hill with a communications degree and concentration in media productions. As I grew my career into management, it became clear that to further develop my skill sets that I should pursue a top-ranked MBA program. I’m excited to attend Fuqua and learn new and innovative ways to energize people and drive myself to achieve greater results for the enterprise. I look forward to the journey, and I choose to blog here to give you first-hand insight into some of the things you can expect from the Executive MBA program at Duke University.

Michelle Vasu

I am originally from Blacksburg, Virginia. I have been an avid reader and writer ever since my childhood, which led me to obtain my undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Virginia.

I currently live in Charlottesville, Virginia, and work for PRA, which is a contract research organization in the pharmaceutical industry. I am a Software Quality Engineer on the in-house software development team, ensuring that the software we develop works correctly before it is released. Through my work, I have gained a keen interest in the pharmaceutical industry, and at Fuqua, I plan to pursue the Health Sector Management certificate.

I have been married since 2007, and my husband is originally from New Delhi, India. We enjoy travelling together, and one of our best trips was to India. I greatly enjoy eating Indian food, watching Hindi movies, and learning about Indian culture. My other hobbies include watching sports (primarily golf and tennis), reading, and knitting.

mba studentValerie Matena

I began my career as an industry generalist at a middle-market investment bank in Charlotte and proceeded to ride the roller coaster of the financial crisis with a front row seat. After also spending some time with a private equity group in Stamford, CT, I returned south to join my present firm. I currently work in corporate development at Babcock & Wilcox, where my focus is mergers and acquisitions.

B&W is a manufacturer and service provider to the fossil and nuclear power industries, as well as a defense contractor with a long history in naval propulsion. My current role involves the identification and implementation of acquisitive growth strategies for each of our individual business units, as well as the execution of larger corporate acquisitions, joint ventures, and partnerships. As someone who must coordinate with diverse internal and external teams daily, I have found that the lessons that I am learning both inside and outside the classroom at Fuqua have already proven to be invaluable.

I grew up in Grand Rapids, MI, but moved south to Nashville for my undergraduate studies where I graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Economics. I competed for Vandy in cross-country and track & field and I’m still an avid runner. I particularly enjoy trail runs and recently completed my first 100 mile race (yes, it was possible even during the WEMBA program). My favorite training partner (my husband) and I have been married five years and currently reside in Charlotte.

Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2013

weekend executive mba studentAnir Bhattacharyya

Passion has been the fuel for my journey in life. When I was growing up in the Far East, I used to think that passion is intangible and not measurable. When I landed in the States, for the first time, I thought passion is tangible but not measurable. My quest to see if passion is measurable led me to Fuqua.

I am pursuing my MBA to strengthen my finance, marketing and accounting skills which will help me advance in my career. While growing professionally, I would also like to create a positive impact on every human being I come across by utilizing my improved functional skills and a core value called passion. I have plans to pursue my career in corporate social impact, in the long term, and this is one of the reasons I chose Duke’s MBA program. Duke’s brand value, focus on entrepreneurship, and strong global reach propels me to travel to Raleigh every other week, come shine or snow.

I live in New Jersey, and work at a Japanese firm named Fujitsu, where I am the competency lead for consumer goods, and retail and distribution product lines and services. I have a deep understanding of business processes in certain industry verticals, and have the ability to leverage enabling technologies to improve and enhance their supply chain.

Other than work and school, I spend time in volunteer work with Apne Aap (self-help), a grassroots organization in India working to end sex trafficking by increasing choices for at-risk girls and women, listening to music, watching sports, and yes, watching 60 Minutes.

emmanuelEmmanuel Kisamo

I was born and raised in Tanzania, East Africa, and have lived in the US since 1994. My wife and I have been married for 5 years and we have a son, Adrian, who is 2 years old. For fun, I enjoy sports, outdoor activities, cooking, and spending time with friends and family. I am excited to be part of The Fuqua School of Business, and a part of the Blue Devil pride and spirit! I’m a huge Duke basketball fan. I enjoy other sports including football and soccer. I also run regularly, and I have challenged myself in several marathons.

I’ve lived in the Research Triangle Park area for the last 12 years, and prior to that, I was in Houston, Texas, where I attended the University of Houston — Cullen College of Engineering. My undergraduate degree was in electrical and computer engineering.

I am a WorkStation Technical Solutions Expert, managing the Medical Imaging vertical, for the Lenovo WorkStation Business Unit. Our WorkStations are branded as “ThinkStation.” I started my career at IBM back in January 2001 as a Storage Engineer within the Storage Procurement Engineering Team.

Before my current position at Lenovo, I was part of the ThinkStation Development Team that launches WorkStation products for Lenovo. I worked as Platform Engineer, responsible for both single and double socket workstation platforms. I spent four years in the Development Team, where I had excellent experience in trouble shooting problems, and driving issues to closure. This experience has been crucial to my current job, where I get to work with customers and advise them on the best solutions to solve their problems.

Jay PatelJay Patel

I am currently an Advisory Software Engineer at IBM, located in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina. I have a deep understanding of technology, a strong interest in patent development, and a belief in continuous learning. I am pursuing my MBA to cultivate both my leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit. I chose Duke because of its exceptional executive program — defined by its diverse student body, world class faculty, and reputation for excellence — which I believe is the framework to develop strong, passionate leaders.

Outside of work and school, I spend time with my family and friends by traveling, enjoying each other’s company, and attending various events. I am also an avid sports fanatic and I officially became a “Cameron Crazy” by attending my first Duke basketball game in Cameron. If you have not had the opportunity, I strongly recommend it!!

I take pride in being affiliated with Fuqua and am continuously impressed by the passion with which both Fuqua students and alumni speak of the program. I look forward to sharing my journey with you!

Meghann Wing

I live in Richmond, Virginia, where I work as a senior manager of financial analysis at Capital One. Capital One was my first job upon graduating from Virginia Tech 6 years ago … yes, I’m the youngin’ in the Weekend Executive MBA program at 28 (and a half!) years old. While my time in the business world has been brief relative to my classmates, I have had a fantastic set of opportunities at Capital One within the last 6 years. I was a member of a newly launched finance rotation program for recent college graduates, where I completed rotations in 3 different areas of the company before settling into the credit card division. I also was able to head back to my native Canada for two years, working to evaluate potential credit card retail partnerships for the company’s Canadian division. I have been back in Richmond for just over two years, and my current role at Capital One is focused largely on preparing our leadership team for external earnings presentations.

I am pursuing my MBA to focus on improving my leadership and soft skills, to help me continue to advance within finance at Capital One. Unlike many of my classmates, I do not have a career change in mind. It’s just a great time in my life to head back to school before kids work their way into the mix! I chose Duke because of its brand reputation, focus on leadership, and strong recommendations from peers at Capital One. It also doesn’t hurt that unlike many of the other top tier schools, Duke is within driving distance from Richmond, making the bi-weekly commute less stressful. Outside of work and school, I like to spend time with friends, and redecorate and renovate the historic home that I purchased last summer (I watch a lot of HGTV!), and read.

weekend executive mba studentNancy Zimmerman

I’m a North Carolina girl, born and raised. I grew up in Lexington, where barbecue is king and grits are a food group. I’m now in Winston-Salem, and work in marketing for Hanesbrands. I’ve spent the last 3 years working to grow our shapewear business (that’s like Spanx, for those who aren’t familiar). I’ve focused specific effort on gaining presence and distribution in the mass channel –repositioning our product portfolio at Target and growing our Walmart business 1361%.

Working at Hanes has allowed me to develop a passion for the retail environment and an understanding of what makes consumers tick. I’m fascinated by the organization and layout of a store, the graphics, and the reasons why shoppers touch, pick up, study and finally purchase an item. I am intrigued by how a store environment can enhance or diminish a shopper’s mood.

I’m here at Fuqua to hone my leadership and soft skills and acquire critical quantitative skills. When not studying, I enjoy running, cross-fit, and catching up with friends. I’m a local foodie, an advocate of the slow food movement, and am excited about checking out some of the wonderful restaurants in Durham. Watts Grocery, anyone?

Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2012

Haley GrayHaley Gray

I’m currently a senior software quality engineer at EMC in Research Triangle Park (RTP). I manage a large lab with more than $10 million in equipment, as well as a team of interns and lab techs.

I’m also a proud mother to four young children. I stay active in the community, serving as a Girl Scout Leader and Cookie Manager for two troops. I’m also a Brownie Troop Consultant, and a former area Cookie Manager for 65 troops and 750 girls. I’ve also mentored many girls through the Bronze and Silver Award process in Girl Scouts. Bronze is the highest award a girl can earn at the Junior level (for 4th – 5th graders). Silver is the highest award a girl can earn at the Cadette level (for grades 6 – 8), and involves many pre-requisites as well as a community service project of at least 45 hours.

Over the past few years, I’ve also been the primary organizer of my father’s care. He is in the late stages of dementia, and requires constant, around-the-clock care. He requires the assistance of aides, therapists, doctors, trainers, and geriatric care managers. I face the challenges of the sandwich generation, while focusing on education and career progression to move forward. Balance is a constant challenge in my life, and is something that I’m passionate about.

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