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Harvesting the Fruit of an Earlier Sown Educational Ambition: Meet Rodney Mays, Executive MBA '23

Rodney Mays, Executive MBA '23, talks about his determination to pursue an MBA inspired by his grandmother who spoke of education not as a distant possibility, but as an essential milestone.
Rodney Mays, Executive MBA ’23, looks at the camera wearing a navy-blue suit jacket

Rodney Mays, Executive MBA ‘23

Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business students come to learn, explore, and build community. As they move forward in their careers, they take everything they've learned and use it to power innovation in industries and businesses across the globe. In celebration of Fall 2023 Commencement, we sat down with a few students to learn about their experiences and the wisdom they've gained in the process.     

Meet Rodney Mays, who is graduating from the Executive MBA program with a specialization in Management of Technology.     

Where are you from?  

West Point, GA 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less:   

Candidly, I turned to my colleagues for a richer perspective on who I am, and their responses painted a vivid picture. They see me as observant, with a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the nuances in our work environment. My insightfulness was highlighted, reflecting my ability to see beneath the surface and grasp complex concepts. They commended my structured approach to tasks, noting my skill in organizing workflows effectively. 

In terms of communication, I was described as articulate in conveying ideas clearly and persuasively. My innovative mindset was also a point of praise, illustrating my propensity for thinking outside the box and bringing fresh ideas to the table. 

On a personal level, my passion and drive were recognized, indicative of my commitment to goals and enthusiasm for challenges. My colleagues appreciated my encouraging and empowering nature, highlighting my ability to inspire and uplift those around me. My considerate demeanor, emphasizing my attentiveness to others' needs and perspectives, was also noted. 

Finally, they described me as disciplined and process-oriented, underscoring my focus on efficiency and effectiveness. My practical and pragmatic approach to problem-solving was also mentioned, reflecting my ability to find realistic and workable solutions in various situations. 

Tell me about the person who most influenced your decision to pursue an MBA? 

The seeds of my ambition for higher education were sown early in my childhood, nurtured by the encouragement and foresight of my grandmother (RIP). Her belief in the power of education was a constant theme in our home. She spoke of college not as a distant possibility but as an essential milestone, ingraining in me the value of academic pursuit and intellectual growth. 

While my grandmother was the cornerstone of my decision to pursue an MBA, the role of my teachers cannot be understated. They were not just educators; they were mentors who recognized and fostered my potential, challenging me to think beyond the conventional and inspiring me to reach for heights previously unimagined. Their collective influence shaped my educational journey, guiding me toward the path of an MBA and the promise of a future rich with possibilities and purpose. 

What was your favorite business course and why?  

Choosing my favorite business course is a challenge, given the array of subjects I've encountered. My academic journey has taken me through an impressive breadth of topics - Strategy, Marketing, Brand Management, Economics, Accounting, Finance Management, and Venture Financing, to name a few. Each of these courses has left a distinct mark on my educational experience, enriching my understanding of the business world in unique ways. 

However, if pressed to select just one standout course, it would be Venture Financing. This class didn't just educate me; it ignited a passion. The intricate dance of risk and reward, the thrill of innovation and investment, the art of nurturing new businesses—all these aspects of venture capital deeply resonated with me. The course has opened my eyes to the exciting potential of a career in venture capital. As I stand on the cusp of graduation, I am exploring opportunities to dive into the VC world, eager to apply the knowledge and insights I've gained and make a meaningful impact in this dynamic field. 

What advice would you give to an incoming Executive MBA student?  

For any incoming Executive MBA student, my advice would be to embrace the journey with an open and receptive mind. The realm of possibilities within this program is vast and diverse. You'll find that both professors and fellow students are reservoirs of wisdom and experience. The knowledge and insights you stand to gain from these interactions are immense and can significantly shape your professional outlook and capabilities. So, approach every class, every conversation, and every challenge with a willingness to learn and grow. The wealth of knowledge you'll accumulate in this program is truly invaluable and will serve as a powerful tool in your career advancement.  

What activities were you involved with on or off campus, and did your business education impact those activities in any way?  

During my time in the Executive MBA program, I actively engaged in various activities off campus, with my involvement extending from my fraternity to my financial group. My business education in the MBA program has had a profound impact on these activities, especially with my financial group. 

The Marketing and Branding Management courses from the program have been particularly transformative. These courses didn't just offer theoretical knowledge; they provided a wealth of practical information, innovative concepts, and robust frameworks. The insights gained from these classes are not just academic; they are directly applicable and highly relevant to the real-world challenges and opportunities we face. 

I've been able to take the lessons learned and plan to implement them strategically within my financial group. This integration of academic learning with practical application has not only enhanced my contribution to the group but has also enriched my overall experience and growth during the MBA program. 

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at Scheller, and why?  

My absolute favorite Executive MBA event at Scheller was the residency trip to South Africa. This experience stood out for several reasons. Firstly, it was an unparalleled opportunity to connect with my peers on a deeper level. Away from the usual academic setting, I found this trip to be a fantastic social platform where I could engage with my classmates in a more relaxed and personal environment. Getting to know everyone beyond the classroom walls was incredibly rewarding. 

Additionally, the visit to South Africa itself was nothing short of spectacular. As my first time in the country, it offered a blend of educational enrichment and cultural immersion that was both eye-opening and inspiring. The unique landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture of South Africa added an extraordinary dimension to our learning experience. This trip was not just about sightseeing; it was a holistic educational journey that brought our coursework to life in the most dynamic way possible. 

What was your career journey in the Executive MBA program?  

My career journey through the Executive MBA program has been nothing short of transformative, and it wouldn't be complete without a heartfelt shout-out to the incredible class of 2019. My adventure began in 2018, but after completing the first semester, I had to step away due to a family matter. This pause, however, didn't dampen my determination. I rejoined with the class of 2023, and what an exhilarating experience it has been since! 

As for my professional growth, the impact of this program has been profound. In my role as a director of projects and programs for the Georgia Lottery, the insights and skills I've gained from the Executive MBA have been instrumental in guiding me to make astute financial decisions. The journey has not just been about academic learning; it's been a period of significant personal and professional development, influencing how I approach my career and the broader industry landscape. 

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

At the forefront of my professional aspirations are two key goals that I'm passionately pursuing. Firstly, I aim to master the art of public speaking. This isn't just about overcoming nerves or being able to speak in front of a crowd; it's about becoming a confident, persuasive communicator who can effectively convey ideas, inspire others, and lead discussions with poise and assurance. 

Secondly, I am keenly interested in delving into the world of programming. My goal here is to acquire a basic understanding and develop a deep, practical proficiency. I want to be able to craft elegant code, solve complex problems, and understand the intricacies of software development. This skill is intellectually stimulating and increasingly essential in the modern digital landscape. Both goals are steppingstones toward becoming a more well-rounded, versatile professional. 

What was a moment when you had to practice persistence and/or resilience while in the MBA program?  

That would be from the very first day of the MBA program. This journey wasn't just about academic rigor but a continuous test of my endurance and determination. Whether I was deep into a challenging solo assignment, racing against the clock to meet a deadline, or collaborating with my team to prepare for the high-pressure Management of Technology Thunderdome presentation, these two qualities were my constant companions. Persistence and resilience weren't just occasional requirements; they influenced every task and every project. They shaped not only how I approached my studies but also how I evolved as a professional and as an individual throughout the program. 

What is the biggest lesson you gained from your Scheller MBA? 

The biggest lesson I gained was an increased financial acumen. Gaining a solid understanding of financial principles, accounting practices, and economic theories was a vital part of an MBA education experience. This knowledge is crucial for making informed financial decisions.  

What will you be doing to celebrate your graduation?  

To mark this significant graduation milestone, I'm orchestrating an exciting journey back to South Africa with my kids. This trip isn't just a vacation; it's a celebration of my academic achievements and a gift to my kids. I'm looking forward to immersing my family in the rich culture, breathtaking landscapes, and the unique spirit of adventure that South Africa offers. It's a perfect way to honor this new chapter in my life. 

What is a fun fact about yourself?  

An interesting tidbit about me? I've had the fortune of exploring over 20 countries for professional endeavors and personal adventures. Qatar is my preferred destination for work-related trips, offering a unique blend of culture and business opportunities.  

When it comes to unwinding, Grand Canary Island is my go-to spot for its breathtaking landscapes and serene vibe. And for an underwater escapade, nothing beats the vibrant marine life and crystal-clear waters of the Philippines, making it my top pick for scuba diving excursions. 


Learn More: Executive MBA  

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