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From Theory to Practice: Executive MBA Jay Elliott’s Negotiation Skills Advance His Career

Jay Elliott, Executive MBA ’17, shares the key takeaways from his experience at Scheller and how the program gave him the tools and knowledge to negotiate a higher salary after graduating. 
Jay Elliott standing on the CODA rooftop building in Atlanta

Executive MBA Alumnus Jay Elliott

“Why not me?”  

That’s the question Jay Elliott, Georgia Tech Executive MBA alumnus, asked himself as he contemplated pursuing his MBA in 2016. Now, the U.S. Army veteran is a global business architect, working on business and enterprise resource planning (ERP) transformation for large-scale corporations. He loves advising his clients on their business vision and strategy, such as replacing outdated mainframes and transforming to ERP cloud solutions like Salesforce.  

Looking back, Elliott is glad imposter syndrome didn’t deter him from pursuing his Executive MBA at Georgia Tech. “I’m not going to lie; I was intimidated and wasn’t sure if the timing was right,” he said. “I didn’t think I could do it because it’s ‘Georgia Tech.’ But I shook off those negative thoughts and kept moving forward.”  

The 17-month program was a great return on investment for Elliott. He learned how to comprehend business transformation architecture, expanded his network, and mastered the art of negotiation. He also doubled his salary since graduating from the Executive MBA program eight years ago.  

“I leveraged the experience on my resume and having the Georgia Tech stamp opened the door for more opportunities,” he said. “I am ambitious and always striving to reach the next level.”  

Another door that opened for Elliott was his desire to become an entrepreneur. He recalled his capstone class being infectious because it was a playground he didn’t want to escape. He loved finding the pieces of the puzzle and gained the skills and knowledge to build a startup. He was energized and asked himself, ‘What is a problem I am passionate about?’ He found his answer after his son had an encounter with the police during a mental health crisis episode.    

“There was a confrontation, but it was manageable,” he said. “I had to step back and look at all perspectives and noticed a problem. As a parent trying to protect their loved one who has a mental health condition, I want to help families and assist law enforcement agencies with the proper tools and technologies to dispatch mental health crisis experts.”  

In response to the incident, Elliott developed a mental health crisis platform and mobile app with his startup MERINAA (mental health crisis intervention application). Families can send information about their loved ones who have a mental health condition — such as pictures, their likes and dislikes, etc. — to the cloud dispatcher from the caretaker mobile app. The information is sent through a cloud solution to law enforcement agencies and mental health crisis experts so they can provide the individual the proper care they need in a moment of crisis. He’s pitching and working with law enforcement agencies and different states to get the first deal to launch the app.  

As Elliott works on bridging the gap between law enforcement and mental health experts, he’s grateful to the Executive MBA program for helping him learn the language of business.   

“The program helped me fill the gaps in my understanding of consulting, negotiations, digital and data transformation,” he said. “I gained the confidence to negotiate myself and not rely on third parties or contractors.”   

We talked with Elliott to learn more about his experience in the program, his new negotiation skills, and how a Scheller billboard was the catalyst for his Executive MBA journey.   

What motivated you to pursue your Executive MBA?  

I’ve always had a career in IT. After serving in the U.S. Army, I stepped into the corporate world and worked at Gulfstream Aerospace. I helped with large-scale systems applications and products (SAP) implementations. My mentors there were chief executive officers and corporate development executive leaders, and I learned they didn’t have an MBA. When I moved to Alpharetta in 2015 for an opportunity, I paid attention to the executive leaders and their educational backgrounds because I was striving for the C-suite.  

My mentor was in the C-suite, and I learned he had his MBA. I appreciated learning about corporate acquisitions, divestitures, managing portfolio projects, and budgeting. I was inspired by these mentors and realized it was time to pursue my Executive MBA degree.  

How did you know Scheller was the best school for you to earn your Executive MBA and pursue your career aspirations?  

It’s funny because I was driving down Interstate 75/85 one day and saw a Scheller billboard and started thinking, ‘Can I do that?’ I began looking at schools that offered SAP programs. Still, the courses were limited and weren’t enough to get a certification. The programs were more suited for students who recently graduated from college. I began looking at other SAP programs and MBA programs. I wasn’t impressed with those MBA programs and thought back to the Scheller billboard. Nothing competes with Georgia Tech and there was no alternative for me. 

Looking back at my mentors who had an MBA versus those who didn’t, I noticed gaps. The MBA helped me better understand negotiations, entrepreneurial and corporate finance, the different methods to evaluate projects using net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR), and leverage buyout formulas for mergers and acquisitions.  

Why did you choose the Management of Technology specialization in the program? 

I looked at both specializations and went with what resonated with me since I worked in IT for a long time. I wanted to improve my business acumen from a leadership perspective. What was surprising is not only did I learn those things but I also learned a lot about startups. I had no idea our capstone would consist of the development, creation, and growth of startups from idea to being financially sound. I was blown away by the process of learning and working with different teams and coming up with ideas. I am now developing apps and platforms because of my experience in the program.  

How soon did you implement what you were learning in class to your job? 

Immediately. I was being mentored by people in the C-suite and those who worked in corporate development. I took one class, went to a meeting, and proposed a solution in that meeting because I was learning about data mining, regression analysis, and forecasting statistics in class. It was in real time; I didn’t have to wait until graduation. I was able to advise the team on improving processes and evaluating our IT projects, which was very impactful as far as getting to where I am in my career. I still have my books and will reference them when working on something related to supply chain manufacturing or finance.  

Can you talk about your cohort and the connections you made?  

I still talk to a lot of my classmates who I now consider friends. I can reach out to them and get a quick response; that’s the type of relationship we forged. The camaraderie is strong. I know whether I am looking for an opportunity or want to get insights or advice on something I can connect with them. I have some long-lasting relationships thanks to the program.  

How did you incorporate your leadership experience as a veteran into the program?  

In the army, they teach you to be a leader, but you also learn how to be a follower. In the Executive MBA program, I was a good team player no matter who was leading, and working in teams helped me to listen more and work with a diverse range of people. I am also proud that thanks to my experience as a U.S. Army Sergeant and deep experience as an ERP professional, I helped our team during a capstone project startup competition to receive some of the highest scores among the other teams.  We did a great job, and I was so happy to be part of such a great team and honored to compete with my amazing classmates from the other teams.  

Thinking back to your first day of class to your last day, is there anything you would change or do differently?  

I would improve my time management for the more challenging classes like economics because things move quickly. You’re learning so much that it’s like you’re drinking water from a firehouse, so my time management is something I would’ve changed.  

What advice would you give to prospective students who are unsure about pursuing their Executive MBA?  

It’s an experience where you'll have a lot of support from your colleagues, and the professors are helpful, too. There is also the human dynamic that adds to the overall experience. You’re going to meet people from different walks of life, ages, and professions, so the program gives you an opportunity to learn from others.  
What did you learn about yourself in the program?  

I learned to be patient and improve my time management, and it’s about camaraderie, not competition. I realized I didn’t need to exert my experience all the time. You’re going to meet people from all different backgrounds and personalities, so just be natural and yourself.  

How did the program help you negotiate a higher salary?   

The Executive MBA program taught me the business side of things and how to support it for organizations. I leaned toward more business roles than just IT roles. I learned the closer you are to the business, the more opportunities you have for a higher salary. I leveraged my business transformation architecture experience on my resume and was getting better at interviews using the STAR method I learned in the program.   

So, between my new business acumen and using the tools I gained, I negotiated a higher salary.  

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