Q&A with ‘Life of an Executive’s Walker Williams

We were able to sit down with MEMBA student Walker Williams for an insider Q&A on his day to day:

Walker Williams is a towering figure standing at over 6 feet tall. Walking out of a breakout room with a phone in hand and relieved grin on face Williams has a level of approachability seems off-par with someone with his hectic schedule. Seconds after getting off a conference call with his Global Fixed Income Group in New York, Williams fixes his jacket, smiles and starts to multitask yet again. We begin to talk while he makes a lunch plate and catches a glimpse of the SportsCenter top 10. Juggling is not part of the Goizueta Admissions application process but balancing work, family life and school is a valuable skill that he and his classmates seem to have mastered. We sat down with Walker Williams to learn a little bit about him, his journey, and how he manages his time.

Walk us through your normal routine.

I normally wake up before 6. I have to take the dog out, so I get him ready and go for about a mile to mile-and-a-half walk in Central Park. In there I’m checking emails and listening to podcasts, just sort of relaxing and getting ready for the day.

Which podcasts?

Oh, I listen to Howard Stern. laughs. Like, something very analytical… I listen to sports and NFL podcasts, some comedy. Just to sort of to relax and get everything done. It’s sort of funny: you know how you walk around the park and you see the same people every day? I hang out and talk with them. I normally back at the house by 7am, get quick shower, say goodbye to my wife. I’m at work before my daily 8am meeting. Then I grab some breakfast. Laughs. I cover Asia, so I have to quickly go over emails that I’ve gotten overnight.

So you must travel a lot. Which cities do you visit the most?

Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul. I go for long periods of time. For example, I’m leaving in mid-October for 3 weeks. Where I’ll go for longer periods of time, and in between I do shorter trips to different places in the US. When I’m there, it’s easier, and I spend 3-4 weeks in the region every time.

So, there are many people like you that have considered going back to school, what were some of the factors in you going back?

I realized that I needed it to advance in my company. I work in a field with credentials and I chose to get an MBA over a CFA because I thought it would be more interesting and I would get a broader view of business.

Did the program format have anything to do with you choosing Goizueta? What were you looking for in the school?

I looked at Cornell, Washington University, Notre Dame and some other schools’ weekend programs. I wanted to come to Atlanta because I wanted to feel like I was at school. If I was in New York it would be too easy for me to sneak to the office late night and work. I was definitely looking for diversity, tighter teams and different backgrounds. I mean, we have 4 doctors in our cohort, the thought process is different and you get a good breadth of perspective.

Was it pretty hard for you to transition into “school mode” again?

It was a quick and hard transition. After the first week of classes I realized that I needed to be more disciplined, I had to cut out some of the things I spend discretionary time on, I cut out fantasy football.

How do you balance your schedule with school?

One has to be very regimented. I try to do stuff during my lunch hour. I go shut my office door and do some reading, respond to emails.  Then at night when I get home, before I have late-night phone calls, I’ll typically read. Or if there’s a night that I don’t have a late-night phone call, I’ll do an hour or two (of reading) a night. And then on weekends, I’ll catch up on the rest.

I know the curriculum is challenging, but did anything about the program take you by surprise?

The amount of work! Laughs

Did you think being in the Executive MBA program the work was going to be a little easier?

I think the amount of work was a purely shocking and the time commitment, too. Unlike other types of education where you get a break, [the Executive MBA program] doesn’t. That’s the one thing that was really challenging when you thinks about school, you think, “Okay, I’m going to be on, but then I get a month off or I get the summer off.” The fact that you’re always going, picking up and dropping classes… You never really get that break. But conversely, you get through it, and you’re always engaged in it. You’re also always advancing forward.

Do you see this advancement in your thought processes at work?

I’m leveraging the ideas from this [experience] on a daily basis. Different ideas and different perspectives (come into play) when thinking about problems. One of the biggest advantages for me – one of the reasons why I picked Emory – is that it (Goizueta) isn’t all about Finance. We’re (my company) a financial company, so it’s all about finance.  The stuff I’m applying – supply-chain management, operational management, technology – those fields in which I didn’t have much exposure, I’m really leveraging some of those ideas and thought processes into what I do.

But you’re bringing different ideas to the table?

There are different ideas that you’ll see other companies do. For example, a hospital will have an idea about service: how to get customer feedback, treat patients, look at a problem differently, or really have a global perspective. Like some of these manufacturing companies, too, they manufacture in one area, and then they go around the world. They talk about how they broke from that; they will actually design and develop locally. They have reversed it their operations the other way. These are the sorts of ideas I’ve gained from class, always moving, leveraging ideas.

What is your management style and how have you honed it while in the program?

I am good at delegating tasks to other and letting them be accountable. My boss is an excellent coach and I am getting better at coaching and evolving in the other aspects of leadership.

How do you decompress?

I decompress with running and vacation, doing nothing and walking my dog. I was a big skier, I grew up in a ski-town and I’m looking forward to doing that again, maybe when I finish the program but this weekend I’m really looking forward to going to a bar, not moving and watching some football.