James Garrett

Class of 2015

Hometown: Alexandria, VA
Undergraduate University: William & Mary
Class Year: 1997
Major/Minor: Chemistry
Employer: Luna Labs USA
Position: CEO

Why did you pursue an MBA?

As my career progressed, I started to do more personnel management. I realized that there were some new problem sets I had never dealt with before, and my past work experience didn't apply to the people problems. I became Vice President of my company's division in 2012, and almost all of my work shifted to strategy, personnel management, and commercializing products instead of just developing them. I really started to realize how unprepared I was for those problems and solving those challenges. I needed more business focus and a better foundation of business principles.

Why was the W&M EMBA program the right fit for you?

I enjoyed my undergraduate experience at William & Mary, and the business school certainly has a great reputation. The timing was a large factor in my decision. I decided in the fall that I wanted to pursue an MBA, and a cohort was starting in January. The two international trips appealed to me—our class traveled to Brazil and China. It was very affordable, and it was relatively close to where I was living in Charlottesville. Additionally, it was in person. Some schools were mixing in online classes, and I just felt for myself being in the classroom, having conversations with my peers, and working in teams was going to have more of an impact.

What was the biggest highlight for you during your EMBA experience?

I had been reading a lot of books on my own—books on business, management, and leadership—and I was unsure what I would get out of the program. I quickly found out during the first five days of class that there were so many foundational concepts, fields of thought, and ways of approaching problems in a business context that I had never been exposed to. That first week, I said to myself that if I didn't learn anything else during the rest of the program, it would be worth it. It was an eye-opening experience for someone who had been through a lot of schooling already—I had a Ph.D. and felt fairly well-prepared to lead a group of scientists and engineers—but that first week showed me how much more I had to learn.

How did the EMBA program grow your personal and professional network?

The faculty and the staff are excellent. The professors were available after hours and during the week, and I've reached back out to several over the years with questions. The cohort was on the smaller side, which is consistent with the William & Mary academic experience I'm familiar with. It's something I appreciate because it allows the professors to focus on the students and the learning environment. I also enjoyed the in-person interaction I had with my peer group on a regular basis. The people I was in class with had a lot of professional experience, and the conversations with them about applying classroom teaching to real-world situations drove home the concepts.

What impact has the MBA had on your career?

I feel like I'm a translator now. I have a Ph.D. in material science and engineering, and now I have an MBA from William & Mary. I can still walk into the lab and talk to the scientists and engineers, know what they're saying, and communicate with them about technical concepts. But the MBA gave me the legitimacy and confidence to walk into a board meeting and understand what the Board of Directors is saying and communicate with them in a way where they know what is going on with the company and with the people. It allows me to have a foot in both camps. I never would have gotten to my current role as CEO without the EMBA program.



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