Darren Wells, Former Goodyear Executive, Now Muma College of Business Executive MBA Coach
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (April 9, 2018) -- Students enrolled in the MBA programs at the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business now have a little help along the sidelines in the way of Darren Wells, the newly hired executive-in-residence and MBA coach.
Students in the program often are seasoned business professionals, some with several years of C-suite experience. They seek an MBA to advance their careers or to improve their performance in their current positions or to move up the corporate ladder.
The MBA program is designed to teach them about cutting-edge trends in business, foster a spark in conducting research and use their experiences during classroom discussions. Once students accomplish that, many find they don't really know how to best use their new skills to their advantage. That's where Wells comes into play.
"I'm focused on making sure MBA students have the best possible chance of success during and after they finish the program," Wells said. "The advice they get from me is intended to build on the support offered through USF's Career Services."
A travel, cycling and technology enthusiast, Wells was president of the Europe, Middle East and Africa business unit of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company from 2013-15, where he was responsible for $5 billion in revenue and 24,000 employees in more than 100 countries. He also worked as Goodyear's chief financial officer from 2008-13. Prior to that, he served in a variety of executive-level positions at the company including senior vice president of finance and strategy, senior vice president of business development and treasurer.
He helps by planning interactions between students and corporate executives during job searches, building strategic leadership skills and "managing up" to get the most from available career opportunities. Much of his focus is on communication skills.
"I have been consistently impressed with the caliber of the MBA students at the Muma College of Business as well as their willingness to put in the extra work it takes to turn their educations into career success," he said. "It's an exciting time to join the team. The focus on student success here is inspiring and the energy is incredible."
Executive MBA students are required to meet with him before they graduate. All other MBA students, if they meet certain requirements, are urged to schedule time with him.
After students wring what they can from the classroom experience, Wells, who started in January, can point them in the right career direction. He brings a world of executive experience with him.
Wells received an MBA in finance from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree in English composition and Spanish language from DePauw University in Indiana.
As the MBA program grows, it's only natural to have increased coaching resources, said Andy Artis, an associate marketing professor and academic director of the MBA programs at the Muma College of Business.
"It is a sign of our deep commitment to the long-term success of our MBA graduates that we brought in an accomplished executive like Darren to serve as our MBA coach," Artis said. "As a former division CFO, Darren acts as a reality check for all MBA students who aspire to work in the C-suite. He worked his way up the corporate ladder and knows the hard and soft skills that are most important.
"As a career coach, he is quick to tell current students what they need to do to succeed even when it requires some tough love.
"It's good to have a former Fortune 500 CFO around the college and we treat him as a full member of our leadership team," Artis said. "In fact, his questions have made us re-evaluate our MBA curriculum, and we now are considering what changes we need to make so that our MBA graduates are more empowered to pursue and achieve their career goals."
Coaching of MBA students is a trend that is catching on across the country, as program graduates wonder about job strategies, how to best market themselves and how to align freshly acquired leadership skills with executive appointments, said independent EMBA coach and consultant Martin Buckland, in an article published in TopMBA.com.
"I think this is where the maximum return on investment on executive coaching really lies," he said, "in educating graduates on how to take their career to the next level, climb that ladder of success and ultimately, reap the rewards of an EMBA designation."
Artis said the addition of an MBA coach will elevate the program at the Muma College of Business and help its high-achieving students reach the next phases of their careers.
"This is where Darren comes in," Artis said. "He provides meaningful direction to make all that hard work worthwhile. The program itself is very good in presenting the science of an MBA. Darren brings the art."
Dan Cross, senior director and finance business partner with Herc Rentals, is about to graduate from the MBA program, concentrating on executive leadership. Successful in the business world, Cross still values advice.
"I tell the folks who ask me for career advice that even though Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, he still needs a coach," Cross said. "If you're fortunate enough to have access to Darren to provide that kind of guidance, you're doing yourself a huge disservice not to take advantage."
He and Wells have had conversations about what it takes to be a good executive.
"I had some preconceived notions about external factors that I thought were holding me back from realizing my full potential," Cross said. "Darren challenged those notions and posed some really profound questions about whether what was holding me back truly was external or if it was me.
"Spoiler alert: It was me.
"Darren has some serious street cred too," Cross said. "His resume is impressive, but he wasn't a meteoric success. He spent a lot of time slogging through the ranks before reaching the pinnacle of his corporate career. So you don't feel like you're talking to an out-of-touch country club member who doesn't understand or remember the grind and frustration of middle management.
Even MBA students who have secure jobs should schedule time with Wells, Cross said.
"I guarantee" he said, "you will walk away from the conversation having learned something about yourself that changes your thinking."