From Goizueta B-School to President of a Fortune 1000 Company: Getting an MBA Was Essential
On the verge of applying to b-school? Mac Schuessler is President - International of Fortune 1000 company Global Payments. He says an MBA was "essential" to his career success!
If there was ever any doubt as to whether an MBA was essential to achieve a truly successful career, then that debate is surely quashed with one swift look at Mac Schuessler’s CV. Many prospective business school students ponder whether an MBA is really necessary to stretch out and reach the higher echelons of business management. Many professionals who have completed MBAs have done so after already landing jobs with top firms and Fortune 500 companies.
But Mac, an executive at one of the largest payment processing companies in the world, is living proof of what an MBA can help you achieve. He thoroughly endorses MBA programs and is, by virtue of his role at Global Payments, a very successful alumnus of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
Mac is President – International for Global Payments Inc. (NYSE: GPN) and is responsible for approximately 1,800 employees, running the business throughout Europe and Asia, comprising about $700 million in revenue. Global Payments delivered revenue of $2.4 billion and an impressive 8% growth in the fiscal year ending May 31, 2013.
The company is a global leader in payment processing solutions for credit and debit cards, business-to-business purchasing cards, gift cards, electronic check conversion and check guarantee that is used by multi-national corporations worldwide.
But would Mac have reached the C-level of this Fortune 1000 company without an MBA? “It was essential for me,” he says, thinking back at his experience at Emory 15 years ago in 1998. “It definitely demonstrates a level of ambition as well as the ability to manage complexity.
“You gain functional knowledge in the MBA program, such as accounting, strategy and marketing, which you wouldn’t get otherwise. The ability to go back after my undergraduate degree and study subjects like accounting and economics was particularly valuable.”
After receiving his BA at New York University in 1992, Mac took a job at Wachovia Bank, now part of Wells Fargo. By 1996, he was working with American Express, one of the 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. By the time he left AMEX in 2005, he was the Global Vice President of Purchasing Solutions.
There are many things that Mac credits to his success, but the most profound business lesson he remembers is not from prestigious banks or worldwide payments companies. It is one he learnt while studying for his MBA at Emory. “Even now, fifteen years later, it is one of the most important business principles,” he tells me.
“In one class, we were going through a negotiation simulation and most people were trying to maximise profit by taking advantage of the first person with whom they had to negotiate.
“But those taking advantage of the other teams received the least in the end, because the others didn’t trust them. What I took away was that the most important thing with employees and customers is the ability to have a trusting relationship. Emory taught me that lesson. ”
Mac was hired by Global Payments in 2005 as the Vice President of Marketing, based in Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked for three years. In 2008, he was Global Payments’ Chief Administrative Officer, organising over 1,000 employees worldwide. Flash forward to 2013, and he is heading the European and Asian arms of the business from Hong Kong.
He knows what it takes to get hired at a top company, and says that an MBA is a “respected accomplishment” at Global Payments. “All our executives recognise that it’s an achievement,” he adds.
Although armed with an MBA, it obviously took a lot more to rise through the rankings with such an impressive pace. What does it take to succeed at a Fortune 1000 company? “This is not just specific to our company, but I used to run Human Resources at Global Payments, and in that role I was on a non-profit board with several other HR heads from some of the biggest companies in the world,” he says.
“We came up with a couple of things necessary to succeed. The first is functional skills and understanding how a business works. The second is leadership; learning to lead, to be able to hire great people and motivate them to get results. It’s also important to understand corporate culture and being able to navigate in that culture.
“But what makes the difference between people who work at companies and people who end up running companies, is the ability to deal with ambiguity. Any MBA who wants to move to a C-level job has to be comfortable with ambiguity. In every job I’ve worked in, no one has said, ‘This is what you need to do and this is how to do it.’ You need to be able to go on a path without people telling you exactly what to do and how to do it.”
Understanding how important trust is in building relationships makes Mac a great fit for Global Payments. “Our business is built on strong global partnerships, which enable us to provide innovative products and services to help our customers around the world succeed and grow.”
Driven by the needs of customers around the world, Global Payments was the first to launch an mPOS terminal for contactless payments in Sri Lanka. Contactless payment is a growing trend among consumers, and Global Payments has also launched the product in the UK and in Barcelona, and has tested it in Hong Kong.
Mac thinks that using smartphones and tablets for payment transactions is the future. “Right now, you can walk up to vending machines in Hong Kong and purchase a soda by waving your card in front of it,” he says.
“It will be an ever-emerging device and I think the rate of change, from contact to contactless, will increase at a faster pace. We think the rate of adoption in emerging markets would be more rapid than in developed countries.”
From undergraduate at New York University to President - International at Global Payments; there’s no doubt that Mac’s MBA was essential in building his impressive career. To find out what MBA program is right for you, visit our Business School Profiles section here.