A Rising Star at Nike: Darrell Geymann

“The WSU EMBA program is about collaboration and teamwork. We felt we succeeded when everyone benefited from the conversations and the classwork.”

Darrell Geymann
Online EMBA, Class of 2013
Planning and Operations Director, Nike

“The decision is really this simple,” says Darrell Geymann, when asked about the commitment it takes to earn an EMBA online. “To be successful, you need to find 15-­20 hours in your current weekly schedule. Sounds like a lot, but track your week starting today and see what you really would be giving up. When I did my assessment, I found the things I was giving up were not as important. How many hours do you spend watching TV, checking Facebook, etc.?”

The more Geymann deliberated, the more he knew it was the right move. “When I first began to ponder the notion of getting my EMBA, I sat down with my boss, who had some great insights,” he recalls. “The first thing he pointed out was technically, I was not qualified to work for myself. Everyone on my team and all new hires needed to have an MBA to be recognized as a candidate. The reason is simple: for large corporations that receive thousands of resumes, there needs to be a filtering process to narrow the candidate pool. The quality of your resume and the experience in many situations will go unread. The second thing my manager advised was that we always need to sharpen the tools in the toolbox to bring about new ideas and take our performance to the next level. My performance as an employee wasn’t falling behind, but at the same time, I wasn’t outgrowing the competition, which is where I personally wanted to be.”

The Benefits of Online Learning

At first, Geymann was apprehensive about the online environment. “The WSU Executive MBA program was my first experience with an online course, and I will admit I was very skeptical going into the program,” he says. But as he moved through the program, he discovered the format was just as engaging as an on­-campus format. “I was pleased to find it simulated a classroom environment better than what I experienced as an undergrad. Through the use of the online course discussion boards, I could ask a question of the class or an individual without interrupting the other students or professors. If I didn’t fully comprehend a concept or idea, I simply played back the session at another time as many times as it took for it to be clear.”

Geymann also quickly discovered the online format allowed him to balance his responsibilities as a student and professional with his most important job of all—fatherhood. “Week over week, I was able to be at the dinner table with my family up to five minutes before class started, attend the one­-hour class, and then put my kids to bed. As a father of 6­ and 10-­year-­old girls, it was important to me that while I was going to make the extra effort to go back and get my MBA, I didn’t want them to notice anything was different. The WSU program allowed this to happen, and by doing my work consistently every evening, I was able to make it through the 18-­month program without spending any weekend daylight hours studying. I had to be committed to the evenings every other day of the week to do it, but I never had to give up my weekends.”

Collaborating with Cougars

The Carson College of Business Executive MBA program attracts some of the world’s brightest business leaders, giving students valuable new perspective—one of Geymann’s favorite aspects of the program. “I was very impressed with the selection process WSU puts into its program and feel lucky to have had the caliber and experiences that my fellow classmates brought to the program. The diversity of industries, roles, and prior experiences enabled some in­depth conversations I have not experienced anywhere else, before or since.”

Geymann places great value on the collaborative learning environment that’s fostered within the program. “The WSU EMBA program encourages students to learn from one another, and many classes are designed to take advantage of the many differences, experiences, and backgrounds the students brought to the discussion. In our finance and accounting class, we had a fellow student who earned one of the highest scores in the CPA exam. Just prior to the start of class, she conducted accounting refresher courses for students who were nervous and concerned about the course. This was just one example of how we worked as a group to make sure we all learned from one another. Some programs are cutthroat, where a focus on grades creates a “me vs. them” mentality. The WSU EMBA program is about collaboration and teamwork. We felt we succeeded when everyone benefited from the conversations and the classwork. It is a definite team approach, like we have at Nike.”

That “team approach” is not an accident. The WSU EMBA program is designed this way to make everyone stronger through shared knowledge and experiences. And as Geymann has learned, the bonds formed among Cougar EMBA teammates often remain long after the program is over. “One of the greatest benefits of the EMBA program is the relationship and how close you become with fellow students. Since graduation, I have utilized classmates for special projects with my company, and I have helped another classmate start a business. Most beneficial, however, have been the times when I just call up a classmate, and we work through a problem I couldn’t resolve on my own.”

Geymann proudly wears his affinity for his classmates and alma mater on his sleeve. “The WSU family isn’t something you just experience as a student. It carries on with you through the rest of your life. I wear my Cougar gear when traveling and am always amazed at the places I will get a “Go Cougs” cheer from a fellow Cougar. I still do my best every year to make it back to Pullman for at least one sporting event.”

“It was without a doubt one of the best decisions I have made in my career.”

Real­-World Relevance

Today, in his role as director for one of the world’s most recognizable international brands, Geymann calls upon his WSU education regularly. “The biggest challenge I face on a daily basis is actively managing global resources—whether it is cultural differences or managing to stay connected with varying time zones. The WSU program, because of its strong international focus, taught us firsthand how to recognize the cultural differences and turn what many see as a challenge into an opportunity.”

Geymann is quick to recommend the program to colleagues who look up to him. “In my role, I have the opportunity to mentor a number of men and women early in their careers. In our first meetings, the idea of going back and getting an MBA is one of their first questions. I refer them to the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ For me, this quote became the tipping point in making the decision to go back and get the degree I was avoiding because I thought it was too much to handle. It was without a doubt one of the best decisions I have made in my career.”