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Preston Young

Q&A with Preston Young, MBA '13

Preston Young, MBA '13, is an intellectual property lawyer at IBM Corp., providing counsel on copyrights, trademarks, patents, licensing, and other matters. Prior to his current assignment at IBM, Preston was a captain in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG).

What's exciting in your work these days?

What I do is as much about business counsel as it is about legal counsel. As someone with a strong affinity toward innovation, I feel like a kid in a candy store. I get to be one of the first to see inventions that stand to make a big impact in the world, and my job is to protect and leverage these innovations as they're developed. A lot of what I do is related to IBM's Smarter Planet campaign. I really believe in the potential of technology to make a positive difference in the world.

Why did you want to pursue an EMBA degree?

I've been selected for IBM’s Business & Technical Leadership (BTL) program, which is designed to groom future leaders of the company. The BTL program is complemented by my role as legal adviser; I am constantly challenged to lead by rendering creative solutions to complicated business initiatives while also complying with legal and ethical considerations. As I took on more high-visibility projects and found myself thinking more from a business perspective to solve legal problems, I felt that the EMBA would improve my business acumen by allowing me to contribute more to the business strategy, analysis, and execution discussions with a view toward mitigating unintended legal implications.

Why did you choose Ross?

Ross stood out because of its general management focus, which meshes with my career goals. The once-a-month format, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and the expansive alumni base also strongly influenced my decision.

In your opinion, what has been the best aspect of the program?

The Ross EMBA program has allowed me to expand beyond the myopic lens of a traditional attorney function, and instead consider how at an individual level one's input can impact a globally integrated enterprise by influencing revenue and income, margins, earnings per share, cash flow, and shareholder value. As a result, I now see business from a much broader perspective. I go into a grocery store and think about the effectiveness of product placement as a positioning strategy. I study the processing times while standing in line at the local coffee shop and contemplate customer flow improvements. At work I recognize the key drivers of business decisions made by senior executives that impact a department, division, or the entire company and consider how my role as an influencer might facilitate this process. In short, I see how various parts of the business influence one another, which is crucial in any leadership or management role.

What are your classmates like? What have you learned from them?

More than anything, my classmates have taught me how to improve upon my people and project management skills. In corporate practice, management is often about various individual actions that are required to favorably impact the bottom line and to help your boss succeed. In the military, however, management emphasizes the importance of the chain of command and the efficient use of people and resources to accomplish the designated mission. The diversity of my Ross EMBA peers (e.g., industry, profession, experience), has allowed me to study, adopt, and modify other management styles into my own unique blend of public and private sector management skills. This experience has been immediately helpful at work by helping me to improve "soft" skills, collaboration abilities, and overall productivity, particularly when unforeseen challenges arise.

How have the faculty been?

The faculty are very focused on practical, real-world application — not just theory. They take complex ideas and translate them into easy-to-understand tools which can be utilized in everyday practice. Not everyone can do that in a way that provides tangible benefits that can be used on an individual basis. I've also gotten an incredible amount of mentoring, including interactions with professors that have gone out of their way to make individual feedback as relevant and personalized as possible.

What has the once-a-month format been like for you?

I love it. It's one of the main reasons I chose Ross. I look forward to taking a break from my work routine and coming here to participate in the residencies. The balance of remote work and on-campus collaboration is ideal.

Tell me more about the Yellow Ribbon program.

I can't say enough positive things about Ross' commitment to and treatment of veterans. The Yellow Ribbon program has exceeded all of my expectations. The fact that Ross endorses the program in such a public way and has a cadre of veteran graduates is a powerful statement about its genuine support of the military community and the value that veterans bring to the EMBA cohort. In my rejection of other EMBA offers, I referenced Ross' Yellow Ribbon program as the "gold standard," which I suggested others should emulate.

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