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Matt Denninger

Q&A with Matt Denninger, MBA '13

Matt Denninger, MBA '13, is a senior marketing manager for Advanced Energy Industries Inc.'s solar energy business unit. He's responsible for key initiatives including establishing new markets and consistently developing ways to utilize fewer resources throughout the business.

What made you want to pursue an EMBA program?

In 2010, our company started a leadership forum that exposed me to new managerial tools and provided a venue outside of the day-to-day firefighting to apply critical thinking to difficult problems. That experience made me realize how much more there was to learn about how an organization should function, and it sparked my desire to go back to the classroom. Books only provide so much, and my interpretation is limited to my experience. I needed a formal class structure and interaction with people from various backgrounds and industries to get the most out of the concepts I wanted to learn.

Why did you choose Ross?

It was clear that any program would be a huge commitment of time and energy and would impact how much time I'd have to spend with my family. This reality reinforced the fact that I needed to go to a school that's highly ranked for general management and strategy, which match my strongest interests. I also needed a program with a broad cross-section of professions and industries to widen my perspective, as well as a higher average student age to increase the wealth of available experiences. It's an enormous benefit that the cohort only meets once a month and has world-class support and accommodations to make our lives easier as we juggle work, family, and school.

What's been the best part of the program?

The friendships and connections created by the cohort are by far the best part of the program. I will not hesitate to help a fellow member, provide a sounding board, make a connection, or support their cause. My class has a unique DNA that leaves no one behind, and it has fostered a very positive environment for learning and camaraderie. I have learned practical and eye-opening lessons from them over the past 20 months that would have taken 20 years to learn in industry.

Has there been a specific professor or class that made a big impact on you?

Absolutely. Professor Ahuja's strategy classes. The effectiveness of my strategic planning, design, and execution before coming to Michigan pales in comparison to how Professor Ahuja has operationalized the strategic analysis and planning processes and demonstrated how these efficient and fundamental constructs can be used and applied. The impact was so tremendous and immediate that I already am using his tools to develop and drive our strategy for entering the Japan market.

What did you take on for your ExecMAP experience? What was most memorable about it?

The ExecMAP Program gave my teammates and me the opportunity to apply, test, and validate what we learned in the classroom. It's an important aspect of the Michigan program because it brings together everything we have learned up to that point into a single, comprehensive project. Let's face it — applying knowledge is always more rewarding than the act of gaining knowledge. I was fortunate enough to be part of a risk assessment project for John Deere, and I felt tremendous satisfaction when we saw top management's reaction during the on-site presentation and heard that they would use the tools we developed.

Ross is known for being at the leading edge of sustainability. Do you find this plays into your work in the renewable energy industry?

I'm already applying my new and expanded toolkit of skills in the work I'm doing in the PV solar industry. Our industry has been a bit like the Wild West, and high growth has masked fundamental flaws in business models at many companies. I strongly believe the Ross EMBA Program has helped me support and drive the critical business models necessary for our company to remain profitable and successful.



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