Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Winter 2006Kellogg School of Management
In DepthIn BriefDepartmentsClass NotesClub NewsArchivesContactKellogg Homepage
Thirty years of Executive MBA experience
Putting their heads together

From local to global

Executive profiles
James Fyffe '76
Leland C. Pillsbury '82
Patrick J. Balthrop '96
Milton Morris '04
Beth Hayden '05
Michele Azar '06
Kellogg global footprint expands with strategic EMBA partnerships
Expanding horizons
Principal gains
Address Update
Alumni Home
Submit News
Internal Site
Northwestern University
Kellogg Search
Michele Azar '06
Photo © Bruce Kluckhohn

EMBA Profile: Michele Azar '06

The whole executive

EMBA program helped Best Buy Business VP forge relationships with her company's top brass

By Aubrey Henretty

Years before she became a top executive at one of the nation's leading electronics brokers, Michele Azar '06 was learning the retail ropes through a different medium: fashion. But the moment she traded hemlines and headbands for hard disks and broadband, she could see the industries were not as different as they appeared.

"I needed to touch the product before knowing how to buy it," says the Best Buy For Business vice president. This need prompted her to seek membership in Best Buy's computer product "user group" — a group of tech-heads charged with testing and evaluating the products for vendors — shortly after she joined the company in 1997.

 The request surprised Azar's new employers. "One of the buyers nearly fell over," recalls Azar, who did end up joining the group. "[The experience] enabled me to be a better supply chain manager," she says. "And it was pretty cool to learn the products."

This passion for her work (and a sense of adventure) led Azar to enroll in the Kellogg School's Executive MBA Program. Beyond the program's academic rigors, Azar would continue her work with Best Buy, fit 32 flights from Minneapolis to Chicago into her already crowded business travel schedule and still find time to spend with her husband and two young daughters.

Azar says support from both family and company was crucial to her academic success. Her husband, a self-employed lawyer, cut back on his working hours to tackle extra domestic duties, and her brother-in-law, Pablo Azar '94, often hosted her daughters in Winnetka, Ill. — where he lives with his own children — while she was attending class in Chicago.

As she was applying to the EMBA program, Azar sat down with Best Buy's senior management. "I set very specific goals within my development plan that spelled out the desire to become part of senior leadership," she says. "Then, I outlined three specific goals in my application to Kellogg and held myself accountable to those goals at the end of the program."

The planning and perseverance paid off. "Less than one year into the program," she says, "I was promoted to vice president of Best Buy For Business."

With Kellogg toolkit in hand, Azar was up to the task. "At Best Buy, part of being a good leader is to bring in outside expertise to the organization," she says. "The Kellogg experience enabled me to leverage a whole new network of thought leaders to help Best Buy with strategic issues." During her time in the EMBA program, she gleaned insights from the Kellogg School's Global Initiatives in Management course about how to enter the Chinese market. She shared the ideas with executives at her company.

"It was a great chance to use my studies to get to know more leaders at Best Buy," she says.

Along with enhancing communication between Azar and her Best Buy colleagues, the EMBA program also helped her establish professional connections around the world.

Regardless of whether she lives in Chicago, China or South America, she says, the Kellogg education will continue to round out her life: "Part of being a great mom and a great leader and a great executive is making yourself whole."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University