Andrew Cyders, MBA’11, joins host Dr. Monica Powell for the 11th installment of the Yet Another MBA G.O.A.T. podcast. Cyders is director of special projects and chief of staff at The Everett Clinic in Everett, Wash. He and Powell discuss how the rigor of the MBA prepared him well for success in healthcare consulting and positioned him for the job he holds today.
Andrew Cyders’ contact information: email@example.com
Introductory music plays up through Monica’s introduction.
[Jimmie] This is yet another MBA G.O.A.T. A podcast featuring conversations with the greatest of all-time MBA alumni from the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas. We are here to celebrate the outcomes of graduate management education and to identify remarkable examples of how the MBA program here at the Jindal School has transformed the lives of our alumni. Now, here’s Dr. Monica Powell, Senior Associate Dean and Graduate Dean at the Jindal School. Take it away, Monica.
[Monica] Well, hello there, I am Monica Powell. I am the Senior Associate Dean and Graduate Dean here at the Jindal School and (The music has continued through this, diminishes and ends.) I am thrilled, today, to have one of my favorite all-time MBA students with us. Andy Siders, welcome to yet another UT-Dallas MBA G.O.AT. How does it feel to be a G.O.A.T?
[Andy] It feels great. I, I think, I’m most simply the worst of anything, so it feels wonderful to be, to be in the G.O.A.T. category and I’m really glad that I can be with you today.
[Monica] I cannot believe, Andy, I cannot believe that it has been nine years since you graduated from the program. So, I mean, wow, you are now big-time way down the road in terms advancing your career and ah, and it looks like you, you landed a, a, a new job as a chief of staff recently, So, why don’t you tell everybody what you are doing and what you did just before this in, in order to kind of utilize and take advantage and get the value proposition of the MBA?
[Andy] Oh, that’s a great question. Um, I think one of the things for me that stands out about the MBA at UT-Dallas was the breadth of coursework that we have. So, the fact that, you know, I was required along with the rest of the students to study finance and operations and information systems and org design and all of those different attributes, aside, aside from my ah individual concentration in, in operations and, and consulting, really allowed me to be a strong generalist. And I think in 2020, with the increasing integration of every type of business, and particularly healthcare, which is what I work in. Having that skill set that was really broad from the MB, MBA to enable me was, was really a game changer for me. So, ah, prior to this role, I worked at Humana, the large Fortune 50 health insurer based in Louisville, Kentucky. And I worked a variety of roles there. I was really fortunate that Humana has a culture where they actually incentivize lateral moves and give associates um 8 to 10% or more raises for a lateral move, which is pretty unheard of. And the reason that they want people to be cross-trained, so that if somebody’s working in um a clinical area where they are supporting frontline physicians and doctors, they, they want that person to have quantity of experience or finance experience or operations experience and visa-versa. So, um I did a, a whole variety of different roles at Humana, including supporting value-based care, which is basically transitioning away from quantity of care to quality. But, what does the patient really need for their health and, and how do we really drive that? Um, and, based on that experience at Humana, I started in June of ’19 at ah um at the Everett Clinic, which is a large, about $700 million dollar multi-specialty clinic business in, in Everett, Washington, um just north of Seattle. Ah and they were a month after I started, they were acquired by OPTIM which is part of United Health Group, the largest healthcare company in the world. And, my job as chief of staff is essentially to support formerly the president of the Everett Clinic. He is now a regional executive vice president over the entire region of the Pacific Northwest. Ah, his name is Dr. Eric Hoffman. He is also a UT-Dallas MBA. His job is to ah before he was the actual president of the clinic operations and our Independent Physician Association, which is all these affiliate doctors that we provide services to. And now, he runs our strategy, our growth, our operations and our value lanes. And, my job as his chief of staff is to help him and the people underneath him be successful. So, the chief of staff role is really interesting. It is basically somewhere between mini-CEO and fancy secretary. I really get an opportunity to learn something every day. I’ve represented our company with the governor of Washington, and I also print PowerPoint slides and staple them. So, it’s a really interesting job where I get to, I get to do everything in between. So, ah, it’s ah, it’s unlike anything I’ve had and I’m really grateful to be in the position.
[Monica] Andy, that, that really sounds fascinating. I’m, I’m a little bit curious how, how did you find him? I mean he’s an alum. Did you know he was an alum? Did you remember all your networking lessons that you connected with him on Linked-in? I mean, how did a UT-Dallas alum find a UT-Dallas alum?
[Andy] Well, I would love to tell you that I did it through my natural charisma and charm, but the reality is, is that I was actually reached out to by a recruiter ah who had looked at my Linked-in page and I was, you know, I was one of those people who is passively looking all the time, wasn’t actively applying, was pretty happy with my role at Humana. But, I think they saw not only the strong foundation that the UTD MBA provided, but also the variety of goals that I had. And, to be successful in the chief of staff role, you really have to be flexible, and they reached out to me. 2020 – So, I did what any good Gen-X person does, and I immediately Googled him, looked at his Linked-in. I went, oh, he went to UTD. I reached out to, I reached out to some of the UTD staff and said, “Do you know this guy? What are, you know, what are your thoughts?” Um, people poked around within UTD ah for me and it came back, he’s you know, on top of being a really smart person, most importantly, he’s a really nice person. He’s a really good person. And so it said two things for me: number one, that he left an impression on, on the staff of UT-Dallas and number two, that eight plus years removed from my experience in the MBA, you know, Lisa and Joanna were willing to show up for me as an alumnus and make sure that um that I was getting what I needed when I hadn’t asked for the school. And so, yah, it was just serendipitous after that. I went through the interview process and, and ah it all worked out. And, and I was selected for the role. And, it’s been the coolest opportunity that I’ve had um in my career.
[Monica] Yah, Lisa Shatz, who’s our assistant dean for MBA programs and Joanna Fowler, who really leads our admissions and operation team, I think ah they, they should get a lot of credit for the help that they offer alumni when they find themselves in that, in that transition. You know, Andy, um, I’m pretty actively involved with all MBA students, and it’s one of the things that I just absolutely love. And, you were a ball of fire and a ball of energy when you were in the program. So, when you kind of think back, to all of that, I mean, you have grown up into this you know all-important chief of staff kind of guy,
[Monica] And when you look back ah to the MBA program, what do you think on the social side helped prepare you for the amazing career that you’ve had in the last nine years? I mean, you have done some really incredible stuff.
[Andy] Well, I, I appreciate that. I think um that there’s, two things that come to mind. The first thing, I think it’s really important to have a sense that I’m going to lean into the community of UT-Dallas and what that means for me, I spent, Monica, as you are well aware, I was in your office all of the time, talking to you about nothing, asking questions, “Here’s what I’m going through. What do you think about this case competition?” I did the same thing with Lisa and Joanna and the rest of the MBA staff. And I did the same thing with my classmates. Many of the classmates from my time in the MBA program are still some of my closest friends and that’s useful for a number of re-reasons, but you know the, the utilitarian reasons of career network, and so forth are obvious, but I think more importantly, the feeling of, “I have support to get through what is ah both a really rewarding and a really challenging program.: And, what’s really, really a game changer for me and that’s something that I’ve relied on throughout my career, as well. So “who’s rowing in the boat with me, wherever I am, whatever the position is.” And, how can I, how can I really lean into those people and provide support for them? I think another aspect of the social element at UTD that is important is also, ah my experience in the MBA was that it was, it was hard and I, and I think that’s a good thing. It, you know I don’t know how much the degree would be worth if it were you know just showing up to class and signing my name on a paper and then leaving. And, so I, I put a lot of time in, I, I remember telling um one of you know somebody about my experience in the MBA and I remember being in the school literally physically in the School of Management seventy, eighty, ninety hours a week depending on the, on the week in the semester. I mean it was really challenging experience for me. And, part of that experience is dealing with difficult people, dealing with classmates who I don’t get along with. Aligning as a group around a target and I, I remember there was a group project where we had an agreement that a week later we were going to come back with our stuff prepped and we were going to talk about combining to put the project together, and I dropped the ball. And, I had to have a hard conversation with, with my fellow MBAs, a hard conversation with professors when we, when we didn’t meet an objective. And I think that people, my experience is that that is an important piece of the education in an MBA as well. Is, is understanding how to deal with challenging circumstances. The stakes are not nearly as high in MBA as they are in my, in my career. Um, and so the ability to deal with discomfort and to, and to lean into people and say, “Ok, this relationship might be damaged because we missed something, but that doesn’t actually mean that we don’t like each other. We’re going to, we have to prepare to repair this relationship and get this project done together.” Or, “I’ve got to, you know I’ve gotta, I didn’t do well on that assignment, I’m gonna do well on the next assignment.” That is also an important muscle that I got to build in the MBA that it has helped me in my career.
[Monica] You know, that’s really interesting, Andy. I mean we, we talk to a lot of MBAs on this podcast and you know, we hear the same story about, you know, how hard it was. And, you are not the least bit exaggerating about the number of hours that you were in the building. Cause, cause, I was in the building all those hours, too, so I, I know that it, you sweated bullets and you worked really hard. But, that one characteristic that I haven’t heard our other podcast guests talk about is the important part of building empathy for others. I mean, you, you work in an environment where there has to be some level of forgiveness. Not everybody is on their A game all the time. And it sounds like you didn’t expect to have that as one of the returns on the investment and it sounds like that that empathetic characteristic has really played well for you in your career.
[Andy] Yah, I think that, I think it’s critical. I don’t know of a business where empathy is overrated. Right, I mean, aa you can think of even, even the most you know, engineering, mechanically oriented business like flying planes or whatever, I’m sure I could, come up, come up with something even more divorced from the customer. If you are going to do a good job in my experience, I have to be part of a team that’s, that’s working cohesively together and good teams almost never have ten people who agree. Cause if you agree, you’re not actually thinking, my experience, you’re not actually thinking that boldly. You know, there needs to be some disagreement and, and in order to get through that disagreement, I need to understand that this person is doing the best job and they are putting forth this idea because they think it is actually going to work and they have — that’s the suggestion that they have. And, it’s not, you know, I’m sure everybody’s dealt in their, in their career with experiences where there are people who are just wanting to climb over one another, but you know in, in the modern business environment, I think that empathy is really critical. Um in healthcare, it’s the basis of what we do which is part of the reason that I like working in healthcare. But, I also there’s a more important reason than to be empathetic which is what in this time in our society with a tremendous amount of decision, it’s easy to sit in my bubble and not deal with people who are not like me. And, that is a recipe for me to start to judge other people and sit in condemnation of them. It is also a recipe for me to not understand my impact. So, here’s the reality, is as a white man who is the chief of staff for a large company, I have power, and if I don’t think about the way that the decisions that I am doing affect other people, affect patients, affect my co-workers, I’m going to hurt them or I’m going to perpetuate the, the you know systemic racism instructors that we see in our society. An example of that in my MBA which I remember being particularly relevant is I’m the type of person who my parents said you know, the mark of how you treat people is not how you treat somebody who has power over you, it’s how you treat somebody who has no power over you. And so, I’m the type of person who says, “hi” to the janitor. I say, “hi” to the per, you know, I’m, I, actually stop and talk to the person who has no power over me. And it’s not anything about my character, it’s just the way I was raised. But, I got locked out of a, of a room at 3:00 a.m. when I was pulling an all-nighter on a project for UT-Dallas and the janitors were taking off. And, if I didn’t have the op, if I didn’t know who they were and was willing to say, “Hey, can you let me into that room?” I would have had, you know, four hours without my computer and would have turned in the assignment late. So, it made a difference to me to be able to connect with other people as a human being. So, yah, I could speak for hours about empathy and I’m sorry for droning on, but that’s, that’s a really important piece for me.
[Monica] Well, I’ve been in the MBA world close to 34 years and I hear a lot of students talk about the characteristics that they gained. And, and I, I’ve just not had one articulate empathy in the way that you have and I, and I agree with you. I think it’s a critically (music begins) important component that anybody can take away and probably one of the top five components that are important in terms of leveraging a top-notch career and being a leader. You can’t be an effective leader today without, without being empathetic.
[Jimmie] This episode is brought to you by the UT-Dallas MBA program, top-ranked nationally and in Texas. The UT-Dallas MBA combines a robust core with 13 concentrations. You have an option to add a second Master’s degree, and your choices for that include five STEM designated programs. The MBA program has fulltime, part-time, online and other formats. They give you flexibility to fit your MBA education into your busy schedule. The skills and training you will receive are what top employers are looking for. For more information, visit us online at jindal.utdallas.edu/mba
[Monica] So, you know, Andy, I want you to think a minute cause, I mean, you literally lived in the building and you had a lot of energy. I mean, I get ki, kidded all the time about my level of energy. Well, you topped me in terms of the energy category. So, I’m kind of curious, when you look back at that nine years ago, there had to be some pretty hysterical moments in the MBA program, ones that you know will, will be in your memory for the rest of your life. So, can you share one of those really, funny, hysterical unbelievable, “I can’t believe I did that” moment?
[Andy] Yah, I can share a really ridiculous moment, but um, yah I, I think energy is great. I want to shout out to anybody with ADHD listening, cause um all of my ADHD people know that we are, we are not unfocused, we have too much energy, and, and, whatever people are putting in front of us is typically boring and that’s why we are distracted. Ah, but I’ll give you a great example of ADHD. Ah, my mother has ADHD and she just recently stepped down as president of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists. So, she has achieved a little bit in her career and she says people with ADHD are really actually efficient because they procrastinate perhaps forever, and so they only spend a little time working on something. And a great example of that in, in my MBA experience is um the final semester, and I’m not advising anybody to do this who is listening, but um you know in your career and in your personal life and certainly in MBA, sometimes you have to got to do what you’ve got to do to get through. And we had two classes. There was, we had a global strategy class and then, we had the global business, excuse me and then, a strategic management class. And, one was with Dr. Peng and one was with Dr. Dess. And, I was in a group of five and the same five were one were in each class. And we had this huge project for strategic management where we had to do this enormous research paper. And we had this other project in global business which was not quite as, as strenuous. And so, we agreed as a group that I would just take the global business project. It was just a long paper and the other group would do the other, the other thing. And that’s the way we decided to divide it up. Um, and we obviously, it wasn’t like they didn’t work on the paper or I didn’t work on the other one, but in true ADHD fashion, I just, I did some research, and then, I didn’t start the paper until the night before it was due. So, I went up on the third floor of the business school and my good buddy Ben Wilson, who is now a VP at a, at a acquisitions company, you should talk to him, unless you want to talk to somebody who’s really successful and an amazing person. Um, so, Ben just sat with me and in the room, and I wrote the paper in one night and our group got an A+ on it and it got published in Dr. Peng’s textbook. So, I have a copy of it sitting in my room, over here sitting in my living room. I’ve got it Peng’s Global textbook which has our paper on ah Texas Instruments and, and Korean use of tablets in their education system and so, you know, we, we had done enough work on the research ahead of time, but at the end of the day, sometimes, you know the success was you know, duct tape, bubble gum, espresso and an all-nighter. And, and I’ve had that experience in my career. I’ve experienced coming in at 4: 00 a.m. and banging out a PowerPoint that my president has had to you know deliver a couple of hours later. And, if, if I treat that as an opportunity, if I treat that as, as you know like if, if, if, if I think for me, I have to be excited about the pressure and that’s the way that my energy gets activated, as opposed to freaking out about my own insecurity and ego. And, then my energy gets dissipated into fear. So, if I get excited about it, then, I can do some interesting things. And so, that was a ridiculous story, but there is many more stories. There’s, there’s all kinds of stuff that happened in that MBA. (Laughing) Great experience
[Monica] Yah, I remember some of those things. We’ll, we’ll leave those ah, (Andy laughing) un, untalked about on our podcast. So, so, I’m going to play a game with you, Andy. Let’s see if we can have a little bit of fun on the podcast.
[Monica] Sooo, your go-to food during the MBA program was …
[Andy] Bistro Bee is an enormous Vietnamese restaurant. They have got 25 cent eggrolls. So for all you ah poor grad students, you can get about 30 eggrolls for, for, for you know $6.00 bucks or whatever. It’s about 5 miles from the campus. It’s incredible. If you ever want a good bowl of sauce, they are open super late. Bistro Bee, check it out.
[Monica] It sounds like you have a little experience there. How many cups of coffee did you drink between lead camp and graduation?
[Andy] Probably. Three a day, so, a year and a half, 365, probably about 1500.
[Monica] That’s a consultant’s to a question for you.
[Andy] A flag for yah
[Monica] Yah, do some math there. So, so tell me did you have any nightmares during the MBA?
[Andy] Oh, gosh, did I have nightmares? You know, as though, I’ll be really honest with you. During that time, I was growing a lot as a person. Um I’m, I’ve been sober almost ten years. I don’t, I’ll be totally frank, I don’t care who listens. But, for anybody who’s got alcohol or drug addiction issues, I got sober during the MBA, so the first couple of months were particularly challenging for me um and I had a lot of um nightmares about that. But, about business school, about homework and papers, nah, I was really excited. I mean the, the, the MBA for me was, so as I said my mother’s a doctor. I learned very early on that the experience of working with a bunch of smart people on a really interesting problem is engaging and, and electrifying for me. and, that’s what, that’s what MBA is. You, you self-select for a bunch of really smart motivated students, put on them a bunch of really smart motivated questions and set them in a room for a year and a half. And for me, I, I enjoyed almost every moment of it. So, I didn’t have nightmares about business school.
[Monica] Well, that, that’s the good news. So, we’re really, we’re really glad about that. And, congratulations on that ten year …
[Andy interrupts] And one other thing, Monica,
[Monica] That, that’s really amazing.
[Andy] I didn’t mean to talk over you. I didn’t mean to cut you off. But, I will say also, ah if you guys wouldn’t mind, you can include my e-mail address or phone number if there is ever anybody who is struggling with addiction or meets somebody I would be happy to be a resource for anybody.
[Monica] Absolutely, thank you so much for that. Um, you know, Andy, this is a, um an usual time in American and global history, right now. Um, the extraordinary impact of COVID-19 on, on literally ah, a global level has just been overwhelming. So, what would you say to somebody who’s average age 28, 29, who’s thinking that they might want to transition their career like you did? I mean, you literally transformed the trajectory of your career. What would you say to them about the value proposition of an MBA at this time given what’s going on in the world?
[Andy] Yah, I mean, I think ironically, I think this is probably the best time to get an MBA. To, to just mechanically for those folks who are interested in, in terms of the transition that Monica is referring to, I went from, I, I went from a supply chain career to a healthcare consulting career and doubled my salary. So, if that’s the kind of information that’s motivating for somebody to hear, yah, you know, just put that in the back of your head. But, more importantly for me, the experience of learning about myself, of growing and of testing myself in an environment like this is critical. And, part of what COVID has done, particularly in healthcare, but in lots of other industries, has kind of clarified the roles that are really important and the really those that aren’t. You know the irony of the essential workers are often the workers that are treated you know on the, at the bottom of the totem pole. And it is becoming clear to Americans and being able to di, differentiate oneself in a from a career standpoint and, and that type of education they’ve received is really increasingly important. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, having a broad skill set in the, you know, specialization is really important, and all of us are all specialists at some point in our career. But having a broad enough skill set to be able to translate between departments and navigate different groups is really, really critical. And so, I can speak for healthcare in particular, you know if, if I have in a situation where we have increasing unemployment and, you know, even on the healthcare side, you see docs and other resources furloughing or cutting hours, if we have a, a you know, single position open and there’s a tight candidate pool, the MBA is going to make a difference. And, that’s, that’s the reality. An MBA does not mean, I’ve had the experience of hiring MBAs that are not as strong as people. I’ve also hired people who don’t even have a, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, but it has nothing to do with how that person is going to turn out as an employee ultimately, but in a labor uncertain market, it is going to make a difference in terms of the opportunities that are available. And, that’s, that’s what’s important to me about it. It’s not about, does it fundamentally change the game for me in my career? But, it does, it changes the choices that are available to me. And, so, I would encourage and particularly when you couple that with the cost of the UT-Dallas MBA relative to other institutions just at the same rank, but also in Texas and the value of the UTD MBA is something that I just I couldn’t turn my back on. And, I, I would encourage the students who are interested to consider that as well.
[Monica] I, ah, that’s a spectacular answer and, and definitely a return on the investment for anybody who wants to do it in a down economy. You know, Andy when you were in the program, you didn’t leave anything on the field. You gave it everything. Ah, you gave up sleep. time, everything to do as well as you could in this program. If you could go back and do one thing over again because it was so impactful, what would that one thing be that you would just go back and do again because it was such an amazing transformative moment for you?
[Andy] Well, I have two, I, I have a bad one and I have a good one. So, the bad one was that I, this is going to come as a complete shocker, Monica, but I was pretty egotistical during that MBA. And, ah, you know I was playing with the gloves off. I did leave everything on the field absolutely, um and I was not particularly nice to some of my classmates and professors and you know, I think you know, as you get older, the those types of choices that I’ve made about personal relationships are the things that stick with me. Those are the things that I regret. It’s not that I missed an opportunity. I chose to speak to somebody in that manner and treat somebody like that, and I wish that I could take that back. That’s one thing that I would redo. The other thing I would redo from a good prospective is case competitions were incredibly important to me. Everybody is gonna have a, a you know if you go to UT-Dallas or any other good MBA, you are going to have smart students and good professors and, I think you know UTD really challenged me in that regard. But, in the case competition is where you get together with a small group of students around some really amorphous problem and you have to do everything. So for example, um what got me my, my position at Humana was a case competition at Humana. Humana does a case competition or used to do every year where the first prize was in addition to $10,000 for the winning team was interviews for their leadership development program. And, the question that we had is pick home-health or pick telemedicine. Tell us which we should go into and should we do it organic growth or acquisition? That’s the question. Do your research. You have seventy-two hours to put together a presentation and mail it in. If you get selected, then we fly you to Louisville and you guys have to present with you know I think there were 16 other teams or eight other teams and we had to present in person again. And our team was fortunate enough to win and, and that experience for me. I did, I think I did probably six or seven of those over the course of my MBA. And, they are just so fascinating. And again, it’s also an experience where you really have to be tight with this group of a couple of other students. Everything from the research, the, the quant and finance side, the presentation of the audio, putting the PowerPoint, delivering that PowerPoint in some cases. It’s all on you. So that experience really teaches how to thrive under pressure, but also how to leverage a bunch of different skill sets. And that was, as you know, I think my career has followed that. Consulting is essentially doing case work like that and you’re looking at discrete and defined problem over and over again. And so, I would do case competitions over and over again if I had the opportunity. So, yah,
[Monica] Wow, you know, Andy, I, I know that you’ve articulated amazingly well during this podcast how big an impact the choice of UT-Dallas has had on you. And, and that’s great, but I would also throw out that, you know, I, I’ve been dealing with students like I said over three decades and you know, and I can remember the names and the experiences with a lot of them. You really had a, a return impact on UT-Dallas as well, just bringing your energy, your unpredictability, your honesty. I mean, you were very authentic about who you were and I think that’s an important quality, ah whether it’s unrefined, yet, is, it, it doesn’t matter. You. That’s what an MBA does, it refines somebody. It makes them ah the person that they want to be to lead. So, I say a back at you, that we are as grateful for the impact that you had on us as it sounds like we had on you. So, I’m delighted about that and it, it is such an honor to get to call you back to the G.O.A.T. and let you know that you are one of our Greatest of All Time and to, to really thank you for being that representative for our UTD MBA program and, and I want you to say to your boss, gotta to get to know him, too. So, I hope it will be an occasion to bring him on the podcast and chat with him. But, we thank you for being here today (music begins) and having this conversation and we’re not going to forget you for a long time and Andy, I hope you won’t forget us.
[Andy] Oh, I certainly won’t. Yah, if I could be a resource for UTD in any way, for any students, any, anybody at all you know at UTD, it would give me so much, It is a pleasure to give back in any way.
[Monica] You take care, my friend. Be save and be well.
[Andy] Thank you.
[Monica] Thank you so much for listening to today’s podcast I hope that you were inspired by the words you heard from one of our Greatest Of all Time MBA G.O.A.T.s . If you were inspired to think about getting an MBA degree, I hope that you will be in touch with us. Give us a call, drop us an e-mail, hop on our website. Be in touch with us so that we can help you make a difference in your future. We look forward to hearing from you.
[Jimmie] Thanks for listening to this episode of yet another MBA G.O.A.T. podcast. Join us online at mbagoat.com to find episode notes, links and more. Be sure to subscribe to yet another MBA G.O.A.T. podcast on Apple podcast or your favorite podcasting app. If you like what you hear, please leave us a five-star review. That will help spread the word about the podcast and Jindal School’s MBA programs. To learn more about the Jindal School’s MBA program, go to jindal.utdallas.edu/mba. (Music continues.