Spotlight on Alumni: Allison Dukes, SunTrust Bank CFO
During the course of the semester, we’ve been exposed to amazing professors and distinguished speakers that have made our experience more enriching. A couple of weeks ago, we had the honor of having Allison Dukes 06WEMBA, chief financial officer of SunTrust Banks, speak to us about her journey and how her MBA influenced her career.
One of the main topics Allison touched upon was taking the “hairy” projects. These are the projects no one wants to get involved with because they’re complex, difficult and a lot of work. However, she highlighted that it is this type of project that usually leads to exposure to leadership and recognition. She noted that in taking on these projects, she was able to prove herself to her leadership and, as a result, was promoted for her achievements.
Another important point, which is probably counterintuitive to most of us, is not to focus on the grades and rather focus on the learning. Hearing that grades don’t matter is challenging for me and my classmates who have gotten this far in life because grades, and arguably dedication to our education, in fact, do matter. I pride myself of achieving high marks, so it is difficult to shift my thinking to this mindset. However, her point was that although grades are important, it’s what you learn and are able to use in your role and the network that you build at Emory which truly matters in taking you to the next level of your career.
In addition, what we all want to hear is “my MBA helped me get to where I am now,” and in part, it’s true. Allison spoke about her investment banker experience and how organizational leadership skills weren’t all that important. In general, in that world you have sales goals, you meet them, you’re happy and there’s not a lot of mentoring/coaching needed. However, as she moved away from this role, she realized that she lacked the broad organizational leadership skills needed to motivate and lead others which she gained through her organizational behavior and leadership classes. In addition, she spoke about how impactful her strategy class was on her career because it helped her analyze problems through the multiple dimensions she learned in class.
Lastly, as a classmate asked about women in executive positions, Allison’s response was truthful and hopeful. As the first female CFO at SunTrust, Allison spoke about the changing environment across all industries that made it easier for women like her to be in her position and while she’s humble about it, it is truly a great accomplishment. While there is still progress to be made, having more women in executive roles, like Allison, is inspirational and promising of what the future will look like.
As a SunTrust teammate, Allison’s story was meaningful and impactful. Her story about determination, growth and diversity really resonated with me. It’s important to me to see influential women in “male-dominated” fields rising to the top and breaking glass ceilings as they go. I am enthusiastic to continue learning throughout the program and invigorated to keep pushing myself to achieve new levels of success, or at least to get through finals!