Name: Tyler Martin
Who are you, and what do you do?
My titles are many: Father of three, husband, soccer referee, MBA candidate. The list goes on. As it pertains to business, I am the Affiliate Relations Manager for a News Corp. division. I handle the distribution and supporting marketing efforts for cable networks. My clients are cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Dish Network and DirecTV. I’m on the line side of business: selling. My day-to-day entails contract negotiation, entertainment, hosting, and sportsfan emotional arbitrage.
What’s your story? How did you get to be where you are now?
The BusinessWeek article attracted me to the Personal MBA site. I had always been a voracious reader and had already completed 70 percent of the list. The concept of discussing business principles in depth was greatly appealing. I was excited to intellectually spar with other professionals that were as excited about talking business as I was. I was also considering laying down the money to get an MBA and wanted to evaluate the alternatives. (Side note: I am currently working on my MBA at Southern Methodist University and still see value in being active with the Personal MBA.)
I worked full-time through my undergrad and completed my Bachelor’s in two and a half years. I got married during my second year in school and capped my undergrad work off with a 34 credit load and my first child. My wife and I financed it all ourselves. And I’m thankful for every minute of it because it carried me a long way. When employers saw my transcript and heard my story, I immediately moved to the front of the candidate list. But I was naive.
After school I was most actively pursued by an insurance company. The euphoria of actually being pursued by a company was too much. I took an offer with this company. While I accomplished much, it was evident within 5 months that I did not want to be in insurance. I began searching during the winter of 2003 when the economy was terrible. I had hoped to earn a job with News Corp in Denver but learned that I was up against dozens of candidates, many with MBAs. I was awarded the position after two months and to my surprise. Two years later, I moved my family to Dallas for a promotion and now up for a third. That’s the story, but it doesn’t say how I got where I am now.
First and foremost — and without any cliche — what got me where I am today is my wife. Some may argue that it would have been easier to do move forward without a family in tow, but I wanted a family. Starting a family has always been a big priority to me. I grew up in a great home and wanted the break between my parents and my own family to be short. Because I got that dream fulfilled early on, my wife had to commit to an intense ride. Now that I’m back in school and we’ve got three kids (the youngest is two months old), it is even more apparent how much support she gives.
Second, and previously mentioned, I had a great family life growing up. I was the oldest of four kids which would translate to ambition and drive that serves me well every day. My dad is a blue collar - albeit intellectual - worker and taught me much about how to treat people. We didn’t grow up impoverished. I went to a private school and had many opportunities. We were middle class and because of that I set my sights early on what I wanted to accomplish.
Finally, what has gotten me to where I am today is my drive and ambition paired with my sense of humor. Look, I’m not saving lives and rarely in business is it that dramatic. Do I take my work seriously? Absolutely. It’s not my money at stake, so I need to take it seriously. But it’s still a game and the best business people I’ve come across treat it as such. I love this game.
Why did you decide to enroll in a traditional MBA program?
I’m a voracious reader, but honing my skills and making them a part of my tool box is important to me. When you read a book, you get the concepts, but it’s much more difficult to know how to apply them in real life. Being able to meet on a regular basis and have some accountability was important: I personally felt that getting a traditional MBA would accelerate my learning process. The quality of the program I’m in is very high, and I do expect the financial ROI to be significant.
Right now, I’m in a financial accounting course, which has always been my weak spot. What I’m learning now from my professor (who is phenomenal) goes beyond what I feel I could teach myself. Reading books gave me a very conceptual view of what finance and accounting are, but not how to apply them in day-to-day situations.
I realize I’m buying an expensive network - I’m not a “networker" by nature, so having some structure is valuable. If you put the diligence into building your network, it’s worth the effort and you can expect a good return.
You definitely get what you put into the program - I see a lot of people just putting in the time and ignoring disciplines other than their own, but seeing the big picture and how each discipline relates to the others is critical. Schools don’t do enough to stress how everything is interconnected. From my perspective, that’s a major failure of traditional MBA programs.
What cool projects are you working on at the moment?
When I explain the finer points of my position, I get a lot of jaws to drop. Especially sports fans. I get to go to a handful of sports events each week, I’m going to Mardi Gras today for work, I am in LA a few times a year on our movie lot, and on and on it goes. Those benefits are a big blessing, yet after a year or two of travel and time away from family, they just become a part of your job. What I love about my job is the negotiation and strategy aspect. Right now, I’m negotiating a contract that involves a client that is fairly adept at negotiation tactics. I love it. Testing my mettle against his really gets me going. The other projects I work on involve promotions and marketing, and while enjoyable, they just don’t get me as excited as my negotiation projects.
What are you most interested in learning right now?
Financial analysis is the focus of my studies right now. As I mentioned earlier, I am working on my MBA and I am concentrating on Finance because it has been a deficiency in the past. While the purpose of the Personal MBA is to bring together those that do not desire to go after the traditional MBA, I intend to use it as a sounding board for what I am digesting in the class room twice each week. I intend to spread what I am learning around. Liberally.
What are you currently reading? Why?
Textbooks: Financial Accounting and Managerial Economics. I’m reading them because  I am required to; and  it’s really interesting. I’m also reading a book published by the Wharton School called Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master. Fantastic. A great resource and something every business person should pick up and apply.
On the leisure side, I am reading a lot on mountaineering right now. Since moving to Dallas from my Colorado home, my heart has ached for mountain ranges and the active lifestyle. I’m reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer again. Great stuff.
Throw in the periodicals and I’m reading between four and six hours every day.
What would help you most right now?
Discussing the finer points of business. The value I see in a traditional MBA is the structure. Every Thursday and Saturday I am dissecting business principles in a very productive way. I want that for the Personal MBA, and using the boards or a chatroom style forum to argue the merits of business methods and models is most advantageous for me. I want to see the Personal MBA move more being a book report form (i.e. I like this and that about the book) to a dissecting format where we summarize the model(s) presented and argue about why it works or does not and what sound business principles apply.
A Note from Josh
I think Tyler is a great example of what the Personal MBA is all about: taking responsibility for your own education, business-related and otherwise. As Tyler mentions, enrolling in a traditional MBA program is no guarantee of an outstanding education: many people just do enough to get by, and fail to take full advantage of their opportunities for learning. In the immortal words of Isaac Asimov : “Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is."
It doesn’t matter if your classroom is a college, your living room couch, or the living laboratory of your current business - if you’re not fully committing yourself to the development of your knowledge and skills on a daily basis, you’re doing yourself one heck of a disservice.