Happy Friday everyone. I love stories like this: Two FEMBAs. Two Air Force Academy grads. Two great careers. Two loving parents. One amazing couple. Meet the Roks,
Jennifer Roks ’17, Project Manager at Cordoba Corporation, and Chris Roks ’12, Senior Product and Strategy Leader at Amazon.
Two FEMBAs. Two Air Force Academy grads. Two great careers. Two loving parents. One lucky daughter. Chris and Jennifer Roks with daughter Madison.
Last Saturday, I saw a familiar, but not-current, FEMBA face. It’s Chris Roks ’12, on-campus with his daughter Madison, waiting outside his wife’s class.
“Dylan, what’s up? How are you?” Chris asked me standing outside C.301.
“Great. Running off to FEMBA Council. Who is this?” I said, seeing his daughter.
“This is Madison, our three-year old. Jenny’s in class and we’re waiting for her to get out.”
“I thought you were up in Seattle at Amazon. Did you fly down for the weekend?”
“No actually. We were in Seattle, but Amazon also has an Irvine location, and I’ve moved down for that. It’s perfect since Jenny’s in her first year of FEMBA,” said Chris.
“Awesome. I gotta blog about you guys. May I?” I asked, never shy to ask for a story.
“Making sure my Mommy’s having a good day at her school at UCLA.” – Madison, 3. “Don’t I have a pretty dress?”
Jennifer shared this:
We would be honored to be in your blog! As you know, Chris graduated FEMBA in 2012 and after seeing him go through that transformation and witnessing the impact that it has made on his life, I had to get a piece of the action as well and started with the 2017 cohort this fall. I’m pumped about all of the awesome people in my cohort and the caliber of the professors.
I have always thought that Chris was uniquely gifted, and he proves me right everyday. He is a great FEMBA success story and is moving up the ranks very quickly at Amazon. He has even leveraged his position to help friends in need. A little over a year ago, one of our friends from the Air Force Academy was in the Dominican Republic on a missionary trip with his wife. They gave birth to a baby with a rare medical condition and needed to medevac her to a hospital in the United States, but couldn’t cover the cost. Chris raised the money, flew them to the United States, and got our Academy colleague a job at Amazon. They are living comfortably in West Seattle and everyone is healthy.
I shared that story with you because I feel like it highlights the character of an Anderson FEMBA.
I was also emailing with Chris, as I wrote their story.
Dylan: How did you and Jennifer meet anyway?
Chris: Well I first met Jenny when we were at the Air Force Academy in 2004. It was a blind date actually. She was hesitant to go but I finally convinced her and we have been joined at the hip ever since. Since she graduated one year ahead of me, she always outranked me….at work and at home. Here’s a photo from back then.
Jennifer Roks ’17, before she came to UCLA.
Dylan: How did you all choose FEMBA, since you were deployed all over the world?
Chris: Well before applying, we were stationed in Alaska. Jenny was an Intelligence Officer and I was working in Aircraft Maintenance. We were trying to decide on the location of our next base and oddly enough, we wanted something warmer! I also wanted to attend business school and I read that Anderson offered the best part-time program in the country. I couldn’t actually attend the Super Saturday interviews because my unit was on alert at the time. You probably don’t remember Dylan but you did my admission interview over the phone. After getting into the program, I begged my Colonel to help get me down to Los Angeles and that was that.
Dylan: What was it like having Jenny deployed while you were in FEMBA?
Chris: Well Jenny will probably tell you that it was no big deal but from my side, I was a nervous wreck. During my second year of FEMBA, they asked Jenny to deploy to Kandahar, Afghanistan. I vividly remember calling her during my breaks on Saturday at Anderson when she was going to bed. It was always an interesting day when our calls were interrupted by sirens warning of incoming mortar fire. I remember just sitting, worrying that something had happened. That was an interesting time but I’m super proud of her.
Dylan: And now Chris, as an alum now, looking back, tell me about FEMBA “in the rearview mirror.”
Chris: [FEMBA] Easily surpassed any expectation that I had! I kept coming home to Jenny bragging about how much better my professors were than hers’ (she was getting her first Masters Degree at USC at the time). I think the defining moment for me was during GAP.
As most FEMBA alums know, GAP is easily the busiest part of the program. I guess I didn’t think I’d be busy enough though because Jenny and I had our first baby, Madison, right in the middle of it. To make things worse, I was deep into OCR (On-Campus Recruiting) at the time which added another layer of fun.
Dylan: And how did you get to Amazon?
Chris: Through OCR. It was really odd for me because I was actually targeting consulting companies and working really hard on the case interviews. I got interviews at all of the big three but only made it to the final round at McKinsey in Seattle. Jenny and I flew out to Seattle and she like the area so much that I decided to apply to all of the other companies in the area including Amazon.
One day before the final McKinsey interview, I got my offer from Amazon. I ended up getting denied by McKinsey and it was honestly the best thing that ever happened to me. I love leading products at Amazon and the best part is, I get to go home to Jenny and Madison every day.
Dylan: And the cherry on top, at Amazon, you’ve been in multiple meetings with Jeff Bezos. In fact, last Saturday you told me you were meeting with him this week. How did it go?
Chris: It was terrifying! No matter how many times I meet with him, I never know what to actually expect. I had one meeting where he found a typo that I let make it onto Amazon and he told me it was embarrassing. Another time, I ended a product demo and he ended the meeting with a small clap and shouted “Yay!”
It’s also hard to actually listen to him when he’s talking to me because I spend the whole time thinking “smile, nod, smile, nod, don’t look down, smile, nod.” But honestly, they are great experiences and I have UCLA FEMBA to thank.
“This is my Daddy and he’s the best.” Madison, age 3.
Dylan: Well, Jennifer and Chris, thank you. Thank you for your service in the military. Thank you for bringing your leadership to FEMBA. Thank you for being such glowing parent. Please keep us informed as new chapters unfold for you both, and for Madison!