It took Alexis Alexander five years to go 10 miles.
However, once the Medical Lake, Washington, native realized his dream of playing football for nearby Eastern Washington University, it was like he never left home.
“I was drafted by the Kansas City Royals and played baseball for almost four years right out of high school,” he said. “I came back and played a year of football at Washington State University. Then, I transferred to Eastern Washington and played for three more years.”
While earning two All-Big Sky Conference awards as a running back for the Eagles, Alexander thrived in the classroom, too. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2008. Six years later, he added a Master of Business Administration from EWU.
“I had a very positive experience and developed some great relationships while earning my undergraduate degree,” he said. “At that point, I was an Eagle, through and through. There wasn’t a question where I would go for my graduate degree.”
Alexander, who is manager of maintenance construction in the generation production and substation support department of Avista Utilities in Spokane, paved the way for a management role by earning an MBA.
“In my undergraduate, I learned the ins and outs and the technical requirements of becoming an electrical engineer,” he said. “That didn’t include any real focus on the business and what makes a company function. I wanted to get a better understanding of the business from a management perspective.
“I also wanted to understand more about financial management and economics. I had the technical side, but I needed to get a better understanding of how to run the business. The MBA provided that outlook for me.”
Alexander was a two-sport star for the Medical Lake Cardinals. In fact, he was elected to the school’s athletic hall of fame 10 years after graduating in 2001.
“When I was coming out of high school, Eastern Washington’s football coach had taken over at a new school in the conference,” Alexander said. “He went there and offered me a football scholarship. I didn’t get an offer from the school in my backyard, but I got one from all of the other schools in the league.”
So, Alexander opted for baseball. He played for nearly four years in the Kansas City organization and reached the Double-A level before returning to the sport he loves most. The great news was the Royals paid the tuition for his entire bachelor’s degree program.
“I was always a football player,” he said. “I would have gone and played football, but playing baseball was a great opportunity for me to financially help my family out. It broke my heart to not go and play football right away.”
As for electrical engineering, Alexander showed an early talent for hooking up electrical equipment, such as cable boxes, stereo systems, video game systems and VCRs.
“My mom used to tell me I was going to be an engineer,” he said. “I always said, ‘Whatever.’ I just color-coded the wires, tested them and got them to work.”
But as Alexander was preparing to quit baseball and return to college, he encountered a new teammate who had recently graduated with an electrical engineering degree and told him about the field.
“I was determined to get a good education while playing football,” Alexander said. “I did a little research. I’m a math and science guy and don’t like to read a ton. One of the fields with jobs was engineering, which aligned well with my interests. I declared my first day at WSU and didn’t take any extra classes — I just knocked out the electrical engineering classes the whole time.”
Back for More
The decision to earn an MBA was a great one for Alexander. He has been in a management position for three years, making all of his hard work in school hit pay dirt.
“My wife, Nicole, thought I was a little crazy for going back,” Alexander said. “I had spent a lot of time in school already. I had taken time to study for my professional engineering license, as well. She kept saying, ‘How much more time do you want to spend in the basement?’
“But I was far enough in my career to understand and have seen where I could apply it. Although I wasn’t in a formal management position, I was managing highly complex, large construction projects.”
Alexander especially enjoyed the BADM 552: Leadership and Ethics and BADM 536: Financial Markets and Institutions courses in the MBA curriculum.
“There were quite a few great courses, but both of those stood out,” he said. “I can directly apply reference material from them to this day. They were so useful.”
Like in football, the key to success in the MBA program for Alexander was attitude and work ethic.
“My advice would be to approach the program with an open mind,” he said. “Be prepared to work hard and absorb knowledge that’s going to catapult you into the future. I had a fantastic experience. It was a crunch and it was challenging. I developed some tools that have proven to be beneficial.”
Now that Alexander is a leader off of the gridiron as well, he is loving life.
“I’m so excited about what I’m doing now,” he said. “There is lots of opportunity in the company where I work. The energy industry is extremely dynamic, and there is quite a bit of potential in this industry.
“I work for a great company. I enjoy living where I do. I have my wife’s family here. One of my brothers and his kids are here. My wife and I are season ticket holders for Eastern football. She is also an Eagle. I don’t know where I’m going to be in 20 years, but I’m excited about what I’m doing. ”
The 10-mile trip was worth the wait.
Learn more about the EWU online MBA program.