Engineer Gone Businesswoman: Erica Morey '14 MBA

Feb. 26, 2016

The Morey family

She describes herself as “an engineer gone businesswoman.” She’s working in a male-dominated field, following in the footsteps of her grandmother and mother, but paving her own path. And, she credits much of her success to her time enrolled in the full-time Eller MBA program, where she graduated in 2014 with a 4.0 GPA and focus areas in entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance.

Erica Morey is the business development manager for her family business, ESB Design+Build, a Marana-based licensed manufacturer of modular and prefabricated buildings. Founded more than 30 years ago by her grandfather, Cecil See, and joined by his wife and son, Patricia and Paul See, the general contracting firm has enjoyed strong growth, even during weak economic times. Today, her mother, Lois Morey, serves as CEO and co-owner, and the firm employs more than 30 people.

Morey grew up around the business, spending summers doing minor office tasks, but working for the family business was not on her radar. She thought she might pursue a career helping animals. Then, in the mid-1990s, when her grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer, she began to explore career options in the medical field.

“I graduated high school a semester early and started at the University of Arizona in January of 2006 thinking I wanted to become a specialized physician,” Morey said. “Given the gift of excellence in math and science, I thought I would be able to distinguish myself when I applied to medical school by pursuing an engineering degree rather than the more common pre-med science graduate.”

She chose biosystems engineering and elected to specialize in biomedical engineering.

“As I worked as a technician in clinical research, volunteered in hospice, learned more about the healthcare system, and began taking more specialized biomedical engineering courses, I realized my interest wasn’t necessarily so much in the service-provider segment of the biomedical industry as it was in innovation – discovering and developing new devices, tools, and therapeutics that service providers would use to help treat or prevent disease and promote wellness,” Morey said.

She decided to pursue engineering as her career and worked three different summer internships at Ventana Medical Systems, which became Roche Tissue Diagnostics when Roche acquired it in 2008, before being hired on full time after her graduation in 2010.

After a few years, she left her job to pursue her MBA degree. She chose the full-time program rather than the evening program for several reasons.

“It offered me a better opportunity for broad networking, Eller offered me a graduate teaching assistantship, and I was named a Thomas R. Brown scholar. Most of my program costs were covered and I still had an income to support myself during school,” she said.

An internship in 2013 at California-based Life Technologies fueled a new interest in corporate strategy and business development, particularly mergers and acquisitions and licensing of intellectual property. That experience led to a position with Research Corporation Technologies, where she managed one of their out-licensing programs for some six months part-time while she completed her MBA. She also spent part of her time consulting with her mother and building a financial model for ESB, and the role grew from there.

Since joining ESB full time a year and a half ago, she has created initiatives to penetrate new markets and make office and inventory operations more efficient. Both initiatives have required the completion of a variety of smaller projects, such as a rebrand to doing business as ESB Design+Build, launching a new website, and developing new partnerships.

Looking back, she credits much of her success to the Eller Experience.

“I had no formal training in any business discipline prior to coming to the MBA program, so I’d say Eller shaped the way I think about business substantially. My instructors were amazing, and they ultimately inspired the many interests I discovered while I was there,” she said.

She thrived on the camaraderie and diversity, sharing that her 2014 cohort included veterans and current military, as well as students from India, Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan, Canada, and Mexico.

“It is fascinating how much more you learn by being exposed to such different perspectives,” she said. “I also adored launch week and the global business experience trip to China. I was intrigued by how different business operations are in Shanghai and Beijing compared to the U.S.”

Throughout her time at Eller, she had several mentors, including Lisa Ordóñez, Arvind Singh, and Mike Bond. “I will never forget Diza Sauers’ and Andrea Finger’s teaching styles,” she added.

Besides working with her mother and grandmother, Morey also works with her uncle, Paul See, and her cousin, Chris See.

“Working with family members at ESB is great,” she said. “Sometimes we irritate each other, but who doesn’t? The key is mutual respect.”

She feels very fortunate to work with her grandmother and mother, who have mentored her along the way.

“I have learned a ton from both my mother and my grandmother. Some lessons were directly taught, but most was observed and self-learned within the context they created for me. They are both great role models and I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without them,” she said, adding that she thinks women, especially those who have experienced workplace inequality, should take the time to mentor young girls and younger women.

“Empower them,” she said. “That doesn’t mean tell them what to do or how to act – it means you should spend time with them and show them how you behave. It will leave a lasting impression like my mother has on me.”

Helping those in need has always been important to Morey. She spent more than a year volunteering at Vista Care Hospice, and through ESB, she supports the Wounded Warrior Project.

As for future goals, she hopes to use her influential capabilities to help others.

“My overarching life goal is to make a positive difference, both on the world and by bettering the lives of my loved ones,” she said. “I truly believe in being the change I want to see in the world. Leading by example is the most effective way to inspire people, so this is how I strive to lead – both personally and professionally.”

Top photo of the Morey family (Erica Morey is second from right) courtesy Inside Tucson Business.