Retirement reinvented

Like many who reside in the North Scottsdale area, Harvey Gillis and his wife Wendy became winter visitors when Harvey’s career as a senior executive in Silicon Valley and Seattle was beginning to wind down. The Gillis’ are now permanent residents, and Harvey has found the next phase of his career. He’s CEO of Sunrise Capital, a venture capital and business investment firm. However, Gillis speaks most fondly of his role as coach.

“Two years ago, I reached out to the business school at Arizona State University to see how I could get involved. I wanted to connect and give back to the young professionals here,” Gillis explains. “I first helped high school students. I mentored gifted students who were seriously troubled, and I got so much out of it, even at a young age.”

Helping others is in Gillis’ blood. Growing up in a working-class neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gillis’ father modeled working hard and helping others. Throughout his career in engineering and technology, Gillis has made time to mentor other students. “I’ve worked with about 150 students over my lifetime thus far, and I continue to get so much out of it.”

W. P. Carey Dean Amy Hillman was thrilled that Gillis reached out. The school offers a program called Executive Connections, which pairs every full-time MBA student with an executive coach. Senior executives, many now fully retired, volunteer as coaches, helping their students build critical leadership and interpersonal skills. It was a perfect match for Gillis’ interest and skills.

Gillis coaches eight W.nbsp;P.nbsp;Carey MBA students, meeting with them regularly throughout their two years in the program. “I learn from them, and they learn from me. It’s very rewarding,” he says. Gillis enjoys weaving in concepts and stories that he shares in his most recent book, “Backstreet to Boardroom: Praxis for Success.” Part business strategy, part autobiography, Gillis gives up-and-coming business professionals’ specific takeaways for improving their success ratio.

One of Gillis’ mentees at ASU, Ian Amberson (MBA ’17), says that he and Harvey have gotten to know each other, which makes for a better outcome. “Harvey has helped me see business through different lenses and reframe my skills since I’m navigating a career change,” explains Amberson. “I’ve leveraged his career advice, and it has really paid off. I’m more confident, and I know I’ll accomplish my career goals.”

“If you’re doing something because you generally care, it’s not work at all,” Gillis says with a great deal of emotion. Harvey Gillis clearly cares deeply about his students, which makes for the very best next career.

Learn more about Executive Connections. Our executives-in-residence are an integral part of the Full‑time MBA program and a cornerstone of the experience at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

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