A 25-Year Journey to CEO

PROVO, Utah – Sep 06, 2022 – BYU Marriott School of Business executive MBA (EMBA) student JohnPaul Parraga’s day usually starts at 3:30 a.m. with a morning workout. His dedication to his fitness goals is a reflection of his committed approach to life in general, including recently achieving a career goal he has worked toward for 25 years. That journey ended in an eight-hour-long job interview, but it started in an even more extraordinary way.

Even when Parraga was an undergraduate at BYU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1998, he had the ultimate career goal of becoming CEO of a healthcare organization. In April 2022, fresh off his first year in the EMBA program, Parraga achieved that milestone when he was appointed CEO of Desert Winds Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Las Vegas. He says the accomplishment was made possible because of the training he has received at BYU Marriott.

Parraga’s journey to the EMBA program began when he and his family emigrated from Ecuador to New York City when he was 15. He says a year spent as his building’s doorman after he completed high school gave him the confidence to consider his eventual career goal. “I saw all these people enter the building, nicely dressed, and the various jobs they told me about intrigued me,” Parraga explains. “They were influential in teaching me what was possible as a young immigrant.”

When he first arrived at BYU as an undergraduate, Parraga studied engineering. While he enjoyed and did well in his classes, he kept his mind open to other possibilities because of his time as a doorman. After two years in engineering, Parraga read an article about Henry B. Eyring, a leader for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his path to his eventual career. Eyring found his passion by pursuing topics he thought about often.

“I began to wonder, ‘What do I think about?’ I realized I thought about problems and liked interacting with people, so I took a psychology class,” Parraga says. That course and pondering led to Parraga’s career switch. He worked as a youth mental health supervisor after graduating, later becoming a therapist, but he continued to work toward his goal of becoming a healthcare administrator.

“I’ve always felt like I have an administrator-type personality,” he says. “I have a desire to lead. Every position I’ve had since was in hopes of reaching that goal.”

Earning an EMBA was another step in Parraga’s plans and the result of further pondering. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was counseling with his wife, Beth, and the couple felt impressed to look at advanced degrees; while he was evaluating the options, a memory from his time at BYU resurfaced. “Whenever I passed by the Tanner Building as an undergrad, I always felt like I belonged there, but I wasn’t quite sure why,” he explains. “So after discussing it with my wife, I decided to pursue an EMBA, and I instinctively knew based on that early intimation that I should go to BYU Marriott.”

After the culmination of his journey to becoming a CEO, Parraga quickly realized how the spiritual promptings to return to BYU led him to the completion of his career goal. “When people ask me about how I got the job, I say, ‘My EMBA—there is no question,’” he says. “My job interview was unbelievable; I felt like I was just repeating my first year of coursework.”

What will Parraga do now that he’s reached his dream? He will make the trip from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City on weekends for the second year of his program, where he looks forward to his professors’ continual emphasis on balancing a meaningful life.

“BYU Marriott provides the right environment for me to have a family while earning an MBA and having a job,” Parraga says. “I have tons of support. BYU has always been the best place for me to plan for whatever comes next.”

BYU Marriott EMBA student and Desert Winds Hospital CEO JohnPaul Parraga. Photo courtesy of JohnPaul Parraga.
BYU Marriott EMBA student and Desert Winds Hospital CEO JohnPaul Parraga. Photo courtesy of JohnPaul Parraga.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller