2018 Best Online MBAs: Michelle Niblock, Indiana University (Kelley)

Michelle Niblock

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“Healthy mix of ambition, optimism, and sarcasm, with an endless determination to make a difference.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Born and raised in Buffalo, NY; living and working in NYC

Fun fact about yourself: I got scuba certified in Fiji

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Canisius College, BS Marketing

SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology, AAS Fashion Merchandising 

Where are you currently working?

OLIVER Agency, Account Director for Marriott International

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Growing an economy for an incredibly passionate island. I think that marketing tends to get a bad rep, especially when you work at an ad agency in New York City. But it’s not all bad. I worked for the Curaçao Tourist Board and helped grow their arrivals by 16 percent in a year-and-a-half based off of market research, an ad campaign, and a strategic media buy. In a country that has made tourism its growth focus, that’s a pretty cool impact to have. Working with the prime minister had its perks too.  

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Coming out of undergrad, I had pretty strong GMAT scores and really thought I’d land myself at a prestigious full-time program. But the further I got into my career, the less I could see myself taking so much time off from one – especially when I was learning and growing so much professionally. Kelley offered the chance to have both – a respected and challenging program while not slowing down the climb up the corporate ladder.

Speaking more specifically to choosing their online program versus another online program, Kelley offered something no one else at the time seemed to be even close to – the chance to go experience business in action across the globe. The school’s AGILE program (Accelerating Global Immersion Leadership Education) would allow me the chance to explore emerging economies and understand how to do business there – both from a cultural and corporate view point.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? Not having to break from my career. My MBA has meant so much more to me because of the undeniable crossroads it has with my day-to-day realities. In my past two roles, I’ve been deeply intertwined in travel and tourism – first consulting for the island of Curaçao, and second helping operationalize marketing tools for the world’s largest hospitality brand, Marriott International. My experience, both in the classroom and in the amazing travels I undertook with the program, have given me such diverse perspectives on my industry, and allowed me to take risks in strategies, bring new ideas to the table, and ultimately gain successes for my clients through differentiated thinking.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The amazing, immersive experiences that it offered. As part of the Kelley Direct MBA program, I’ve been able to learn about the burgeoning tech hub in Bangalore, India, consult with entrepreneurs in Cuba (yes, they do exist), dive in to the structured success of the German Mittelstand, and even conduct marketing research and strategic recommendations for arguably the most powerful man in marketing, P&G’s Marc Pritchard. The flexibility the program has offered to design a course load that’s relevant to you and your career goals is truly remarkable, and something I don’t think I could’ve found elsewhere.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I’d be lying if the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t my painful D1 athletic career in undergrad. Nothing really ever puts three-a-days out of your mind. But beyond that, I don’t think that undergrad ever meant as much to me; it truthfully just wasn’t a challenge academically or professionally. The online experience holds you to a whole new level of accountability, and as someone who comes from a family of overachievers (try telling a bunch of engineers you’re going to fashion school…). Finding additional challenges is something that’s always been important to me. If you don’t have obstacles to overcome, you get lazy. And it’s hard to make a difference in anyone else’s life if you can’t make a difference in your own.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? You have to be hungry. It’s so much more about self-motivation and it’s completely what you make of it. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I’m a big believer in “seeing is believing,” and I think that this program has made me a better manager, a better marketer, and arguably a downright better human by showing me so many different places and incredible people. The sheer diversity I’ve witnessed through the program has provided me with endless new challenges and ever-growing lists of goals. It has helped me become incredibly efficient under times of greatest stress, and inspired me to think differently, bringing new perspectives to old ways of thinking.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Absolutely. Throughout my time at Kelley, I’ve had the opportunity to meet the most amazing people, from all walks of life and all angles of the globe. They say knowledge is power, and I agree with that, but knowledge is so much more than what you learn in a classroom or read from a textbook. It’s the people you meet and the places you go that truly open your mind to all of the potential in this world. I’ve had the chance to grow both personally and professionally through this program, and I can only hope that others have experienced the same impact I have.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I think there’s a really untapped market for Marketing Consulting and I’d love to help grow it on an international basis. I’m extremely passionate about embracing cultures and helping companies understand why doing business elsewhere has to be thought through differently. Being in a position to make a difference for emerging economies, and the people that make up those economies, is something I’ll continue to shape my career towards.