“I evaluate quantitative and qualitative information to make companies more effective, enjoy social encounters when doing so.”
Hometown: Alexandria, VA
Fun fact about yourself: I was born and raised in Poland, where I got certified as a sailor — so anchors aweigh! Honestly, the concept of controlling wind and water as they pound the boat is incredibly satisfying. Locally, the Belle Haven Marina on the Potomac River offers spectacular views of the Wilson Bridge in the foreground and Capitol in the background.
Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S. in Finance and B.A.in German from Virginia Tech
Where are you currently working? Grant Thornton, manager in the M&A transaction services space
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Developing a sense of what is directionally right, and being comfortable with the unexpected. I’ve realized the extent to which this is vital in today’s world of fast-moving insights with a need for reinventing and pivoting. Rational black-and-white efficiencies simply are not practical when it comes to understanding the business world’s ambiguity and conflict, which stem from various interpretations and positions. It took me a while to understand and accept this. I also learned it is not enough to be a good, individual contributor. Driving change requires transformational leadership, where proliferating one’s vision is a must. I am most proud of consistently striving for excellence and re-evaluating “my very best.”
Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? First, given my work requirements, there was not a chance in the world I would commute to a physical location for school. The Smith School came through for me in terms of its mix-and-match course format that extended to multiple study abroad programs to supplement my business learning. I ended up visiting China’s most prominent companies and subsequently helped a Canadian business with Asian-market entry strategies. This, as well as a genuine willingness from the school’s administrators to adapt and enrich the learning experience, enabled me to become the best MBA student I could be.
I also must mention the school’s and university’s well-developed alumni network in the D.C. metropolitan area and beyond, which has connected me with people who have affected the trajectory of my career and whose positions I aspire to.
What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? No traffic: The ability to attend a class from anywhere in the world. The program allowed for increased flexibility as I took Smith classes while living four-month intervals, each in San Jose, Dallas and Denver. For the rest of the time I was able to support work projects in Cleveland, Houston, Philadelphia and Chicago without additional burden of flying to show up for a class.
What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The peer-to-peer knowledge transfer is immense. You can learn from your teammate’s post or brief comments. In many cases, reading chapters of content does not come close. Someone who manages a production facility is going to have first-hand, applied knowledge in the area of shift scheduling and line balancing. I remember greatly benefiting from my teammate’s extensive expertise as an ER physician when we had to work on a triage-intake-bed process flow simulation for an inner city ER operation.
How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? It’s a different ball game all together – particularly if you work full-time. In this case, it’s ideal to mix-and-match curriculum content in a way to best suite your work situation. Flexibility in learning is significant, not only from the time and place perspective, but also for diving in and out of rabbit holes that you are most interested in. I appreciated the very focused learning that you can tailor with the help of faculty who understand the pressures you are under.
What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? It is not for everyone, so make sure you know your professional and personal priorities and assess pros and cons. Otherwise, dive in and enjoy the ride.
How has your online education helped you in your current job? It helped me with many skills but surprisingly, it’s helped with thought-formulation and getting the point across. Through course assignments, I produced pages of original content every week. Also, the program helped me with my emotional intelligence (as nonsensical as it sounds for an online program) through, for example, keeping an otherwise stranger engaged and giving his or her best effort, via Google Hangouts.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Everyone has a specific timeline for making moves to suit their circumstances. In terms of my decision to pursue and MBA, I could not handle this pace again, but I gladly did it at the right time in my life. A couple years ago, I was looking for opportunities that would propel me forward, something I could put my energy into and satisfy my quest for knowledge in the area of strategy and change management. Next, after graduation, I am looking forward to having time to revisit the things I postponed or neglected (and those are many). There is certainly a “before” and “after” aspect to life with an MBA (or any degree) pursued while working full-time.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Continue to optimize regarding expanded sales or cost reductions. In both my personal and professional life, I am resource-conscious and will continue to do more with less…Most entities sit on data and have untapped capabilities or underutilized resources. I see this as a waste that needs to be turned into gold.