Meet Arizona State’s MBA Class Of 2020

Louise Hardman

Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School of Business

“Learner, planner, and problem solver passionate about products and experiences that combine engineering and creativity.”

Hometown: Paducah, KY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I started a blog called Engineering Sunshine to share my MBA journey and passion for learning and improvement!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Utah, B. S. Mechanical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Radius Engineering, Inc., Composite Development and Tooling Engineer

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I designed, tested, and demonstrated new technology to automate the pick-and-place process for dry fabrics using a collaborative robot. The biggest challenge was a tight timeline (only a few days) to integrate and test the equipment and produce a demonstration video. The video gave my company an advantage in the bidding process and secured future work with the target customer.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Ambitious. Everyone is goal-oriented and planning ahead for their future.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The W. P. Carey curriculum includes a program called Executive Connections that gives students an opportunity for a 1:1 mentoring relationship throughout the 2-year program with an executive leader in the Phoenix area. I immediately found a mentor in the program who had a background and career path that I aspired. I knew that the mentoring relationships I could build would be a source of learning that I could not find in the classroom. I also wanted to be able to use the mentor network to learn more about opportunities in Phoenix and become more involved in the business community.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The second years just started a new Wine Society as a student club that I am excited to be part of! Events range from educational “Sip & Learns” to local winery tours to social events. I think the club is a great opportunity to meld learning and exploration of new things with social connections. It also allows my husband to get involved and socialize with my classmates!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I knew it was time to go back to school when my daily activities at work were no longer in line with my passions. While two years ago I found SolidWorks design and analysis challenging and engaging, I was now seeing those activities as repetitive and mundane. Instead, I found my energy and motivation to be highest when I was in the planning and concept phases of a new project. The high-level road mapping and brainstorming activities really engaged my creative thinking and I looked for opportunities to ask questions like “Who is the target customer and what is the problem we are trying to solve?”, “What are the key features that add value to the customer?”, and “What are the critical milestones in the development process and how will we measure success at each milestone?”.

However, I saw a gap in my education and the development process as a whole: it was not being driven by strategic business objectives. At this point, I knew the MBA could offer two critical benefits to me: (1) I would gain the fundamental business skills needed to bring strategic leadership and insight to the product development process; and (2) I could immersive myself in learning other aspects of product management, such as marketing and analytics, and pivot my career to better align with my creative goals.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? For me, the MBA is about so much more than an opportunity to make more money. I never considered financial ROI calculations when researching schools. I wanted to find a program that fit my goals of expanding my skill set, exploring new functions and industries, and focusing on personal transformation. The investment for me was an investment in myself. Would the program help me move into roles that complement my strengths and enable me to pursue my passions? The investment in myself was worth it.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I researched a number of schools and made lots of pro/con lists, but ultimately it was more important to stay in the Phoenix area so ASU was the only school I applied to.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Based on my experience, it’s not about comparing school to school, but more about understanding what you want to get out of an MBA and finding the program that meets your needs. I could have saved hours of research time if I had focused on these three tips while comparing options:

  1. Find YOUR why. Why do you want to go to business school? What do you hope to get out of it? Understanding your goals first will help you narrow down the options.
  2. Prioritize your filters. Once you know what you want to get out of an MBA, determine which aspects of a program are most important to you in terms of achieving your goals. Maybe it’s the program format (full-time, part-time, flex), length of the program, location, target recruiting companies, or many other filters.
  3. Ask what sets the program apart. Lots of aspects of a program may look similar from one school to the next, like core classes for example. However, every program should be able to clearly articulate what it is that sets them apart. Whatever is unique about the school should fit with your goals and priorities. At ASU, the two unique aspects that attracted me were the Executive Connections and the Fusion Learning Labs.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My dad died of cancer when I was a senior in high school and it changed my entire perspective on finding balance in life. I believe that people should spend their life energy on activities and relationships that bring them happiness and a sense of accomplishment. For some people, that comes from a successful career. For others, it is rooted in family relationships. I am still finding out what exactly it means for me, but I am passionate about living and sharing a life that focuses on cultivating meaningful relationships, aligning my strengths and passions in my career, and always continuing to learn and explore.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Still deciding! The biggest reason I chose a full-time MBA program was to have the opportunity to explore new functions and industries and find what fits best. I am looking forward to the internship to try something new in marketing or consulting.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I aim to lead multi-disciplinary teams in product and project management, where I can leverage both my engineering background and business curriculum to solve problems and bring new ideas to life. Working in a multi-disciplinary environment is important to me, as well as the opportunity for continual learning and development.

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