2019 Best Online MBAs: Daniel Prorok, University of Illinois (Gies)

Daniel Prorok

University of Illinois, Gies College of Business

“A thoughtful, curious, innovative, industrious, collaborative, empathetic leader, craftsperson, teacher, husband, and father of three.”

Age: 42

Hometown: Westfield Township, Ohio

Fun fact about yourself: My earliest employment was as a farm hand.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Case Western Reserve University, B.S.E. Electrical Engineering & Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, M.E. Computer and Systems Engineering

Where are you currently working? Citigroup, Senior Vice President and Global Head, Hardware Planning and Vendor Management

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proudest of building technology organizations in both Europe and Asia. My pride comes from the success it brought to people at several levels of the organization. Not only was I able to staff the teams in ways that aligned individual employee needs with business ones (such as staffing the Frankfurt, Germany site with a high potential employee in Ohio whose German spouse wanted to move the family back to Germany), but my success building the overseas capabilities was the primary reason my boss was able to advance his own career and earn a long-desired promotion. Years later, I still have an engaged and world class team, exemplified by the zero turnover I have had since assembling the teams.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I was prompted by an article about MOOCs I read in The Economist newspaper, I had taken an introductory financial accounting course on Coursera in 2015 and felt it was one of my best learning experiences. It was rigorous, high quality, and entertaining. I truly believed that the Coursera platform lent itself to excellent learning outcomes if only some institution was brave enough to figure out the certification and credentialing. Several months later, Illinois launched exactly what I had privately wished for, the iMBA.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part was befriending and collaborating with talented professionals from an impressive breadth of industries, countries, and cultures while using the same cutting- edge collaboration tools I use professionally to manage my own global team.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was surprised by how frequent the opportunities were to improve my leadership capabilities, both in and out of class.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? The value obtained in an online MBA is proportional to the effort invested in the endeavor. The leadership development and networking opportunities are plentiful. To really thrive, you must take the initiative to engage with your colleagues in and out of class more than the absolute minimum required. When engaging in projects, don’t play it safe. Take risks and experiment to truly learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s unlikely you’ll get the experience opportunity again to be so bold with so few downside risks.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would like students to have more opportunities to form their own teams for group assignments. While there is merit to the program staff assigning teams each term to ensure diversity of team compositions (at least initially), I believe there should come a point in the program when students can begin to select their own team members. Selecting team members wisely is a significant successful factor post-MBA. Being able to experiment and master this skill within the “safe” confines of an MBA program would better prepare graduates for the expectations once they leave.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The MBA has helped me to think more strategically, more like a business leader and less like a detail-oriented technologist. My peers in the program have been instrumental in providing feedback and encouragement to help guide me through difficult dilemmas and unfamiliar situations.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Absolutely. Prior to starting this degree, I had spent a decade unsuccessfully trying to find an employer who would sponsor my participation in an EMBA program at a top school like Columbia or NYU. If I hadn’t completed the Illinois Gies iMBA, I’d still be waiting to get started. Instead, I now have the knowledge and credentials I was looking for. More importantly, I also have a stronger professional network built on a foundation of friendships I expect to last a lifetime.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Ultimately, I aspire to be a senior engineering leader, charged with managing the resources and setting the strategies to enable my partners in sales, marketing, and operations to bring transformative improvements to their customers’ experiences.



Discover the Gies iMBA with Poets&Quants, September 12, 2019, at iConverge.

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