2019 Best Online MBAs: Joe Costigan, University of Maryland (Smith)

Joe Costigan

Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland

“A lifelong learner who is personable, culture-curious, team-oriented and values strong, personal and professional relationships.”

Age: 26

Hometown: Annapolis, Maryland (by way of Ridgewood, New Jersey and New Canaan, Connecticut – about 45 minutes outside of New York City)

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve experienced unique, local cultures and made new friends through living in four different cities in the past four years: Manhattan for my first job. Then to Raleigh, North Carolina, followed by Washington D.C., and now in Annapolis, Maryland.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A in Management and Society (a business-management-sociology mix)

Where are you currently working? Red Hat Inc., a multinational software company that provides open-source software products to enterprises around the world. As a strategic account manager, I manage the business partnerships and sell our products to a set of current strategic customers.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Through Red Hat I have been very fortunate to learn from numerous talented colleagues – significantly about technology, sales, customer experience and management, and working with an internal team. These factors, along with a management strategy I discovered in one of my MBA courses, coalesced recently into me leading a cohesive team to overachieve our quarterly sales goal of more than 15%. The aforementioned insight from my MBA study led me to build out a financial model showing return on investment, enabling us to significantly increase transaction sizes and shorten the sales cycle to close deals quicker. Furthermore, we effectively impacted our Red Hat culture, bettered internal operational processes, and enhanced customer results.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I had recognized the Maryland Smith’s online curriculum as demanding, but flexible – a must for me, as taking time off from work was not an option simply given competitive atmosphere that we live in today. Also key to the decision was the program’s high-ranking and impressive curriculum it showcased. Finally, my decision was sealed by an impressive level of professionalism I experienced in the application process. I felt I received – and looking back I can confirm – a strong understanding of what to expect in the following two years through the program. When speaking with program directors and a professor before submitting the application, I was impressed with their business acumen, network connections, and efficiency.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program?  It has been the advantage of engaging in coursework from anywhere in the country. With Red Hat, traveling regularly is a requirement. Most weeks, I am responsible for managing meetings along the U.S. East Coast. The format of the program allowed me to complete live courses, group projects, and major assignments at night or while traveling from city-to-city. Knowing that I could schedule my business travel around my coursework and be able to participate in with others in my cohort in related activities from hotels around the country has been ideal. This flexibility allowed me to continue to pursue my professional career while still maximizing the investment in the MBA program.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment?  Most surprisingly, the program has enabled me to share ideas, knowledge, and opinions via group projects. I had doubts before entering the program about how much interaction there would be with other students. However, each course has involved extensive group work, via multiple platforms through which we work on team projects and assignments and engage in networking opportunities. For example, Google Drives and Google Hangouts have been great for live group projects, like group negotiations in the Executive Powers and Negotiation Class. The latter, in particular, has expanded my professional skill repertoire.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? As an undergraduate, many of my classes were lecture style and involved little to no participation and interaction with fellow students. However, in the online program’s “live” sessions, each student is required to have their camera activated and computer microphone on, creating an environment encouraging students to actively participate – to ask questions, and converse in-class with both the professor and other students. Although in-person interaction in a classroom is fantastic, I’ve found the online learning experience has actually been more interactive. This has been exemplified through professor Gary Cohen’s International Business course and its robust, wide-ranging live group discussions that facilitated a fantastic learning environment with some of the best in-class discussions I have experienced.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program?  In order to thrive, it is extremely important to be organized and prepared to navigate all technology requirements before entering a course. This can save time on administrative tasks and allow you to focus more on course material and class interactions. Students who are able to utilize online tools to help them take notes, facilitate meetings, and organize course material are extremely efficient with their studies and can focus on what is most important. This is especially vital if you, like many online MBA students, have a full-time job.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Online professional networking “webinars” where organizations engage with – and present job opportunities for – online students around the globe would enhance an MBA experience that already provides flexibility, an open learning environment, and an opportunity to vastly improve your professional career.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why?  Yes. The MBA program has given me a new way of thinking about business, people, and my broader network. My new and expanded business knowledge and perspective has accelerated my career with Red Hat. I now can provide input and solutions for business problems and opportunities around financials, marketing, management, and more. The depth of knowledge I learned about all aspects of business has provided foundation for me to contribute in multiple areas of an organization. Additionally, I have gained lifelong friends and connections through the program that I will always cherish and work to maintain. The program was demanding, but flexible. This structure challenged me, but allowed me pursue professional and personal goals at the same time.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  Ultimately, I want to lead a successful organization that positions internal employees for success and helps customers improve their business. I would like to continue to take a team approach in everything I do and be in a position where I can lead a group of individuals to a common goal. With this in mind, I would like to continue to improve as a person and leader and be someone that an organization can count on to drive optimal results.



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