2019 Best Online MBAs: Kenneth Hurd, Rochester Institute of Technology (Saunders)

Kenneth Hurd

Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business Online Executive MBA

“Director of Engineering for Avionics Engineering company with a passion for continuous education and experiences.”

Age: 55

Hometown: Chenango Bridge, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I take apart everything, most things get put back together. Comfortable rebuilding a car engine, building a computer or creating excel files or software programs. I also enjoy the softer aspects like golf though one could point out that my swing is a bit of a formula.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BSET, Binghamton University

Where are you currently working? ENSCO Avionics, Director of Engineering Services

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Tropical Storm Lee completely destroyed our customer (BAE) site displacing 1,200 employees. I led up a transition group to reconstruct equipment as well as created emergency project continuation at our ENSCO site for 10 key projects. This all-hands-on-deck effort had over 90% of our staff working with recovery tasks within one week. This was rewarding as many of our employees were impacted by the flood as well and they needed the income to repair their homes. Heart-warming moment: At the end of very long days, a group would then go out to the local community houses that were impacted and help with the deconstruction. Business saved, employees working, and community better off created a good story from a disaster.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Our company hires students from RIT. I have seen years of consistent high-quality engineers who have life training well beyond the lesson plans. The school has impressed me in every aspect from the recruitment of new candidates to the job fairs at the end. Our son proudly attends the college with great aspirations of obtaining his Master of Architecture Degree. The process of enrolling Nicholas through his current COOP experiences have continued my high expectations for the school.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? RIT managed to do the unthinkable: make an online degree program seem like an on-campus program. Having synchronous classes with video-enhanced lectures is key. I get to interact with the other students in real time. I was also very into the discussion posts with many replies. Professor-to- student learning is one thing. Peer-to-peer means they are truly engaged. The discussion posts were very enjoyable.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Education. When I informed our VP that I wanted to go for my MBA degree, he offered: “Take the Phoenix online classes. They are a breeze.” The catch is, I was not just looking for three letters next to my name, I wanted the learning. My expectations were lower than if I attended the classes on campus (though significantly higher than the aforementioned). My surprise was the sheer amount of interactive learning with impressive professors and serious class structure.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Honestly, the EMBA program was a significant level higher. Part of it is due to the graduate level; most is due to the structure that RIT provided. Required international travel, business simulation, and countless programs are on a completely different playing field than undergrad.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Get engaged in the program. You can’t take this as a whim. I am enrolled on top of a full-time job and most nights of the week I get to bed around 2:00 a.m., though I am not tired. The sheer engagement and interest I have has somehow replaced sleep and I survive on the 3-4 hours a night pattern.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Not much, great job RIT! Here is a suggestion for continuous improvement: as mentioned, the discussion posts were one of my favorite aspects of the class. They are meant to be interactive discussions, like if you ran into a peer after class. Some of the classes required case study like discussion posts that became three-page papers per individual. Those were difficult to read and interact with. I feel the instructors should limit the discussion posts to a small subset of the week, which will generate more replies.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Absolutely. We just negotiated our three-year contract with our primary customer. I arrived at the meeting with my BATNA, MESO, and Negotiation plan all worked out in advance with our pre-practiced three-person team. We just received our best contract with this customer that we have had in over 20 years. Next thing on my list is our annual review process where I have 35 direct reports. I have been utilizing the management process aspects ongoing and expect the reviews to go smooth.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Absolutely. Undergrad education prepares you for work, work prepares you for more work, and then life happens. Experience a recession, shutdown, or many of the unforeseen downturns and you will wish you were better prepared. The combination of work experiences with the EMBA program has significantly broadened my talent scope. I honestly feel that I could take on an engineering company or turn left to a financial or even small business endeavor and hit the ground running.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Currently, a director for a company in line for VP. The EMBA will help me obtain that though my sights are broader. I enjoy helping others, which fits my current role in managing a site of over 100. But that is one-on-one with individual successes. I would like to join a board which will allow me to make structural changes that help indirect persons as well as those under my control.



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