2019 Best Online MBAs: Michael Thomas Schermuly, Northeastern University (D’Amore-McKim)

Michael Thomas Schermuly

D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University

“Determination. Grit. Intellectually curious. Self-starter who sets goals and achieves them.”

Age: 39

Hometown: Steep Falls, Maine.

Fun fact about yourself: I have a guitar addiction. I played in heavy metal bands in my 20’s. I even worked with the legendary doom metal drummer Jeff Olson of the band Trouble on his side-project Retro Grave.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Southern Maine (USM). Bachelor of Science, International Business, Business Administration graduated Cum Laude 2014.

Where are you currently working? Self-employed. I have worked as a music industry manager for the last few years. I have been fortunate enough to work as an intern and then sub-contractor on the public relations team (Beautiful Day Media and Management) that represents Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, and Paul Simon. Elizabeth Freund owner of Beautiful Day Media taught me a great deal about the music industry and business in general. I, in turn, began helping the local arts community here in Maine and continue to do so. I was even fortunate enough to have edited Ringo Starr’s original 2016 Facebook video post about his annual “Peace and Love Celebration” in July. That video post had over 500k likes! I like the challenge of helping emerging artists get their businesses together.

I have also recently helped, in conjunction with SCORE Maine, former Mrs. Maine 2012 Cassandra Provencher launch a non-GMO beauty care products line called “Amor Provencher Beauty Products.” I specifically helped develop a financial break-even, and target customer sales plan to help grow her budding business. I have worked alongside some great people in the music industry and have done some amazing things. However, I have found that my real passion is the financial function in business turnarounds and I am in the process of changing careers. Though I am changing careers, I think I will always help and advocate for musical artist and small businesses on the side.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Obtaining my MBA. I graduated third from the bottom of my high school class. I thought that my musical talents would take me further than they did. My high school guidance counselor even told me that I would not amount to anything. I thought a college degree would be unobtainable. However, I had great colleagues at the hospital where I worked and other friends who inspired me to go and get my college degree.

To get accepted into USM, I had to take remedial writing and math for no credit and prove that I could handle the course work. I beat back the odds with a 3.9 GPA my first semester. I then had a failure with algebra that set me back. Instead of giving up, I locked myself away at Maine Medical Center’s library and studied every minute I had and ultimately earned an A, erasing my bad grade. I started below my peers, but I ended up earning cum laude at graduation. I did this all within three-and-a-half years. Not only that, but I became a business tutor so that I could help my fellow classmates with math (business stats) and accounting.

At D’Amore-McKim, I have been a mentor for the incoming class last September and helped another fellow husky ease into the program’s pace. Ultimately, do not let anyone else tell you what you can or cannot do. If you have the mental fortitude and time, you can accomplish anything. Let the “no” fuel your fire to succeed.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Northeastern’ s reputation. I worked as a pharmacy technician for over a decade at a hospital in Maine and some of the brightest pharmacists were Northeastern graduates. I also had a music industry business acquaintance who graduated from Northeastern and she struck me as an amazing person. However, what sealed the deal for me was that Northeastern’ s program specifically had a class in turnaround management. During my undergraduate studies, I read Mitt Romney’s book Turnaround and I was inspired by how Mitt saved the Utah Olympics from disaster.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? Convenience. You can do it from the comfort of your own home. Or, in my case, I enjoyed going to my undergraduate alma mater Glickman Library in Portland to do my assignments and readings. I have even completed assignments on Kennebunk Beach near the former president Bush’s summer residence.

I also have enjoyed the interactions with my classmates all over the world. I have made some good friends in the program and have met a few of them in person in Boston.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? As an extreme extrovert, I’ve always been a better public speaker. The online environment has allowed me to polish my writing, which has made me a much better communicator. You will receive the same education that you would on the ground at Northeastern. The professors respond back quickly if you have questions. Reading your professors biographies will inspire you to do your best.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I did a few online classes during my undergraduate program at USM, so I was familiar with the format. I will say that Northeastern’ s program was more advanced than my undergraduate online experience. I like how Northeastern’ s professors provide office hours so you can ask questions and go over examples. In that sense, it can be very much like a traditional class. I am also a self-starter, so I liked the ability to make my schedule according to the syllabus that is given at the beginning of each class preview week. If I couldn’t make the office hours, I could watch them later.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Plan out your schedule, stick to it, and start the readings early. Life can get busy, and you will need to schedule life events and class work accordingly. The professors will challenge you and give you valuable feedback on your performance. Learn from this feedback and continue forward.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Online MBA’s are typically geared towards busy people with already established careers. I would find a way for more class interactions with peers outside of assignments. However, I have found class team assignments as a great way to meet new and interesting people.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I am changing careers to a finance role. I have joined a few professional societies. When I mention that I am a Northeastern MBA, they typically want to know more about me. I even had a firm that interviewed me for a job the very next day. The career center has terrific people who will help guide you every step of the way. I cannot say enough good things about them!

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Yes, without hesitation. It has been a fantastic learning experience and a growing experience. I have learned a lot about finance, marketing, strategy, economics, valuation modeling, and stock analysis. The knowledge you will learn will help you throughout the rest of your career.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To get into business turnarounds. I like the idea of helping a business understand why it is failing and what they can do change the situation and succeed.

I look forward to taking the Certified Turnaround Analyst (CTA) test to begin my new career journey.



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