2019 Best Online MBAs: Samuel Speet, University of Arizona (Eller)

Samuel (Sam) Speet

University of Arizona’s Eller Online MBA Program

I drive bottom line results through diligent collaboration and travel broadly in my free time.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Tucson, AZ

Fun fact about yourself: I had the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream of working as a Jungle Cruise Skipper at Disney World.

Undergraduate School and Degree: 

Humboldt State University – B.S. Environmental Engineering

University of Arizona – M.S. Environmental Engineering

Where are you currently working?  Senor Systems Engineer I at Raytheon Missile Systems

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my promotion to a section head position within my department. This promotion gave me the opportunity to lead a group of talented engineers and has also given me the ability to influence the direction of our department and implement best practices throughout our entire company. I have been able to use my new position to greatly increase both the breadth and depth of my impact on the company, as well as, gain experience in higher level program activities. Additionally, it has been personally fulfilling because while being one of the youngest section heads at the time, I was able to gain my teams respect and have helped them accomplish some of their own personal goals.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I first became interested in the Arizona MBA program while I was in graduate school. I often heard about all of the great programs that Eller College offered and the success of their graduates, so when I started to look for an MBA program it was at the top of my list.  The University of Arizona online MBA offered great opportunities to expand the field of my business studies that weren’t offered by other online programs. I really liked that the Arizona program allows us to take classes in a variety of different subjects, such as marketing, health care, or MIS. The ability to take MIS classes from such a highly regarded program as the University of Arizona’s was also a really amazing opportunity and a major reason I selected the Arizona program. Lastly, since I live in the Tucson area, it was very valuable that the program, at times, allowed me to come onto campus and participate in lectures or to speak with my professors.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The best part of the online MBA program was the flexibility it offered in taking classes.  I enjoyed not being tied down to a set class schedule. The flexibility of the online MBA allowed me to work and travel but still pursue my MBA. During the middle of my MBA program, I got married in Hawaii and I was able to continue to take classes and remember finishing and submitting some assignments on the beach just a few days before the wedding. I have also completed assignments while on work travel across the country or while I was on vacation with friends and family. I loved that I didn’t have to change my life and work around the MBA program but instead I could adjust the program to fit my life. I never had to worry about something coming up, in life or in work, and derailing my MBA studies.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was very surprised by how collaborative and “hands-on” the program was at times. I was expecting most of the assignments and tests to be individual take-home tasks. However, the program did a really good job of blending in collaborative team-based assignments.  These were really valuable because they represented a lot of the challenges that I face in my job when working with remote groups across the country. I also was surprised by some of the live simulations and discussions, which were able to give similar experiences to in-person classes I’ve had in the past.  I found these activities to be some of the most beneficial of the entire program.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I found the online experience to be better in some ways than my undergraduate and graduate in-the-classroom experiences. Through the online format, I was able to study at times when I was most productive, and I could easily go back to review lectures or assignments. I was also surprised at how similar testing was in the online program to my classroom experiences. The use of online proctors allowed us to take tests that seemed very similar in format to tests I have taken in the past. I appreciated that the level of difficulty of the program was not lowered because it was in an online format.  One item I did find inconvenient at first was interacting with professors.  During my master’s studies, I found it to be extremely beneficial to interact and ask questions of professors.  When I first started the online MBA it was difficult sometimes to get that same level of communication through email. However, I found that the professors at the University of Arizona were flexible and accommodating and had many different ways of communicating with them. These alternate communication methods, such as video conferencing, really helped me to gain greater insight from professors and recreate some of the connection I was able to form during my in-the-classroom studies.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? The one thing I would change would be to find alternative opportunities for testing. While the online proctoring service was beneficial because it allowed for tests in the online format to mimic my past in-the-classroom experiences, it was inconvenient to connect to and take exams from online proctors at times. There would occasionally be technical issues. In long tests, it was sometimes uncomfortable, as we were not allowed to leave our seats. I would recommend providing alternative testing opportunities, such as partnering with in-person proctoring services or allowing local students to take tests at the university.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Many of the classes I took had an immediate impact on my work. I found that the soft skills that I learned in the classes were the most beneficial. The hard financial analysis and accounting skills have been beneficial in helping me gain new opportunities at work, but the soft skills I have learned have already improved my interactions with my peers and section members. One of the most impactful classes I took during the program was the emotional intelligence (EQ) class. The information I learned in that class was applicable to me immediately and allowed me to connect with some of my employees in ways that I never thought possible. The EQ knowledge allowed me to build bridges between my team and find new ways to help them succeed.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Absolutely! The University of Arizona MBA program has already greatly helped my career and I am excited to see where it takes me in the future. The online program offered me the opportunity to gain my degree while still working and without having to sacrifice my entire life. The program continuously challenged me, and I learned more than I ever expected.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate career goal is to be an executive of a company that is driving innovation and change in the world. I appreciate the opportunity I have currently to manage a team that is on the cutting edge of our field and I want to continue to manage programs and teams that seek to push the boundary in meaningful ways. I also want to create a tree of individuals I have been able to positively influence within their own careers. Several mentors have been extremely beneficial in helping me navigate my own career and I want to provide that same benefit to others.



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