2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Charlie Mills, Indiana University (Kelley)

Charlie Mills

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“Motivated and hard-working; always looking for a new challenge or adventure.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Tampa, Florida

Fun fact about yourself: I have been hang-gliding in Brazil and cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa.

Undergraduate School and Degree: College of the Holy Cross – BA Economics

Where are you currently working? The Nielsen Company, Finance Director

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I began my career as a member of the Finance Leadership Program (FLP) at The Nielsen Company. While almost eight years have passed since I was accepted into this program, it remains one of my proudest achievements because it set the foundation for where I am today. In this program, I rotated into four distinct roles within the finance organization, each in a different city and business unit. This unique experience gave me the opportunity to develop my skills, expand my comfort zone and form many relationships that I still cherish today. I am proud of the hard work that helped me get accepted into and excel in this program, and I am grateful for the many friends, mentors, and experiences that have shaped my career.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I was looking for a program that would provide the same benefits of a residential program with the flexibility and convenience that would allow me to continue working and apply what I was learning in real-time. Indiana’s Kelley Direct online program provided that and so much more. The course material was both challenging and relevant, and I particularly valued the multiple networking opportunities, such as the Kelley Connect Weeks, Global Connect Nights, and the AGILE emersion program.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite moments in the Kelley program were when I was sharing the experience with my classmates and professors. From the on-campus Kelley Connect Weeks to the virtual breakout sessions in the weekly live classes, the opportunities that Kelley offered to connect with others were by far the most memorable. I also valued the flexibility and convenience of the online format that allowed me to absorb and learn the content around my busy schedule and apply what I was learning in the online classroom in real-time.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was most surprised by the high level of engagement from both students and professors in the online classes. Even with the program being online, there were many more opportunities to make connections and interact with classmates than I expected. I was also surprised by how much the online experience mirrors the real-world, where business meetings are being facilitated through video conference calls more than ever. This made the transition of going back to school even smoother as I was already used to conducting meetings over video calls and virtually collaborating with team members around the world.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? There are certainly differences between the online and in-the-classroom experience. However, these experiences are not designed to be the exact same and what makes the online program unique, such as the added convenience and flexibility, is exactly what I was looking for. That said, the Kelley professors applied many of the same learning aspects of the in-the-classroom experience to the online format. For example, many of the live classes included breakout sessions where we could work with classmates in smaller groups. The Kelley Direct faculty are also the same who teach in the residential program, so it really felt like I was getting the same education, only experiencing it in a slightly different way.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? I would encourage others to take advantage of this unique opportunity to network and learn from so many talented and experienced people. By design, a large majority of the content can be absorbed at your convenience. While the professors do a great job of facilitating group work through discussions and case studies, it can be easy to work in isolation from others. As a result, I would strongly encourage others to join the live sessions and participate in as many networking events as their schedule allows to make connections with classmates and professors. Additionally, organization and time management skills are key. Because the program is so flexible, it can be easy to fall behind if you are not organized and manage your time efficiently.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? One thing that sets the Kelley Direct program apart is the many networking opportunities offered to online students. The one thing I would consider changing is providing more integration with the residential MBA student body to allow for even more opportunities to connect with others and share experiences.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I currently work in corporate finance and almost all the courses in the program were relevant to my job or industry in some way. The courses covering managerial accounting, capital investments, and working capital management were especially applicable to my day-to-day work. At the time I was enrolled in these classes, I was working on the capital budget process and a project focused on improving our company’s management of payables and disbursements. The course materials, as well as the professors, were extremely helpful resources. For example, I was able to reach out to my professors during office hours, who provided good insight and supplemental articles to help with specific challenges I was facing at work.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Ultimately, my long-term goals both professionally and personally are to keep learning and growing. While I do not know where I will be in 10 years from now, I will be happy if I am in a position that is challenging and forces me to expand my comfort zone. This goal is what ultimately led me to apply to the Kelley MBA program and will continue to guide my path in the future.

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