2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Florence Williams, IE Business School

Florence Williams

IE Business School, Global Online MBA

“Determined, Creative, Consultative, Articulate, Leader, Advocate, Mentor, Wife, Athlete, Lifelong Student, Dual-Citizen, World Traveler.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Portland, Maine

Fun fact about yourself: In my younger years, I was a certified crosscut saw operator and worked for the National Forest Service.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Cornell University, BS in Policy Administration & Management

Where are you currently working? Director, Strategy & Planning at Unum

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of my ability to successfully transition from industry to management consulting, and then back into industry. I started my career in a rotational development program at Cigna (3 rotations across 2 states,) joined PA Consulting to gain exposure to other industries and geographies (3 major projects across numerous states and countries), and then joined Unum 18 months ago to focus on product development strategy. Each chapter has built on my previous experiences and has helped to shape the leader I am today.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I was drawn to the opportunity to continue my career and advance my education at a well-reputed online program without having to put personal financial goals on hold or having to relocate to do so.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? I loved the diversity of my class intake (41 nationalities and 33 countries of residence) and the unique perspective our professors brought from their industry and geography.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? It is still possible to build a tight-knit community even in an online learning environment. I feel very connected to my MBA colleagues, professors, and program staff, even though we are scattered across the globe.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I interacted with my professors more during my MBA than I ever did as an undergraduate. This is due to a number of reasons. I found the case method to be especially engaging – it’s difficult to NOT have an opinion worth sharing in class if you’ve fully read the case ahead of time. I really like how the case method puts you in the shoes of a real-world business problem and asks you. “What next?” It’s inherently thought-provoking and it makes the learning process more personal and memorable. I also believe the virtual classroom removes barriers between professors and students. I often left undergraduate courses with a question unanswered, but this never occurred in my online classes. There are no barriers to raising your hand, coming off mute, asking a question on the chat, or turning on video.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Be clear to family, friends, colleagues, and your manager about your goals and the time commitment associated with online education. Stay balanced: take care of your mental and physical health.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? The challenge of an online MBA program is that you build incredibly strong bonds with your colleagues along the way, but you have limited in-person time together during the program. This is, of course, what you sign up for as an online MBA student. Nevertheless, if I could change one thing about an online program, it would be more or longer face-to-face portions that help to strengthen in-class and alumni connections. Since completing the program, I am already making plans with my colleagues for reunion trips to Madrid and elsewhere. I am thankful and inspired to be connected to this dynamic group of professionals across the globe!

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Online education further built my confidence at work. I better understand my company’s quarterly earnings updates. Each week, I picked up on themes and new terms I had just learned about in class. Cost-benefit analyses are now de-mystified. I also developed valuable skillets via my online education. I ask more relevant and timely questions. Facilitating effective virtual meetings is a core strength. My communication is more direct and clear and I back my recommendations with rationale and evidence.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long term goals are to continue to build my corporate career while fostering my family’s businesses, to give back via mentorship and service in my community, and to one day become a professor.

Don’t Miss: The Entire Honor Roll of the Best & Brightest Online MBA Grads of 2020

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