2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Vi Zenone, University of Maryland (Smith)

Vi Zenone

University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Motivated, ambitious, grateful for professional opportunities and always looking to give back.”

Age: 44

Hometown: Harpers Ferry, WV

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy learning new skills and have picked up various hobbies, which include scroll sawing, lathe work (turning wooden bowls/pens), and molecular gastronomy (foams/gels/spheres – basically, playing with your food). I look forward to returning to these activities now that I finished my MBA program.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Virginia; B.A. Biology

Where are you currently working? I work at Verizon and lead Product Marketing for the company’s Public Sector segment (Federal, State/Local, Education, and Public Safety).

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I first started in sales and marketing, I was asked to launch a direct sales program for the agency’s leadership and management training business. The organization had never developed a structured initiative of this size and scope. I created a program that increased the company’s enrollment in their standard offerings by an additional $300K. My involvement also paved the way for a line of business focused on customized offerings that resulted in $4M in revenues during the first year.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Reputation, value, and flexibility were the key attributes when I researched online MBA programs. The Robert H. Smith School of Business met all my requirements. Further, I was impressed with the support I received during the application process. I was partnered with an admissions counselor who answered questions and kept me on track with my application. I also attended an in-person event as well as a virtual meeting where faculty and current students provided additional information about the program and curriculum. Speaking with admissions representatives and attending events geared towards prospective students solidified my choice as the right one.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? Working full-time meant I needed a program that fit my schedule. An online format combines learning with mobility. I could join a live session from anywhere and access my coursework remotely. That flexibility was a great benefit of UMD’s program.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Technology has played a more significant role in my post-undergraduate experience. UMD’s learning management system (Canvas) made it easy to integrate asynchronous and synchronous learning. I found that the variety of collaboration tools contributed to a more holistic educational experience. The online format required platforms that were easy to use and reliable. For live sessions, we used Adobe Connect. For group work, we turned to the suite of Google products (Hangouts, Docs, Sheets, Slides) to share information. Blending Adobe, Google, and Canvas created a learning community and kept us all connected despite being remotely located.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Networking is an important component in most graduate programs. Having more events, whether in-person or virtual, would provide students opportunities to make professional connections.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I have always learned from doing. What my MBA has provided, however, are formal concepts such as corporate finance and managerial accounting to reinforce my work experience. That foundation influences my daily business decisions. For example, when creating marketing campaigns, I need to know the expected return on the investment to build my business and gain executive support. I was able to further refine those skills through this program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have been fortunate to work with leaders who took the time to mentor those on their teams. Having that experience has been invaluable during my professional career. My goal is to create a more formal mentor-mentee program within my group. For those just starting in their career, having a coach can be impactful. For organizations, these types of engagement programs can increase retention and employee satisfaction.

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

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