2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Robert Anthony Woblesky, Santa Clara University (Leavey)

Robert Anthony Woblesky

Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business

“Father and husband, first. Dedicated to improving the world through data, design, and technology, second.”

Age: 33

Hometown: San Jose, California

Fun fact about yourself: I am probably the BIGGEST boxing fan you’ll ever meet. I fell in love with the sweet science about eight years ago, and have been obsessed ever since. I started training boxing around the same time and to cross one more thing off my bucket list, I hope to participate in an amateur match now that I have completed my MBA!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Santa Clara University,

Where are you currently working? Adobe, Inc. as a Sr. Product Manager for Virtual Events

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My shift from Data Analyst to Web Developer / Application Engineer is one of the achievements I am most proud of in my professional career. I have been fortunate to be part of strong teams that have delivered amazing technologies and capabilities. However, my personal achievement of focusing on a difficult goal and reaching it helped me realize that I was capable of anything with hard work, focus and determination. After helping technology teams with their data analysis needs, I remember thinking how exciting it must be to take an idea from concept to production. I decided I would learn how to program in hopes of becoming a developer as the next step in my career. It was not an easy journey, and one that I spent almost two years in my free time learning how to code and improving my skills. However, it was one that taught me that I was capable of setting a goal and achieving it. More importantly, it helped me find a deep love of technology and all that was possible with computer engineering. This accomplishment of completely changing careers was ultimately the motivation I needed to realize that my next goal would be an MBA to continue growing my skills and advancing my career into the next stage.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? When I was looking into getting my MBA, I knew an online program would be the best fit for me given my work schedule, family, and the distance between my home and various schools in the area. Having not participated in an online academic program before, I knew I wanted to find a reputable school that I trusted to manage my online MBA program. I didn’t have to look much further than my alma mater, Santa Clara University, for an Online MBA program that I knew I could count on to improve my skills and give me the learnings I needed to advance my career. Having attended Santa Clara University for my undergraduate education, I knew I would be taught by the top teachers in the Bay Area with real-world experience, be surrounded by intelligent and passionate students, and participate in a community of individuals that are committed to supporting the community around it. Once I learned about all that Santa Clara University’s Online MBA program had to offer, I knew it would be a perfect fit.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of being in an online MBA program was the flexibility it allowed for me to balance my work, family, and school life. I have two young children and one item I wanted to maintain during my MBA program was “family time”. Evening or Weekend MBAs meant I would have to sacrifice the few hours I had a week to be with my family, but the structure of the online MBA program allowed me to find time to study around my work and family schedule. I didn’t miss a family dinner and still enjoyed the weekends with family and friends. I often found myself reading after putting the kids to bed, watching lectures over my work lunch, and chipping away on assignments during the evenings. As events came up, such as birthdays or vacations, I could plan ahead for the coursework required and still attend those events. In some regards, I felt that an online MBA program allowed for me to “have my cake and eat it too”.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? One thing I was worried about with an online learning environment was the potential lack of engagement with other students or teachers. However, what surprised me the most is how much engagement online learning had even though we never actually met in person.

First, many teachers offered virtual open weekly office hours for any students that had any questions. This allowed us to read materials and watch lectures on our own time. At the same time, we then could focus on core questions in the office hours, allowing students to engage with the professor and other students weekly. Another great way to engage with other students was discussion boards. Almost every class had some sort of weekly discussion board assignment in which we would post our analysis or opinions on a topic, and other students would engage with the post. It’s one thing to learn from a professor, but learning from other students’ analysis or unique perspectives created unique connections and learnings between students.

Finally, there is no shortage of group projects in an MBA program, which not only reflected the “real world”, but actually allowed for high engagement and deep relationships to be developed quarter over quarter. For example, for our capstone course, our team met almost 2 hours a week over the ten-week period and I’m happy to say all of those group members also became friends. Like many others, when I first imagined “online learning”, I was worried that it would just be me watching a lot of videos. As soon as I took my first class I realized that engaging with teachers and other students would be a key part of the program.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? In general, in terms of learning the online experience felt very similar to my in-the-classroom experience. In both situations, we had readings, lectures, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and exams. However, and this might sound strange, the only major difference between my online experience and the in-the-classroom experience was I actually felt more in control. This, in turn, made me more motivated.

As an undergraduate student with in-the-classroom learning, your schedule revolved around the schedule of your classes. If I had an 8 AM class, I needed to wake up early to get ready and get to class; some mornings, it was just easier to skip class and try to catch up. If I missed a class, I’d need to track down a friend to get the notes from the day. Otherwise, I would be out of luck for the next assignment or quiz.

Although I have matured a bit and can easily get to work by 8 AM, online learning solved some of the issues I had as an undergraduate student. First, I never missed a lecture because everything was online, which also meant I could re-watch any lecture as many times as I needed. For more difficult classes, such as statistics, this was a literal lifesaver. No more worrying about missing anything due to my personal schedule; all the resources were there for me when I was ready to use them, leaving me in control of how and when I would learn. Ultimately, having more control over my education motivated me to work even harder since I knew my performance would be based on how hard I worked. I wouldn’t have the old “this class is too early” excuse or the “I missed that lecture” excuse to explain poor performance, everything I needed was ready and available to me, it was up to me to execute.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? The most important piece of advice for an applicant to thrive in an Online MBA program is to develop a schedule of “work” and stick to it.

At first, the work might feel overwhelming, especially if you haven’t been in school for a while. However, what I found worked for me is to carve out about 1-2 hours a day to work through assignments. The schedule that seemed to work best for me to get through readings Monday/Tuesday, lectures Wednesday/Thursday, then start assignments Friday and wrap them up over the weekend. My schedule might not work for everyone. However, having set aside time where you know you can be focused on the program ensures you can prioritize your time for what you need to do first to get to the next step, such as a lecture or assignment. I personally still wanted to be able to enjoy my time on the weekends with my family, so it was important to me to try to get ahead of the work each week.

What would you change about an online MBA Program?  While online MBA programs do a great job of driving engagement with students and teachers through classwork, I would love to see online MBA programs also enable virtual social interactions amongst students. Finding new, innovative ways for students to create social interactions virtually outside of classwork can help build strong relationships amongst students – even outside of classwork – adding value to the overall program.

As an undergraduate, you would run into other students at lunch, walking between classes, or at the library when studying. Since online education is, well online, these micro-social interactions weren’t always available given the focus on course work. This idea stems from the fact that our cohort created a Slack channel for all the students and, in some ways, it acted as a virtual lounge for us. We would use it to check in with each other from time-to-time, understand how classes were going, or even to discuss things that had nothing to do with the MBA such as sports. I would love for online MBA programs to think more about the social interactions that are enabled in person and how that could be replicated in a virtual environment. Virtual interactions and experiences have grown rapidly with COVID-19; these new experiences could help create new social interactions between students outside of classwork, adding extended value to an online MBA program.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? What I loved about my online education was that I felt I had at least one class with learnings that I could directly apply to my role every quarter. As I was learning in the Online MBA program, I took pieces of the education and applied them to problems I was facing at work.

For example, in our Doing Business in Silicon Valley class, we learned about the concept of the “long Tail” and how retailers like Amazon created businesses in the “long tail”. This insight helped me realize that in some ways, our team was focused on managing “long tail” content for employees and that recommendation engines or personalization would help improve the impact of content. In another example, in our Business Analytics class, we learned about Cluster Analysis, which I used to help generate a cluster analysis of our employees to better understand their behaviors and how to better serve those employees. Finally, every single Management class provided unique insights on how to better manage teams, interact with colleagues, and how to enable change within an organization. I could keep going, but without a doubt, the SCU Online MBA program immediately had an impact on my job and will have a continued effect in the future.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 14-20 hours/week

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Although I am unsure of what and when, my ultimate long-term professional goal is to manage my own business. The thought of taking an idea and materializing that into something that positively impacts the world is a daunting but exciting challenge. What motivates me even further is how businesses can positively impact employees, customers, and the community around them. Having worked at Adobe for almost 10 years, I can’t help but reflect on what Adobe has given me back over those 10 years and I can thank our founders for creating Adobe 35 years ago. A reason I am so passionate about working for Adobe is the clear benefits our customers receive, the way Adobe treats and rewards employees, and how focused Adobe is on giving back to the community. I hope to someday be the “captain of the ship” that positively influences all those that come along for the voyage, and having completed my MBA, I feel I am one step closer to someday changing the world.



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