2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Victoria Sherwood, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Victoria Sherwood

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Why” obsessed strategic thinker. I enjoy building teams, leading change and the “aha” moments that come when taking on big challenges.

Age: 37

Hometown: Born and raised in Woodbury, Connecticut; currently living in Bristol, United Kingdom

Fun fact about yourself: I have been to 49 of the 50 states; I’m just missing Washington. I started a new job at Amazon so hopefully I can change that.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Wells College- Aurora, New York; BA in history

Where are you currently working? Amazon, Senior Program Manager for EU/UK Community Operations, London.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  I am proud of my role in founding and leading a military team in Afghanistan to address women’s needs in communities served by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2009. These teams, the USMC Female Engagement Team (FET), continue to exist and lend value to operations today. At the time, the FETs were a revolutionary military capability that formally recognized the disproportionate impact of war on women and girls. I am proud of my role in recognizing women’s voices, empowering female U.S. Marines in new roles and supporting military operations with a groundbreaking capability.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler for its reputation as the leading online MBA program, and one which does not sacrifice academic rigor for the online platform. The program attracts high-caliber professionals who are actively engaged and leading in their respective fields. I wanted to be a part of that community and to learn in a context that offered spirited and relevant discussion, immediate networking opportunities, and the ability to apply and test concepts right away in my current position.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of being in an online MBA was the flexibility it offered for my personal and professional life. For the bulk of the program, I was living in Germany planning and building communications infrastructure with 29 NATO partner countries. I traveled often and dialed into classes and group meetings from 14 countries, including several calls from high in the Arctic Circle. I never had to sacrifice work or personal trips to accommodate the program. I even got a fair amount of learning done mid-air during work flights, using the asynchronous content download option.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The most surprising thing about learning in an online environment was the ability to connect personally and form friendships with classmates remotely. A variety of social and professional networking opportunities supported this, such as the school-facilitated “Hallway Discussions” led by Student Ambassadors and using student-initiated social media channels. The nature of various COVID lockdowns and UNC Kenan-Flagler’s commitment to inclusivity contributed to a collegial atmosphere where students were eager to connect and share with each another. I know I can call on these connections for mentorship and advice moving forward in my career. The wit of MBA@UNC students is impressive and results in some great stress-busting social media banter!

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? In my undergraduate experience, I learned concepts to be applied at a later date. My understanding lacked context and the material was largely hypothetical. Conversely, MBA@UNC offered an immediate return on investment. I could apply concepts right away, discuss academic topics with coworkers, and had more personal experiences to reflect upon as new ideas were presented. I was surprised at how little the online learning differed in terms of the value of in-class experiences. My ability to learn while working and actively applying lessons brought material to life in a way that was not possible for me as an undergraduate.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Working, studying, and taking care of yourself and your family is a tall order. I have an untested hypothesis that achieving this remotely can make the time commitment appear less significant to those around you. In my case, courses occurred in the middle of the night, making the in-class commitment near invisible to others. Actively make time for self-care and master politely setting boundaries to protect your time. If you do have the time, capitalize on as many networking opportunities as possible. In-person immersions (called Summits), student advisory board positions, the student-consulting STAR program, regional networking events and online socials and webinars might not be required, but they bring you one connection closer to the professional goals that brought you to the program.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would change the fact that there still seems to be a slight stigma associated with pursuing this credential online, particularly in a year when everyone completed their MBA online! The requirements are no less significant. If anything, the opportunity to apply lessons immediately and learn from active members of the work force offers a unique advantage for online business students.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? My UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA helped me gain the fluency and business expertise needed to transition from 14 years of government service to the commercial sector. I used it to pivot my experience in the military/government to a new role, in a new field, in a new country, during a pandemic. I previously managed the U.S. Marine Corps’ global IT infrastructure, and now am a senior program manager with Amazon. The education provided the tools, language, and management insights needed to keep pace with innovation and lead technical change quickly. It also provided a host of career resources and an extensive alumni network to reach out to for ongoing mentorship and guidance.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 15-20

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to be part of a team that helps better calculate and understand the impact of business decisions on communities. Throughout my career, I have endeavored to understand and quantify community needs and experiences to drive business decisions. Serving in a strategic role in a company or organization putting these metrics into practice is my long-term professional goal. I have a great foundation from my UNC Kenan-Flagler experience, which championed a values-driven approach to creating business solutions that meet global community needs more effectively.


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