2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Sveta Vodicka, Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

Svetlana (Sveta) Vodicka

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

“I consider myself a global citizen and adventurer, who is driven by growth and curiosity.”

Age: 31

Hometown: I have lived in many places, but consider Kyiv, Ukraine my hometown

Fun fact about yourself: I was fortunate to attend two international schools, in Kyiv, Ukraine and in Tallinn, Estonia, where I made friends from literally around the world! This is also where I developed my love for cultures and languages (I speak 4 – Ukrainian, Russian, French, and English).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Finance, University of Pittsburgh

Where are you currently working? Sr. Manager, Market Research and Strategy at Clario, a company that helps pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my first year in the MBA program, I decided to switch career paths, going from a Sr. Financial Analyst in the Finance department to becoming a Market Research & Strategy Manager in the Marketing & Strategy department. This was a huge career and focus change, which was risky and brought me completely out of my comfort zone. But I was inspired to try something new and broaden my horizons after my classes and learning about my peers’ experiences. I also kept thinking about the mug my dad gifted me at my graduation from the University of Pittsburgh, which read: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. While a difficult transition with a steep learning curve, this was the best professional decision I made because it truly expanded my understanding of the business. I brought what I knew from finance, which was internally focused, and combined it with new-found knowledge and experiences from my new role, which was focused on the market, customers, and competitors. This change helped me better understand our business needs and drive projects that created an impact, like a company-wide Competitive Intelligence Program and a Customer Satisfaction Program.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? When my husband and I took the tour of the Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, we were both blown away by the thoughtfulness and rigor of the program, the flexibility of the format, and the combination of analytical and leadership development the school offered. There was no other program I saw that conducted frequent in-person Access Weekends to allow us to meet and get to know other students and faculty, which felt like we were seeing life-long friends each time. I also loved that the students took all the same classes in the first year of the program, which greatly facilitated in building our relationships. And I have only the best things to say about the Accelerate Leadership Center, which offers leadership coaching to students in the program. This had a transformational effect on my personal and leadership development throughout the program.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The flexibility of doing the program wherever I was, with the added benefit of dedicated in-person weekends to build relationships, have fun, and celebrate all of our accomplishments along the way.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I wasn’t sure how engaged I would be with an online class, but I was pleasantly surprised that the learning environment was just as interesting and engaging as in-person sessions. Most of our lecture material was recorded, which we could watch asynchronously, while our classes were reserved for discussions, allowing us to hear and learn from both the professor and the students.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? There was a stark contrast between the two learning environments due to the size and format of the programs. The University of Pittsburgh is a large school, where I attended lecture halls with potentially hundreds of students. My online MBA classes had about 30 students, whom I got to know very well because we were all in the same courses. We had an opportunity to speak up, ask questions, and get individual attention. This also contributed to our tight-knit group and a “family feel” during in-person weekends. And the delivery format of synchronous and asynchronous online education offered greater flexibility, allowing you to learn from your home, business trip, or, in some cases, on vacation.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Make the most of this experience and time in your life! Make an effort to connect with your fellow students and faculty to build those long-term relationships and your network. This is a unique experience that a select number of people go through with you, which can create lasting bonds and a strong network.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? One downside I saw was a lower variety of classes that could be delivered in an online format compared to the full-time MBA. I was so curious to try new things and learn about different topics during the program, wanting to soak up as much knowledge as I could. With the prevalence of work from anywhere and online programs, I believe schools should invest in transferring more class materials into an online or hybrid teaching environment to offer students a greater catalogue of classes.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I was immediately able to apply what I learned in class to my job, which helped me grow in my career. In my finance role, I created forecasting models from my statistical decision-making class; in my marketing & strategy role, I was analyzing my company’s innovation strategy to find opportunities for growth; and when I was managing our summer intern remotely, I applied the People, Process and Tools framework to make sure we both had a good experience. I also brought different perspectives and new analytical tools to my team, which I learned about in class, helping me contribute in significant ways.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I earned two promotions during the program. When I made my switch from Finance to Marketing, it was not only a functional switch but also a higher position. Close to the end of my program, I also earned a promotion in my Market Research & Strategy role to a Senior Manager. Now, at the end of my program, I will be joining PwC in their Healthcare Consulting Practice.

Did you earn a raise during the online MBA program? Yes.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: On average, I spent 8-10 hours per week on classes and homework, with some weeks being heavier or lighter depending on the class.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to be an impactful and empathetic leader with a focus on helping people. I spent my entire career in the healthcare field, and I want to continue to help companies drive innovation through the cross-roads of healthcare and technology, and to help patients gain affordable access to life-changing and life-sustaining care.

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