2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Brad Kohlmeyer, University of Michigan (Ross)

Brad Kohlmeyer

Ross School of Business – University of Michigan

Age: 37

Hometown: Denver, CO

Fun fact about yourself: Chipotle catered my wedding – full line service, tortilla press, the works. Best wedding food ever.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Wisconsin – Madison , BBA Finance

Where are you currently working? Sunday, VP Finance

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Throughout my career in companies big and small, I have always found opportunities to build something new and special. Whether it was working on new concepts at Chipotle, or building an entirely new DTC experience at Sunday, I gravitate toward uncertainty. The satisfaction of working with extremely smart people to bring something new to the market is what I’m most proud of.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? My GMAT score was on the verge of expiration when I found out that Ross was launching an online program. The growth of my career and family had kept me from ever fully committing to an MBA. When I saw Ross was going online, I knew it was the place for me. The quality of the program, strength of the faculty, focus on action-based learning, and chance to once again be a part of building something new and great was too good to pass up.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? First – and most importantly – it allowed me to tuck my kids into bed every night before I got to work studying. There is nothing more important to me than being a good father to my children and husband to my wife. The online program gave me the best chance of success here. Second, the online format breaks down the geographic walls that may have previously kept really smart people from engaging with each other. I would have never had the chance to interact with and learn from the engineers, lawyers, surgeons, data scientists, entrepreneurs, and others brought together by this format. When you allow those people to keep doing their day jobs but come together to learn with other exceptionally bright students, it supercharges everyone’s education.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The rigor and the relationships. The material is challenging, the pace is quick, the expectations high, and the faculty engaged. Our shared experience through the program created a tight-knit community that will continue long after we leave Ross.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Contrary to my expectations, the online experience created a higher level of engagement than my in-classroom experience as an undergrad. The flexibility of the asynchronous content means that I’m sitting down to focus when it works with my schedule. If I want to revisit a topic or take a break, I can do that to ensure that I’m getting the most out of my time. The online experience at Ross is full of group work, breakout sessions, and interaction with others – far more than most classes allowed in undergrad.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? It is exceedingly difficult to thrive in your career, your family life, and your online education simultaneously. When you are focused on one, the others are being neglected in some way. Having open and honest conversations with your employer, spouse, and family is incredibly important. Things will not always be easy – be prepared for that reality and have mechanisms in place to refocus your attention where it is most needed.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? The one obvious drawback is the lack of in-person interaction. While our cohort met three times in person, it doesn’t match the level you would get with a full-time program. I would increase the interaction with my cohort with more in-person time and find more ways to connect outside of the classroom. The real bonds that hold a group together for the long term are forged socially. Finding creative ways to double down on that investment is important.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Broadly, it has helped me ask better questions. Within my specific role, my technical skills are significantly stronger for having gone through the program. The real value though is in the breadth of the material. I am better informed on most areas of the business and have a new perspective on how they are connected. It allows me to find opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Yes, Director of FP&A to Director of Finance and then to VP of Finance.

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

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 15-20+ depending on the week

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am happiest when I am working with smart people to solve tough problems. If I am building great teams that have an outsized impact on the business, I’m in the right place.

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