2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Herb Bennett, USC (Marshall)

Herb Bennett

USC Marshall School of Business, OMBA

“I am an entrepreneur focused on technology and cybersecurity that positively impacts disadvantaged communities.”

Age: 43

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Fun fact about yourself: As a paratrooper in the Army, I have jumped out of airplanes at over 30,000 feet and am a rabid Philadelphia Eagles fan. Go BIRDS!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Economics from California State University, Sacramento.

Where are you currently working? Upon graduation, I will continue as CEO and Co-Founder of the Baran Agency. Still, I will also be pursuing other ventures, such as Co-Founding an Aerospace company called Indigo Space Systems.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My career has spanned Marketing, Workforce Development, Business Development, Sales Management, IT management, Cybersecurity, and Executive Leadership. However, I am most proud of helping my fellow military veterans train for and acquire gainful employment in the civilian world. Helping them reach their goals and make meaningful lifestyle changes for themselves and their families has been the cornerstone of my career.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I have had aspirations in the past to join some influential boards, and advisers informed me that a key differentiator would be in the form of obtaining an MBA. Due to my comprehensive occupational and personal schedule, I felt that the obvious choice for the highest level of success for me was the OMBA program. I then set out to find a school that was a top-tiered MBA school and had a reputable track record in which I could learn critical tools that I could implement right away. After a rigorous search, I found the USC OMBA program. At the time, USC ranked in the top 5 OMBA programs in the nation. From there, I knew they were the right program for me. Since I entered the USC OMBA program, we became the #1 OMBA program in the country. I feel a strong sense of pride in being a part of such an accomplished program.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? Attending a prestigious institution while being able to tend to appropriate levels of a work-life balance was a significant value-add to my educational experience. In addition, meeting with my classmates virtually enhanced my ability to engage with the material thoroughly and, ultimately, my success in the program.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? First, the high level of engagement completely shattered my initial expectations, as I wasn’t fully aware of how modern technology had broken the barriers that historical remote learning environments made so underwhelming. Next, the asynchronous learning made it extremely valuable for me to attend lectures at my own pace and schedule. I didn’t realize how much that would aid in my success at the time.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Due to various household distractions, I expected my online experience to be much more difficult to retain information and stay engaged during lectures. But, to my surprise, I didn’t experience that much difference in content retention or significant distractions that would have made it challenging to excel in my classes.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? The best way to succeed in an online MBA program is to accept early that your teammates in the cohort are your teammates. The earlier you connect and bond with your team, the quicker you all will be at tackling the vast amount of work and projects that you all will have. In addition, it’s better to understand that you are all in it together, working towards a common goal, which differs drastically from undergrad.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would have significantly appreciated more school-sponsored events to bond in person for our cohort. For example, we had a week-long in-person residential week during the first week of our program. It allowed us to build rapport and lasting relationships that we could build upon as the program carried on. However, in an almost two-year program, it would have been highly beneficial for us to have more facetime with each other as that’s the only thing missing in an online experience.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The virtual environment extensively prepared me for the rapidly changing work environment that the pandemic forced upon my colleagues and me. Since we had already faced challenges and overcame obstacles as a team virtually, I could easily manage my team remotely and find creative ways to keep them actively engaged weekly. In addition, it significantly helped my remote leadership skills almost immediately.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? As a successful entrepreneur going into the program, I was excited to see what tools I could acquire and use at the conclusion. In addition, I eagerly hoped that it would enhance my skill set and make me a better business partner. Upon graduation, I achieved both of those, and I partnered with other members of my cohort and pursued another startup opportunity. This program has converted me into a serial entrepreneur and given me the proper tools and insight to make my venture successful.

Did you earn a raise during the online MBA program? Yes. Furthermore, due to my newly acquired skills, I was able to identify some key bottlenecks and increase my monthly cash flow by nearly 40%.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 20-30 hours per week.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to build a conglomerate of high-performing organizations that make meaningful changes to the current working environment landscape through boards and executive leadership positions.



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