2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Manuel Herrera, University of Michigan (Ross)

Manuel Herrera

Ross School of Business – University of Michigan

“I’m originally from Mexico, grew up in Los Angeles, and have two degrees from Michigan.”

Age: 36

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Fun fact about yourself: First member of my family to graduate from college (in the U.S.)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Where are you currently working? Currently, a vice president at Plante Moran Cresa in Metro Detroit, leading engagements in our real estate practice for various local and multinational clients.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It is having the opportunity to contribute to once-in-a-lifetime projects that include the redevelopment of the transportation network at Los Angeles International Airport in my hometown as well as the new corporate campus for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. It is very rewarding to see years worth of strategy and planning materialize into real transformational changes that will shape the way millions of people move, work, and learn for generations to come.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Three main reasons: First, I was inspired to pursue this program because of the academic reputation of the University of Michigan. With a long list of notable alumni, there was no doubt I would be joining an alumni network comprised of leaders who have influenced every aspect of business and society. Second, the action-based learning curriculum is real and impactful. A few months into the program, I was put through a 24-hour business crisis simulation (the Leadership Crisis Challenge) that ended with a presentation to a board of directors comprised of active executives in various industries with the “Big House” (Michigan Stadium) as the backdrop. No book or business case alone can ever replicate these action-based experiences. Lastly, the quality of the students Michigan Ross admits is astounding. It is rare to learn from and team with attorneys, MDs, PHDs, and other active business professionals located in various parts of the world.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of the program was how much growth I experienced from being a student while actively employed. During the program, we participated in multi-day residencies, analyzed business cases, and actively participated in lectures; that knowledge was transferable to my career almost immediately. I did not have to wait years to put new skills into practice and in doing so, I learned more about myself as a leader.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Most surprising is how easy it is to form bonds with both professors and peers. Professors are widely available for academic support, but most importantly, for professional development and personal support as well. Michigan Ross hosts faculty that are all-stars in the business world and always having access to them, both during and after graduating from the program is invaluable. Similarly, my network expanded to include peers across the various programs offered by Michigan Ross.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I had the opportunity to attend lectures in various time zones as well as in hybrid formats with in-person students which offered a seamless way to stay engaged regardless of location. While the world was mobilizing to respond to the challenges from the pandemic, learning outcomes in an online format was largely unphased, and frankly, ahead in terms of the changes we are seeing now in the way we work post-pandemic.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Spend time reflecting on yourself as a leader in team environments. The majority of my MBA experience was centered on membership in high-performing teams. Having the ability to call upon various leadership styles in different settings is a skill that will take exposure and practice.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? As part of the inaugural cohort for the program and member of the Student Council as Vice President of Ross Community, I had the honor to influence various aspects of the student experience while attending. As a result of the commitment by faculty, administrators, and student engagement, many improvements have been adopted and are constantly being evaluated. The only change I would recommend is that this type of collaboration becomes a permanent feature long-term.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Courses in finance, management of people and organizations, business law and ethics, technology and operations, economics, marketing, accounting, business analytics, and strategy have all contributed to making me a more well-rounded leader. The material I was exposed to in core courses and electives has allowed me to understand the various aspects of business and how they intersect. These learning outcomes will continue to serve me as I grow into higher positions of leadership and influence. As an example, I constantly refer to Professor Dr. Mike Barger’s course on managing business crises and building organizational resiliency.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I accepted a promotion via a new role with Plante Moran Cresa several months ahead of graduation. I believe my employer recognizes the value of recruiting individuals that demonstrate commitment to bettering themselves through an advanced degree program such as an MBA. Similarly, I have an admiration for a workplace culture that celebrates lifelong learning.

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

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 20

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Long term, my goal is to leverage my MBA journey to lead, influence, and bring about positive change.




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