2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Peter Franzen, North Carolina State (Jenkins)

Peter Franzen

North Carolina State University, Jenkins MBA

“High-capacity, high-performing, views any obstacle as an opportunity for an innovative solution.”

Age: 45

Hometown: Apex, NC

Fun fact about yourself: While getting my MBA, I was “classmates” with my two oldest daughters.  I would meet them on “our” campus and have them buy me coffee.  While we didn’t have any actual classes together, I did drive down to celebrate at the Belltower at midnight after our football team beat the in-state rival on a last-second touchdown.  Go Pack!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Case Western Reserve University – BS Mechanical Engineering

Where are you currently working? Medtronic, Inc. – Sr. Pr. Field Clinical Engineer

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It is when individuals recognize the value I bring.  Two examples: A tenured colleague told me “You are the best FCE I have worked with”.  A customer I stopped working with 12 years ago was introduced to the new person in my role (probably the 5th or 6th person in that role since I left) and said, “That person had a lot of potential, but has to fill the big shoes of Peter”.  I don’t like self-promoting – so answering this question makes me uncomfortable.  I’m proud of moments like this because I strive to be the best.  When respected colleagues make these unsolicited observations, I feel I have accomplished what I try to do every day.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? It is a top-rated program and I had the ability to get in-state tuition. I also appreciated the flexibility (ability to switch between in-person and online, as well as the pace of getting the degree).

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program?  It was having the flexibility to be able to set the pace over the course of a semester.  Professional and personal responsibilities would ebb and flow – the online content is set up to review on my schedule.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was surprised at the responsiveness of the instructors. Some classes had more emphasis on virtual office hours, so I got immediate answers. All the professors I had would respond within minutes to hours when I would reach out with a question. I expected responses but thought there would be more of a delay.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? This was completely different. I think the main difference is the constraints on my time as a full-time professional getting a degree.  In my undergraduate studies, I rarely reached out to professors.  Now, I have the time. If I have a question, or there is something I need clarifying – I immediately go to the expert.  It’s a much more efficient way to learn!

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Most classes should have group projects or assignments. Once you find someone you work well with (hopefully early on!), link arms with them.  First, you will be able to minimize time forming the cultural norms for each project – so you will get increased efficiency.  Second, you will build relationships that will carry outside the program. As soon as the class would open, I would check the roster to see if I recognized any names.  If you don’t know anyone – be the first post on the message board asking to form a group.  You will get those students who are active in the class – not the ones asking to for group members the day before the project is due.

Final piece: build a relationship with your advisor. First, they have visibility to programs and opportunities. If they understand what you want to get out of your MBA degree, they will be able to bring awareness to you. Second, there may be that one class that everyone wants to take that is difficult to get into. Your advisor can be an advocate in that process.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I wouldn’t change much – the challenge is providing for diverse needs.  I would think about a way to incentivize meeting outside of the classroom (when appropriate) – coffee study club, TA happy hour.  The shared, in-person experiences jump-start relationships.  This would not benefit everyone, but could be a bonus for those who are local.  If there is a residency component, having structured, adjacent events that students could take advantage of in person could also serve the same purpose.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The MBA education has given me a new way to think – almost like I had been operating in 2-D previously, and now I’m operating in 3-D.  I operate in a much more strategic manner.  I’m executing my technical responsibilities while thinking how they fit into the strategic plan.  I’m reaching outside my group to influence others.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? The group I was working in was eliminated while earning my degree.  I did utilize the resources in the career center to get re-hired. I also earned a promotion during my time.

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

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: I took 5 years to complete my degree, so I rarely had more than one class per semester.  I invested 5-6 hours a week per class.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I started my degree with a plan to switch to people management. I’ve actually interviewed for those positions, about halfway through the program. I was not selected (and rightfully so). I absolutely love what I do now. The MBA degree has allowed me to critically think about the strategy that my team’s leadership implements. I now influence the strategy and challenge the leaders in my group.   find opportunities to go above and beyond my current scope, and since I align them with our strategy they are always approved! I could see myself continuing to be an individual contributor – leading and influencing those around me. I also am ready to switch to a leadership role if the right opportunity arises. Whatever it is that I end up doing – when my professional pebble is dropped into the pond, I want the ripples of influence to go deep and wide.



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