Please briefly describe your career path and what led you to choose The School of Business.
For the last fifteen years, I have had various roles in the software industry, from engineer to product manager. I’ve had the pleasure of working for companies like Amazon and Yelp as I developed my skills in these challenging roles. Recently, I’ve found myself responsible for more extensive lines of business, and as such, there seemed to be some gaps in my knowledge that an MBA would help fill.
It was always my wife and my intention for me to take some time from my career to stay home with our children as our second was on the way. When she was expecting, I started looking around at programs that would work for our family. The School of Business at Portland State was pretty much a no-brainer once I started listing the important things to me: in-person instruction (once the pandemic subsided), a cohort model, emphasis on sustainability, and the ability to pursue a degree in two years with evening classes. I started classes the same week he was born. I missed the first week of accounting because we were still at the hospital.
What do you intend to do with your graduate business degree?
Although I have had a fulfilling career in software and product management, I’m looking to pivot into roles dealing more with strategy, operations, and marketing. I will, of course, continue to leverage my background in technology and software in whatever new position I find myself in. I would love to find a tech-forward company in the Portland area that could use a jack-of-all-trades individual like myself. I’m a natural storyteller and writer in addition to my software background. Eventually, I would love to find myself in a COO or CMO role in the not-so-distant future.
What skills were gained at PSU’s MBA program? Have you found the most valuable, and why?
I found that I love finance. I think it was one of the significant gaps in my knowledge base coming into the program; I had the most to learn there. In addition to the standard classes at PSU, I was lucky enough to take a summer Venture Finance course, where we helped perform due diligence on startups looking for funding. It was an illuminating experience.
I can also now appreciate the strategy tools that make up the foundation of an MBA’s toolbox. Scenario and sensitivity analysis, Porter’s 5 Forces, PESTLE, and strategy maps, all of which were practiced in the program, will be invaluable resources as I head back out into the working world. I’m excited to apply them outside of the academic environment.
What advice do you have for prospective graduate business students who are also parents?
It’s not just you signing up for a graduate program; it’s your entire family. Your success relies on a solid partnership and a level of understanding between you and your spouse and your kids, for that matter. Your spouse will need to pick up the slack when you’re in class, or doing homework, and that group meeting you forgot was scheduled at 7:30 pm on a Sunday, right before the kids’ bedtime. Your kids will have to learn quickly what “Daddy (or Mommy) is in class” means. Here’s my summarized advice. As with anything related to parenting, your mileage will vary.
- You will be jealous of your peers without kids because they can do schoolwork whenever they want to. Assuming your kids are not already autonomous adults, you will have to schedule it when they are either in daycare or in some semi-unconscious state.
- Learn how to cook and make a meal for your spouse/kids before heading off to class. It can come out of a freezer. They will appreciate that they don’t have to wrangle the kids and cook dinner while you are “off having ‘fun’ at class.”
- Set realistic goals of what you will get done each day for both school and work/home, such as “I’m going to finish reading this case and then do the laundry.” Be happy if you finish one of these and ecstatic if you finish both. If you get more than this done, you have let your youngest sleep too long during his nap, and you won’t get any sleep this evening.
- Everything is a negotiation, and everything has tradeoffs. This is where having an understanding spouse comes in. Every week, sit down and tell them what you need to get done for school. Make a plan for getting the time you need to accomplish this. The MBA cannot be completed in 15 min intervals. You will need dedicated multi-hour chunks to get through assignments and group work. The only way you will get this time is when your spouse watches the kids, you spend a lot of money on daycare, or your mother-in-law moves in with you.
- Try not to worry about grades, especially if that stress would bleed into your family life. At the same time, do try and make the learning experience as valuable for you as you can, as you are paying for it with your time and the financial cost. It is all about time management and priorities. I try my best to learn the material as we are going through it the first time, but I don’t sweat it if something passes me by. I can always read up on something I need a refresher on later in the course or even after the program is over. The time with my kids only happens once.
How do you manage your life balance schedule with school, parenting duties, work, etc.?
For me, it’s a bit extreme because I’m not “working” right now. My job is my kids. When I’m off the clock from that job, I’m a student. I try to wedge school into moments when there are fewer tradeoffs, like the wee hours of the morning when both kids are sleeping. I can get a solid two hours in if I can drag myself out of bed and get some coffee in me early enough. Otherwise, I’m working during naps or after dinner when the kids are playing. I am fortunate that my mother-in-law comes over almost every week to watch the kids for the day, so I tend to push many school assignments into that day.
Otherwise, as I mentioned, it is a constant negotiation. I’m doing this, and then this, and if they wake up, I’ll pivot to this. It’s like extreme program management. I don’t think that parents should have to take the program management class. Getting through the program with an intact household and functioning children should count as class credit.
How do you spend your free time?
What is this “free time” you speak of? It sounds lovely. Oh, you mean the time when my assignment isn’t due tomorrow, and the kids are being good? That time! Right. During that time, I like to do house projects. I’m building a new deck in my backyard and planning a playhouse project with my eldest daughter for the summer. I enjoy creating and working with my hands, and these projects are a great outlet.