Monday, April 28, 2014

Combination of Online & Offline MBA Education Makes Immediate Career Impact

Kelley Direct online MBA students have the unique opportunity to immediately take the knowledge and frameworks they learn in their online MBA classes and apply them to their jobs.  Having this living lab at work further accelerates our students’ ability to digest the material in their textbooks and classes. We begin with a week-long immersion on campus to condition them and jump-start that process as we train our students to apply what they learn in the lectures that week to their real-world business cases.

Fernando Cadena, a first-year online MBA student (2nd from the left with his case team above), got to experience the rewards of pursuing a Kelley MBA degree very soon after joining the program. He recently reached out to us to share his good news, shortly after he completed his first Connect Week:

The pursuit of my Kelley MBA has already paid dividends after only 1 month into the program as witnessed in my recent promotion! I have recently been blessed by the opportunity to take the role as the Director of Associate Engagement, providing me with an opportunity to consult with our highest-value clients across the country in the area of employee engagement on a larger scale.

I just wanted to share this with you in an effort to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the Kelley family. The MBA is increasing the value that I can bring to what I do. It hasn't been easy, but I am very much enjoying every minute of it. 

What is Kelley Connect Week?

Kelley Direct MBA & MS students from all over the world come together in Bloomington, Indiana several times each year for Kelley Connect Week. They take classes together, share meals together and ultimately compete with one another in a case competition on the last day of the week while applying what they learned in their classes and workplaces to solve an actual problem for a real business.

The purpose of Kelley Connect Week is twofold:

  1. It’s an opportunity for online students to connect with the Kelley School of Business – which has 20 different degree programs and over 100,000 alumni in its network – and to connect with their classmates, professors and staff. 
  2. It’s a way to accelerate our students’ learning by intentionally challenging them and forcing them out of their comfort zones.

Connect Week Pushes Online MBA Students Out of Their Comfort Zone

Here’s what Fernando had to say about his first Kelly Connect Week experience in March:

For that week, I slept 4 hours each night on average. I was working with a group of folks whom I had never met, all with different skills, strengths and weaknesses. Many of whom taught me invaluable lessons.

I was given the opportunity to develop an idea that if implemented, would literally allow children and entire families to survive. The information that was presented to us in this business case was not as comprehensive as I would have liked, but that was intentional. I soon realized that if was not okay with making assumptions, I would fail.

Undoubtedly, one of the coolest parts of this experience was that we were working directly with companies that saw us as consultants. They expected us to deliver an actionable plan that they could apply to their business. As someone who is fascinated by globalization, I was stoked by the opportunity to work with the executives from Imani Workshops (pictured below), who came all the way from Eldoret, Kenya just for Connect Week and Global Gifts, a Fair Trade organization with a branch in Bloomington, Indiana. The companies were partners and interested in growing e-commerce sales of specific product lines that would directly benefit a segment of a society in western Kenya that doesn’t receive much support and is easily forgotten, HIV positive women.

Not only did we get to understand their financials, their struggles – particularly those of shipping products from Africa into the United States, but we also had time to meet with each of these representatives to candidly ask questions that would help us better understand their vision and the potential consequences of our recommendations in their country.

Not everyone chooses to sacrifice their sleep as much as Fernando, but his thoughts are representative of the typical response we get from our first-year students. They get to feel the pressure, similar to what a manager might experience when having little time and information available cannot be used as an excuse for not delivering a recommendation to clients and executives.  

Of course knowing that your work is helping people –such as the women in Kenya that Fernando mentioned – has its own reward, but there’s more to it than that. Our students work with international organizations in emerging markets to learn about the importance of social impact in the market today. Due to globalization and the business climate in emerging markets, organizations must now take their environmental impact and social impact into consideration in addition to profitability. 

Leadership Training Prepares Online MBA Students for Career Growth

Our online MBA students embrace both the opportunities to learn from international business leaders and the stress that comes from the work during Kelley Connect Week. They know they’re walking away with something they didn’t have before – new perspectives on global business and their upper limit. Fernando offered the following thoughts on what he took away from Kelley Connect Week and tips for incoming Kelley Direct students:

I walked away from KCW knowing that I had made the right decision to join the best program that I could possibly find. I also felt certain that the Kelley school is going to provide me with the right tools to make up for what I lack; tools that will become a critical part of my ability to make a difference for my employers during the remainder of my professional career.

Having had an opportunity to interact with the high caliber professors that were a part of the week was also an invaluable experience that gave me an understanding of how this faculty strives to shape us into the best business leaders that we can be.

I would tell new Kelley Direct students to embrace the experience, slow down when you can, and to fully enjoy the opportunity to network with your cohort during a variety of social events.

Being asked to assist in completely unknown territories/situations where people rely on your leadership and pedigree for solutions that drastically impact many lives is very rewarding. There may be many opportunities to work on business problems similar to the one at KCW in your future, and working on this case will prepare you to accept those challenges.

About Fernando Cadena

Fernando is the Director of Associate Engagement at Elwood Staffing in Columbus, IN. He leads his own department responsible for making a difference in the lives of their associates, helping the company become more employee-centric. Fernando earned a double-major in Business Management and HR Management from the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis in 2007, and was the first in his family to graduate from college. As a citizen of Colombia, he had the opportunity to temporarily move to Indianapolis before college to improve his English proficiency in 2001, and has been in the U.S. since. 

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