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How an MBA Can Launch Your Career in Business Leadership

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Two women pursuing M.B.A. degrees talk about why they have chosen to undergo this advanced business program, and what they’ve experienced while pursuing their degrees.


Stephanie Torrico

M.B.A. Candidate, Management and Leadership, Florida Gulf Coast University

Tell us more about your decision to obtain your M.B.A. and why you chose this specific program.

An accomplished finance executive for a conglomerate, I keenly desired greater enrichment, opportunity, and extended impact beyond my sphere of influence and responsibility. The most fulfilling and gratifying career elements were leading people and change, and solving business challenges. Leveraging design-forward thinking and self-reflection, I ideated. My path forward must nourish my insatiable need to learn and contribute. 

I decided to open a leadership consulting business and pursue a research professorship, so the next step was to pursue an M.B.A. with a leadership concentration. Compelled by purpose, I spoke with a few universities. Florida Gulf Coast University had a growing reputation in my community and nationally, and was coming up on its 25th anniversary. 

I arranged two meetings. Andrew MacDiarmid, graduate program coordinator, advised me and helped me shape a plan that checked every box. Dr. Chris Westley, dean of the Lutgert College of Business (LCOB), was gracious with his time and provided insight. He introduced me to Dr. Jennifer Manegold, chair of the Management Department, and Dr. Chrissann Ruehle, instructor. 

Everyone’s professionalism, helpfulness, and the richness of FGCU’s M.B.A. program solidified my decision. Now in my second semester in the program, I could not be more pleased with my path. 

What advice would you give to other women thinking about getting an M.B.A.?

A principle that has long guided me is to conduct myself to ensure every possible door is opened. Doors may lead to advantageous career opportunities, greater influence, international travel, or pioneering new frontiers. A result is a personalized and rich life lived. 

For many of us, an M.B.A. program will lead us to, and through, many doors. M.B.A. curriculums are built to enable students to become well-rounded and effective in business through leading and operating companies on a global scale, increasing shareholder wealth, growing international market share in a digital economy, and much more. Art galleries, engineering firms, non-profits, and various organizations need capable and effective leaders to fulfill their missions.

Listen to the book “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of Stanford University. I credit this book for helping to illuminate a path forward for me. 

There are so many ways to subsidize or even fully pay for your graduate education: employer tuition reimbursement, grants, scholarships, and assistantships, just to name a few. Explore your university website, talk to the financial aid office, and meet with a graduate advisor.

Be bold. Have courage. Invest in yourself. Take the first step. Momentum is power.

How do you hope obtaining your M.B.A. will advance your career?

Obtaining an M.B.A. serves three main purposes that will advance my career: broader and stronger preparedness for highly complex business opportunities internationally, formal acknowledgement that is globally recognized, and precursor to a doctoral program on a leadership professor track. An ancillary benefit is increased exposure to board and advisory positions with organizations that align with my values allowing me to increase my contribution range.

My tuition is covered by my assistantship and opportunities for networking abound. I have worked on business and leadership initiatives that benefit the LCOB, the Southwest Florida Leadership Institute (SFLI), and undergraduate students. With the guidance of Dr. Ashley Mandeville, I am currently working on scholarship and research. Dr. Manegold personalized my assistantship for me, which is a key factor to my satisfaction with the overall M.B.A. program, as it provides a great deal of enrichment aligned with my specific goals.

The FGCU M.B.A. program is the right environment for nourishing growth and achievement toward advancing my career, which allows me to exercise control — control over my future, my path, my way.


Kara Montellano, P.E.

M.B.A. Candidate, Supply Chain and Business Analytics, Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University

Tell us more about your decision to obtain your M.B.A. and why you chose this specific program.

I first learned about Whitman when moving to Fort Drum, N.Y., after my husband and I got married. I decided to enroll in the program here, because I already had to quit my job in Alabama as a chemical engineer and wanted a change of pace in my career. 

As a chemical engineer with nine years of experience in the petrochemical industry and growing up in the oil and gas industry in southeast Texas, I took the move as an opportunity to explore other industries and develop my business and managerial skills. I decided to pursue supply chain and business analytics, because they overlapped the best with my chemical engineering degree and industrial experience, while allowing me to broaden and diversify my education. 

Supply chain and chemical engineering both share a focus on operation and process optimization. Business analytics strengthened my existing data analytical skills, but applied them in different applications. I am looking forward to developing new skills that will make me more marketable for other roles besides chemical engineering. 

As a military spouse who changes duty stations every two years, I will need the M.B.A. degree to have more job opportunities at the remote military base locations my husband and I may live.

What would be your advice to other women thinking about getting an M.B.A.?

I would recommend an M.B.A. for any woman who wants to diversify their experience and attain managerial skills. In my personal situation, I needed an M.B.A. due to my major lifestyle change from a single female working engineer to a traveling military spouse who requires constant job changes. As someone who values her career and takes pride in her work, it was vital for me to make myself as marketable as possible. 

I would also encourage women to take advantage of the many opportunities within the M.B.A. program with as many people as possible. There are multiple resources at the Whitman program, such as: acquiring certifications, case study competitions, a career center, and much more that any student can use to take their career to the next level. 

Through these resources and coursework, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many people across the United States and the world. As someone who grew up in the South her whole life, exposure to international classmates and their experiences from all over the world has broadened my perspective. 

How do you hope obtaining your M.B.A. will advance your career?

In the short term, I plan to use the M.B.A. to provide myself more employment opportunities in the workforce when moving between duty stations. I will take advantage of the moves to explore new industries outside of oil and gas to diversify my industry experience and attain new skills. 

After graduating from this program, and with my husband retiring from the military in five years, we plan to move to Texas and really build our professional careers. I intend to work toward being a manager in an exciting industry that will leverage my B.S. in chemical engineering, M.B.A., and work experience. The Whitman M.B.A. program at Syracuse University will provide the tools necessary for me to succeed through an experiential portfolio of internships, specialized courses, community engagement, and other practical experiences. 

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