Student Profile: Jeff Talkington, Midland MBA Class of 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hi, Jeff. To start, would you mind telling us a little bit about your professional experience? 

"Sure. I’m about ten years out of my undergraduate education and have worked in retail the entire time since then. I currently work as Senior General Manager of GAP out at Village Pointe in Omaha, and that came after assignments up and down the Midwest with the store. I have a pretty complex store here at Village Pointe, but I’ve hit a bit of a location barrier. At the store manager level, this is really ‘the top.’ To go any further requires more education."

Is that why you decided to pursue your MBA?

"Absolutely. I want to take a step forward with the company and continue to develop my skills in a measurable and tangible way. To move up in the company, as I just mentioned, requires more education and stepping into a specialty role. Whether that’s operations, or finance, or distribution, I needed the ability to continue to explore those areas and to stand out from other people applying for those roles. 

I’m a lifelong learner and I’m passionate about education—and that’s why I chose my MBA. I knew it was the right step for my career."

Why did you choose Midland? 

"For me, as someone who works in retail, earning an MBA without quitting my job in a normal program would really be impossible. I’ve always wanted to get an advanced degree, but couldn’t find any programs with that fit.

When I heard about Midland’s MBA, I was really excited. I have a very difficult schedule and having access to this program (and degree) in a schedule that worked with mine was hugely beneficial. I also didn’t want to be another number or part of a degree factory, so a smaller environment was important to me. I found that environment with Midland. Ray [Sass] is hugely committed to continuously improving the program, as are the rest of the faculty and staff—and that was a big part of it for me.

Really, though, the hybrid format was easily the biggest benefit for me. I got the dynamic of the class size and one-on-one environment, and I was afforded the opportunity to get my MBA while still working my retail job. My schedule is what’s prevented me from getting my MBA up until this point, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to earn my MBA at all if it weren’t for this program’s structure."

One of the other benefits of our MBA program that we like to talk about is the office-to-classroom approach; all students and faculty are also working full-time (or close to it) while enrolled in the program. Do you see that as a value add? 

"Absolutely. The educational experience was only enhanced through real-world experience. Terry McClain [EVP and CFO of Valmont], for example, was a real heavy hitter and brought with him a wealth of knowledge. He shared examples of things he has done in his career, and that added some great color to the curriculum that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. 

There’s also a lot to be said for students bringing their own experiences in. We were able to share how and what we were learning with each other, and having an open line of communication was immensely beneficial. Looking back on the whole program, having gone through in lockstep with the same class of people throughout the entire program was very valuable for me. 

I learned a ton from my peers in the class. I had the opportunity to learn from people with totally different backgrounds and perspectives. We all built a comfort with each other by about the second term, and that gave us partners in working through challenges from schedules to homework. Everyone was right there with me the whole time as a built-in support system."

Could you talk a little bit more about that support system? 

"When I started the program I didn’t even know how valuable it would be to have that resource through the program. I knew basically what I was getting into by enrolling in the program, but I didn’t know how intense it could be, so I’m really glad that I was surrounded with a great support system. Finding a program that provided that support really enhanced my experience."

To close, how has your MBA helped you in your career thus far?

"Even though I’m still taking some time to figure out exactly what specialization I want to pursue within the company (like I mentioned above), I’ve already seen many of my skills translate over into the work environment.

For example, earlier this week, I was asked to help coordinate training and development for my market—which now consists of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska, with 20 stores spread out across that region. The logistics of coordinating something like that can be very difficult. And right there, the functional experience of having worked through the hybrid program has helped me with being more accepting in communication across that huge space. 

Communication was a huge piece of our education. One of the last terms, we had an entire class on executive communication. And that class alone has helped me immensely. From coordinating agendas, to facilitating meetings, to effectively presenting and training others, to putting measures in place to know that we hit our targeted goals, none of that would be possible without good communication. That alone was a huge value-add for me, and I’m already using those skills daily in my career."

Interested in learning more about Midland’s hybrid MBA program? Reach out to us directly in the comments, via LinkedIn, through Twitter @MidlandMBA, or by phone at 402-941-6517—we’d love to give you more information.

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