Adversity Never Gets in the Way for Saint Leo Online DBA Grad
Read the inspiring story of Tyler Berger, a Saint Leo alum with an online DBA who already runs a successful small business despite adversity he faces.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fewer than 2 percent of Americans have a doctoral degree hanging on their wall. Dr. Tyler Berger, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, already attained an online DBA from Saint Leo University in spite of his own challenges.
Berger, who has a condition that affects his vision and hearing, hails from Safety Harbor, Fla. and now resides in nearby Odessa. He and his wife, Cassandra, have two children – a six-year-old son, Preston, and a two-year-old daughter, Penelope.
Berger completed his high school diploma from Countryside High School by age 16 and already had an associate degree at 18 from St. Petersburg College.
He then attended Florida State University where he earned a bachelor's degree in management with a concentration in HR management.
After FSU, Berger continued his educational pursuits by attending graduate school. He first enrolled at Saint Leo University in its online MBA program, starting the coursework in 2012.
"Saint Leo was one of the few schools around that had an online MBA program and a local campus I could go to if I needed to," he explains. "They also don't require a GMAT score in some cases for admission."
He speaks highly of his experience in this online graduate program.
"I really enjoyed the online MBA program," he says. "It really did give me the ability to think differently."
Several Saint Leo professors were memorable to his learning experience.
"Dr. Stephen Baglione might have been the scariest professor yet the best professor you could ask for," he says. "He was so enlightening and I learned so much from him. For me, he's like a marketing Buddha. He gave me the passion to teach, which I do as a manager in my company. He taught andragogy, which is a theory on how to teach adults and how adults learn differently compared to children."
Berger wrapped up his MBA in 2013. But he wasn't done with putting more higher education on his resume.
It was almost meant to be that Berger would earn a doctoral degree. That's because he comes from a lineage of highly successful family members.
"My dad was a lawyer, one uncle got a Ph.D. in psychology, a cousin is working on his Ph.D. and another uncle has run a successful business."
He started the DBA program in the fall of 2016 and completed the online degree in the spring of 2019.
"I was working for an insurance accounting firm and had the opportunity to start my own business," he says. "I thought if the business wasn't sustainable, I would still have a good package to fall back on with my work experience and a doctoral degree."
In terms of staying connected, he says he used a webcam and microphone in this program to interact with his fellow students and professors.
"The cohort I was in also had a separate Skype group," he says. "I think that's why our cohort did so well. We had constant communication and supported each other."
Dr. Baglione also taught him in the DBA program. Other faculty members left a lasting impression on him as well.
"Dr. Andrew Gold also stood out to me because he was so good at teaching us how to parse information and how to go find information both efficiently and effectively."
Dr. Pamela Lee, who teaches global ethics and other courses, also had a positive impact on him.
"She taught me some very practical writing skills," he says.
In his dissertation, he studied cryptocurrency and how it can be used for trading purposes. His paper was about 200 pages long. Dr. Gold and another professor were on his committee.
"The defense was definitely nerve-racking. Imagine going on SheiKra at Busch Gardens [a rollercoaster]," he says. "It was challenging packing 200 pages of a paper into a 20-minute presentation and then doing a Q&A with my committee members."
He was glad his late father was there to see him do his defense.
"I was hoping my dad could see me graduate with the DBA, but he passed away from cancer on my graduation day. But I'm glad he was there for my proposal and defense of my dissertation. I know he is looking down and is proud of me."
He offers up some advice to prospective students who may be considering Saint Leo's online DBA program.
"You have to be adaptable," he says. "They are doing what they can to keep the program current all the time, so you have to be able to adapt. But the same goes for the business world. If you can't adapt, you'll be left behind."
He adds that self-motivation is a key ingredient to success in any doctoral program.
"They give you the tools you need to become a research expert, but a lot of the curriculum is self-directed. You have to apply what they teach you."
He explains the differences between earning a DBA and a Ph.D.
"The DBA is a very practical degree," he says. "If you want to work in academia, go get a Ph.D. If you want to take knowledge you learn and actually apply it, get a DBA. I like to say that the DBA is for doers."
Nothing Holds Him Back
While it certainly hasn't held him back, Berger has a genetic condition called Usher syndrome. Retinitis pigmentosa, which causes vision loss, is a result of this condition. He also has a hearing impairment.
"Having my eye condition is like wearing a scuba diving mask," he says. "I don't have any peripheral vision and I have night blindness."
He explains how he uses technology.
"I invert the colors on my computer screen and enlarge the size of the mouse and cursor. I can press the 'Control' key and it will shake the mouse so I can find it more easily."
He adds that the online format of the MBA and DBA programs was exactly what he needed to succeed.
"Since I can't drive, the online format is perfect for me."
At age 24, Berger took a leap of faith by starting his own small business called XS Supply, LLC. Based out of Largo, Fla., the company has about 20 employees. He serves as the COO and handles the company's finances.
"We buy and sell single-use soft surgical supplies from hospitals and other medical centers if the doctors no longer need them. These are high-end disposables like blades, mesh products and other items used in the operating room."
Based on his experience, he explains what it takes to succeed in any business.
"I would say the cash flow statement is the most important metric in business," he says. "In general, receivables just don't pay the bills. I'd also say that you shouldn't be afraid to take risks."
He has a lofty goal for his business.
"I'd like to build my business to $23 million in revenue over the next three years."
Having attained a DBA has been a tremendous benefit, he adds.
"The DBA program has absolutely given me the ability to research business issues and run statistical analyses on my findings. It has definitely made me a better businessman than if I had not earned this degree."
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Tyler Berger and is used with permission.