Get to know two members of Saint Leo's MBA Class of 2016 and what motivated them to earn a master of business administration degree online.

As the global product line manager for Jordan Footwear, Brian Davison is based out of Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. His responsibilities, however, take him all over the world – from Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles, to China, Korea and Vietnam.

Cognizant of time zones and assignment due dates as he worked on his online MBA courses, Brian often used hotel rooms and airport lounges as his virtual classroom.

Lymus Dixon is a member of the Technical Solutions Center team at Verizon Wireless South Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Staunchly committed to his faith, he is an active member of his church where he participates in multiple ministries that require much of his free time, particularly on weekends.

Working on his online MBA courses on weeknights enabled Lymus to honor his church obligations, while taking his business knowledge and IT skills to the next level.

Key factors in decision to invest in an MBA

According to the most recent alumni survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the key factors in the decision to invest in an master of business adminstration vary. The most common factor alumni say they considered was personal development. Other factors included the desire to develop new knowledge and technical skills, increase salaries, change occupations, find more interesting work and grow professional networks.

Once the decision to pursue an MBA is made, the reason for choosing between an on-ground or online program is often much simpler.

Working adults such as Brian and Lymus opt for an online MBA program in order to have the flexibility to work wherever or whenever suits their work schedules and lifestyles.

Get to know these two members of Saint Leo's MBA class of 2016 as they reflect on their educational experiences and offer some insight into what drove them to earn a graduate degree at Saint Leo University.

Brian DavisonMBA-Sport BusinessPortland, Oregon

What was your undergraduate degree in?I have a Bachelor of Arts in sport management and marketing.

What is your current position and some of your responsibilities?I work at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.  I am the global product line manager for Jordan Footwear. I create, maintain, and communicate a vision for the Jordan Brand product sportswear category and lead the product creation process.

I'm responsible for understanding the consumer, analyzing product, and trends in the key global markets. My responsibilities also include delivering financially strong, profitable, and margin accretive product lines through strategic costing, pricing needs of consumers, and marketplace opportunities.

What are your career aspirations?Ultimately, I want to become an influential leader in the athletic industry by authenticity, constant professionalism, and a relentless strive for excellence.

What made you decide to pursue a master of business administration?My motivation derived from my father, who was a lieutenant commander in the Navy, and received his MBA after he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He retired a United States Navy captain.

Additionally, I wanted to expand my holistic business acumen and apply it within my current and future positions. I also wanted to challenge myself to work with others who share the same passion of business in the higher-education setting.

Why was an online program the right fit for you?The online program at Saint Leo University was great for me because of my busy workload, travel, and schedule at Nike. While working to get my MBA, I received three promotions and moved to Houston and then to Portland.

Additionally, I travel internationally and domestically so having the flexibility to work on my MBA while traveling is tremendously helpful and efficient.

Why did you choose Saint Leo?My great friend who currently works at Saint Leo, Matt Battista, recruited me and presented the amazing qualities that the university had to offer. Having the ability to visit the campus, learn the culture, and the passion the university has for its students, made my choice easy.

In addition to your job and education, what other activities fill your week?When not working, I am usually in the gym working out, playing basketball, exploring Oregon, or traveling. As a former NCAA college basketball player, working out and playing are still a huge part of my routine. It gives me time to think creatively or to relax and clear my mind.

How have you been able to apply what you've learned to your job?I have been able to apply a lot of the knowledge I gained in class to my jobs at Nike. Lessons from my global business management class helped me work with my international colleagues. Learning how to acknowledge, respect, and interact with different cultures was a huge part of that class. Additionally, I was able to leverage sports law in my former position for Nike in Houston where I was in charge of signing high school athletic departments to contracts and deals with our brand.

What has been your most difficult challenge?The most difficult challenge was managing and balancing my work life, personal life, and school life. Making sure I had down time to relax, think creatively, and enjoy all of the experiences within all three aspects of my life was something I wanted to focus on and absorb. While the challenges were significant, having a supportive family – in particular, my sister, mother and father – created a foundation for my success.

Was there something about the overall experience that has surprised you?One of the biggest surprises for me was the interaction with my classmates. My classmates were passionate, extremely intelligent, and tremendously supportive. Additionally, I was able to form some life-long friendships. I believe going through the challenges of working and pursing an MBA created a bond that is exceptionally strong.

Why is an MBA degree worth the time and financial investment?The main reason an MBA degree is worth the time and financial investment is because it tests you. It tests you to overcome challenges, interact with gifted individuals, and push yourself to learn more each day.

What's your advice for other busy, working adults considering an MBA?My uncle told me years ago that the most successful people are able to have the attitude and mindset of long-term positive thinking. While some days will seem immensely demanding and test your wit, you should focus on the ultimate goal. Acknowledge and understand that the trials are a part of the journey and that the lessons learned are not only for a class grade but are also life lessons.

Study hard, work hard, enjoy the ride. When you receive that diploma, it will all be worth it.

Lymus DixonMBA–Information Security ManagementAtlanta, Georgia

What is your current position and some of your responsibilities? I work at the Verizon Wireless South Headquarters as a tier II technical support on the Technical Solutions Center team. I provide customer service and technical support for wireless products and services. This includes complex product or service concerns for internal and external voice and data product customers. I troubleshoot all sorts of technical and customer service inquiries and follow-up with customers to ensure their issues have been resolved.

What was your undergraduate degree in? I have my Bachelor of Science in information technology.

What are your career aspirations? I would like to obtain a position with an IT company or an IT department where I am a system and security administrator overseeing and managing a company's systems, security procedures and protocols.

What made you decide to pursue a master of business administration – and choose the Information Security Management concentration? I wanted to expand my knowledge in the IT field and learn skills and tactics to become a more efficient leader. I also wanted to learn more about the day-to-day operations in running a successful business.

Why was an online program the right fit for you? I have to admit that before starting my program at Saint Leo, I had never taken an online course before, so I was a little apprehensive about how everything would flow. I feel I made a great decision, however, because it the online program allowed me to work full time so that I could support myself financially and also complete my coursework at my own pace.

Why did you choose Saint Leo? My roommate was a Saint Leo student and had so many great things to say about the school. Also the fact that I could finish my MBA in less than two years was a big plus for me.

In addition to your job and education, what other activities fill your week? I am very active in my church and I'm a part of a few different ministries that require my attendance almost every weekend and a few times during the week. I was able to manage it all by prioritizing my work and assignments. I made sure that I spread my work out during the week so I wouldn't have so much to do over the weekend.

How have you been able to apply what you've learned to your job? Learning skills and strategies to manage a business and employees has given me valuable insight. Even though I am not a member of leadership in my current role, this degree has definitely prepared me to move in that direction.

What was your most difficult challenge? The most difficult challenge for me was all the writing that was required. My undergraduate program did not require a lot of papers because it was a technical, hands-on type of degree. So writing in-depth papers was new for me. I can truly say the MBA program forced me to polish my writing skills.

Was there something about the overall experience that has surprised you? The course load was pretty substantial for a full-time working adult.

Why is an MBA degree worth the time and financial investment? I believe an MBA degree is worth the investment because it gives you a leg-up in the selection process when seeking jobs. It makes you more marketable and creditable when discussing salaries and pay increases.

What's your advice for other busy, working adults considering an MBA? You can do it; it's possible and very obtainable. Saint Leo understands that most of its online grad students work full time and have families. An online MBA program allows you to pace yourself and finish a graduate degree quickly. Making a one-to-two year sacrifice is well worth the positive future.

Image credits: Saint Leo University Communications and courtesy Saint Leo MBA graduates

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