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Jenkins MBA Online Student Becomes More Strategic Leader Through Program

The copper wolves at Wolf Plaza. Photo by Marc Hall.

More often than not, getting another degree well into your professional career can reap countless benefits. Michael Joyce, senior manager in Cisco Systems professional services organization and Jenkins MBA student, was immediately able to apply the knowledge he picked up from NC State’s online program to get a promotion and lead his team with efficacy and direction.

“Now, I understand why you don’t want to go straight from undergraduate to grad school,” Joyce said. “It’s been over 18 years since I started at Cisco Systems. Building on my past experiences, I could immediately experiment and integrate new learnings to increase my impact.”

Joyce began his MBA journey in spring 2018, taking one or two online classes per semester while managing a full-time job at Cisco Systems and time with his family. With only six weeks left in his degree, Joyce has already seen tremendous growth in the time since he started the program.

With the help of his career coach, Executive Career Coach Lisa Batts, Joyce was promoted from a manager to a senior manager in Cisco’s professional services organization in April 2021. According to Joyce, Batts was a sounding board for pertinent questions, feedback and recommendations, which aided his growing career.

“My experience with Michael was fantastic, because he showed up so open-minded, so ready to look at things in a new and different way,” Batts said. “He really just jumped in and took everything I said to heart, and he would connect it to the things he was doing at his company.”

From an etiquette dinner in 2018 to a weeklong study abroad program in Paris, Joyce has learned to embrace everything NC State has to offer during his time in the program. He’ll ultimately end the program this spring with an MBA, a finance certificate and a leadership certificate.

“Part of my goal was building my brand, myself and my team,” Joyce said. “I’ve always thought of myself as a hard worker who’s had some pretty good successes so far—but how do you funnel that energy into what’s really important to your organization in order to raise performance to the next level?” 

Looking for further guidance, Joyce got in touch with Batts in October 2020. Batts sought to understand the opportunities and challenges Joyce’s career had presented him with up to that point, then worked with him to create a strategy to achieve his goal of a promotion.

“Really, determining the strategy is very different from student to student,” Batts said. “It just depends on where the student is in their career and what they want to do next. It could be that, or it could be that they’re stuck or want to move a bit more quickly and they want advice. Sometimes, it’s a little bit of professional development — how you approach certain situations, how you actually ask for a promotion and what that conversation sounds like.”

Joyce prioritizes time management in the interest of balancing work, school and his family life. He dedicates Saturday mornings to school work and spends his free time outside of work and school with his wife and three children.

“An MBA workload sure keeps you busy, but the secret is staying organized and prioritizing what needs to get done for classes,” Joyce said. “I’m in Moodle all the time tracking the latest class happenings, and I also block dedicated time out of my day to focus on important tasks.”

For professionals who are thinking about continuing their education remotely, Joyce urges anyone who’s interested to embrace it.

“It really is a great and rewarding opportunity,” Joyce said. “My leaders talk about the growth they’ve seen in my leadership style since enrolling in the program. I’m creating and executing strategic initiatives, I’m broadening my influence, and I’m developing my team members through everything I’ve learned here.”

Even as Joyce wraps up his final semester at NC State with two classes — Ethical Thinking for Managers and Accelerating Your Career — he still pulls several important lessons from his online coursework.

“One of the recent things I read that stuck out to me was that our identities are not static — they evolve over time,” Joyce said. “I’ve grown both personally and professionally through the Jenkins MBA Program.  I’ve not only had the opportunity to improve myself but am increasing the performance of my teams in the process.”

Interested in advancing your career with a master’s degree in business administration from NC State Online? Visit the program page and for a full list of degree and certificate programs.

This post was originally published in DELTA News.