Chief Strategy Officer
Jennifer Ernst knew when she started the Executive MBA program at Santa Clara that having the degree would give her more career options, but it was even clearer when she graduated with honors in 2005.
“A decision to get an MBA, especially an executive MBA with its accelerated program, is a strong declaration you’re serious about business,” she recalled during an interview at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), where she became director of business development for the Xerox-owned company after completing the program at Santa Clara.
She continued expanding her career when she joined Thin Film Electronics in 2011 as its executive vice president of sales and business development. In January 2015 she was named Chief Strategy Officer of the company to establish and guide strategic planning across all the Norweigan firm's business functions and product lines.
Ernst, who has an undergraduate degree in radio and television from San Francisco State University, spent her early career in communications. She’d started as a project manager in the creative services group at PARC, working up to communications manager from 1998 through 2006.
“Before I got to SCU, I had been doing marketing,” said Ernst. “I didn’t know what else was out there so I really didn’t know what I’d be good at. The MBA program helped expose me to a lot of varied opportunities.”
Continuing to work fulltime through the SCU program made her classroom work more relevant because she could immediately apply what she learned, as well as benefit from the experience of her classmates.
“When I interviewed people from SCU, I found a sense of groundedness, of no arrogance,” she said. “Within the EMBA cohort, we had diverse people. Our skills complemented each other. I brought an understanding of research innovation and functional experience from marketing and communications. Others helped me learn leadership, finance, and handling change.”
Ernst said she probably would not have been considered for her current job if she hadn’t had the MBA.
“I had a richer tool set having done the EMBA,” she said. “I went from being a communications person, to being a business person with a communications background. I went from reporting the news to making it.”
— Sandy Burnett