Jason Oliver, MBA ‘14, says his best days include “family, classic cars, decent coffee, and some BB King on the radio,” and in a recent Q&A, the new alumnus described how earning his degree from Santa Clara University’s Evening MBA program made these days after graduation even better.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to think about earning an MBA?
I come from a research background. More specifically, pre-clinical drug development for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The scientific method has always intrigued me; creating a hypothesis, testing it, and driving decisions based on the findings. It’s all really neat stuff in my opinion. In many ways, business is driven by a similar process. Determine what will work well for your customer, test this approach, and refine it to drive revenue. I chose to pursue an MBA in order to couple my scientific background with a formal business understanding. Ultimately, I wanted to make a transition out of science and into a more collaborative marketing role. The MBA was an important tool in enabling this career transition.
2. What attracted you to Santa Clara in particular?
My first experience with SCU’s business program was meeting face-to-face with a representative of the MBA Admissions staff. We spent 30 to 40 minutes discussing my questions and concerns and developed a game plan to move forward with applications, and so on. This sort of personalized attention was the first sign (of many) that assured me that my concerns were important as a student and a person. With this experience, combined with SCU’s existing reputation in ethics and the employment of top-notch educators, I was confident that I was in the right place.
3. Why did you ultimately choose the Evening MBA program?
Deciding to attend SCU’s Evening program was a simple economic decision for me. Before applying to B-school, I did a lot of thinking about whether a fulltime or part-time program would better fit my needs. In the end, I chose Santa Clara’s Evening MBA program based on the perceived ROI it offered. The Evening MBA allowed me to continue in my research role while attending classes (not sacrifice two and three years of salary), Santa Clara’s location was convenient for me geographically, and the total program cost was very competitive as far as B-school tuitions go. When I factored in all of these variables, attending Santa Clara’s Evening program was a pretty straightforward decision.
4. What is most memorable about the program? What kind of experiences—inside and outside the classroom—were most significant for your education and your growth as a professional?
The biggest asset for any MBA program is the people. The relationships developed throughout Santa Clara’s program will continue to be important to me long into the future. B-school is about much more than simply learning the content in the classroom. The network building, informal advice sessions from your favorite professor, impromptu coffee trips, it’s all part of the experience and it’s all important in its own way.
5. What was the most surprising aspect of the program?
B-school is a juggling act. Balancing a life, a family, a career, and the demands of a graduate program can be tough. I didn’t anticipate the degree at which life would change when I began attending classes. The first quarter of B-school required a pretty significant learning curve in regards to prioritizing and time-management. It does get better however, especially as you meet like-minded folks and begin to get comfortable with the course load and other demands on your time.
6. How has your career changed as a result of coming to Santa Clara?
Six months out of the MBA program, my career has changed dramatically. Shortly after graduating, I was offered a role that has enabled me to combine my scientific background with my MBA as a data scientist. I now support data driven marketing decisions for a Fortune 500 company. The MBA provided the necessary business understanding I needed to make this transition and it continues to be a valuable asset as I work through complicated business scenarios on a regular basis. I set out to make this transition when I enrolled in B-school and it certainly would not have been possible without the addition of my MBA.
7. What advice would you give to young professionals thinking about earning a graduate degree?
Go ahead and get the ball rolling. Pick up that GMAT Prep book or enroll in a calculus course. A subscription to the Wall Street Journal is also a good start in getting a regular feel for business and current events. At the end of the day, a series of consistent small steps are just as good as one big step. If you’re trying to figure out if an MBA is right for you, start with a small step. Worst case scenario, you determine that an MBA may not be a great fit. Even in this case, you’ve learned something and you’ve benefitted from the process.
— Ali Reimer