Matt Crandell knew he wanted to advance his career in the Twin Cities finance industry. But with so many graduate school options, the biggest question was: when and where?
The start of my MBA journey
I’ve always enjoyed math and thought I’d work in engineering. After realizing it wasn’t for me after my first year at Michigan State, I made a shift into finance. I was the lead for our college Student Investment Fund and was fortunate to form a close relationship with a few professors. They’ve provided great mentorship and advice throughout my career and MBA journey. We remain good friends today.
With my interest in business, I knew that I’d need my MBA at some point. I heard (as I’m sure many have) that the best time is with 3-5 years of work experience. For me personally, I’m glad I made the decision to start working before beginning my MBA journey.
After a few years of working at Fiat Chrysler, I realized that I’d need an MBA to progress within a company and make a career change if necessary. My wife and I agreed that now was best for me to get my MBA. The big question was, which one and where?
We were living just north of Detroit at the time. Having grown up in Minnesota, we knew we wanted to move back to the Twin Cities long-term. I narrowed my choices down to four schools in the Midwest. I was only interested in the Full-Time MBA programs because I was transitioning to a new industry and needed the extra time for networking.
Why I choose St. Thomas
After meeting with all schools, I realized that Opus College of Business at St. Thomas was the best fit for me. The people, classes and the depth of networking here all helped with my decision. Moving into the investment industry is difficult -- but the Twin Cities network was one of the biggest reasons I could make my career transition.
The staff and professors at St. Thomas are all experienced and willing to help students succeed. Having my professors personally help in my job search speaks a lot to their investment in us.
My professors here had a big impact on me. I struggled with stats in my undergrad courses, but Professor Sanders helped me in a way I could understand. Professors Malshe (Marketing) and Daugherty (Finance) also pushed me every day. They were supportive to help me get where I needed to go.
Why an MBA in Finance
A finance career offers opportunities in nearly all departments within a company. I interned at Riverbridge Partners in downtown Minneapolis between my two semesters and now work here full-time. It’s a reputable investment firm that -- without St. Thomas -- would have been very difficult to get into.
Why is an MBA important
An MBA takes time and energy. Find a program that fits with your goals. Is your goal to develop business knowledge or be a catalyst for change into a new company/industry? Focus on your "why".
An MBA is a big decision with great rewards -- but shouldn’t be taken lightly. Seek out a few mentors. They can help a lot.
In the MBA program, you learn the ins-and-outs of every area of a business, top to bottom. At St. Thomas, company executives would come speak to us about their strategy, from high-level marketing to the nuts and bolts of operations.
You'll also earn the confidence of employers because you’ll have the necessary knowledge to be a leader in different areas of the organization. Being close to my managers at Fiat Chrysler, I know this to be true. An MBA also provides immediate value that an organization cannot: broad knowledge in a short amount of time.
Practical learning in the classroom
Many of the classes at St. Thomas focus on real-world applications, or applied learning. In my commodities class, we had a professor/professional co-teach (Prof+Prof). The professor gave us a base in the academic knowledge and then the professional applied that to his/her trading profession. It provided an immediate applicable learning experience.
In another class, my professor had more than 20 years of experience in all business areas of investment banking. He gave us first-hand insights into how things worked in the real world. Professors were also great about bringing in speakers with a breadth of industry knowledge to the classroom. My MBA classes all provided different, nuanced perspectives towards bridging strategies throughout an organization.
The reality of graduate school
No MBA program is easy or full of roses. Even with my great school connections, I did a lot of legwork with networking and class schedules. But the payoff is so worth it.
My best advice? Align your experience with your end goals. The better you can plan each semester, the easier it will go. Deciding to do an MBA program is a big decision. If you’re committed and do your research, an MBA will be a great experience to propel you forward in your career.