Stacy Hofinger, MBA’12, didn’t “need” an MBA in the way that many people think they need one.
Having spent several years as an industrial real estate broker, Hofinger was content with her company, her role and her income. In fact, as a successful industrial real estate broker, Hofinger was one of the few women in a male-dominated industry. But as a goal-oriented person, she knew there was more she wanted to accomplish.
“In real estate, you start every year at zero, and there’s no standard career path progression. It’s motivated by the number and size of deals you execute and financial results. Pure motivation is to exceed the numbers you achieved last year. I was looking for a change,” says Hofinger.
“The greatest driver for me to go back to school was to be a differentiator. You don’t need an MBA to get to the next level in real estate, but it helps. I wanted to increase my business acumen as well as my credibility. Often, I was the only female and one of the youngest people in the room. Having an MBA would help bolster my credibility.”
Hofinger grew up in Bloomington, Ind. and is no stranger to Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business. She had always believed she would earn a graduate degree someday, and the Kelley Evening MBA Program on the IUPUI campus allowed her to continue working full time as a broker at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a global commercial real estate services firm, while taking courses in the evening at a reputable, top-ranked school. Her goal was to enhance the areas of business that were not her strengths—such as finance and economics—while growing her network.
“Through the process of gaining my Kelley MBA, I gained confidence,” says Hofinger. “You learn to be proficient in the primary areas of business, which gives you the ability to speak up and be confident in what you say. Early in my career, I might’ve known the answer, but I may have been less assertive about speaking up. The Evening MBA moves you out of your comfort zone and gives you experience discussing new subjects in front of people from a variety of backgrounds.”
Executive presence and client relatability
Along with this confidence came a greater executive presence. Hofinger knew she wanted to be able to read the body language of those around her and interact with senior leadership in a way that gave her credibility.
“The Kelley Evening MBA Program armed me with the knowledge to read a room and have the business acumen to ask the right questions,” she says. “Some aspects of the program opened my eyes to things I didn’t even realize I needed. Having such opportunities to stretch ourselves is what gets us to the next level.”
Hofinger found she also gained a great deal of experience simply by being in class alongside her Kelley classmates. Like Hofinger, Evening MBA students are typically working professionals with five to seven years of experience, looking to advance their careers. They come from a variety of backgrounds and bring unique perspectives to class discussions and projects. The peer-to-peer learning also created helpful takeaways for Hofinger.
“For example, I’m not an engineer; I don’t have an engineering bone in my body, but I learned alongside several engineers and gained perspective about how they think. I came to understand the personality traits of my classmates and then recognize them in my clients. That helped me to better relate to clients and approach problems with a different perspective,” says Hofinger.
“I learned how to customize my interactions based on different backgrounds and situations, which has helped me on a global scale. I had a diverse cohort, and it was incredibly beneficial. I have been able to leverage these skill sets at JLL.”
Through her MBA at the Kelley School, Hofinger achieved the goals she set for herself. Not only does she have a greater understanding of business and a wider network, she also advanced her career. As senior vice president, corporate solutions at JLL, Hofinger leads real estate portfolio management in the Americas for one of the firm’s high-profile clients, and she mentors female colleagues.
“I always knew I’d want a Kelley degree because it’s widely recognized and highly regarded,” says Hofinger. “My colleagues across the country recognize Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business. There’s automatic credibility with the school.”
Along the way, Hofinger says she has enhanced business skills that are often strengths for women, which are incredibly useful in practice.
“I prefer to listen, process, then react, which has definitely been helpful,” she said. “I listen to my clients, understand their needs and then react to drive forward the best solutions, rather than telling them what they just want to hear. Empathy is absolutely important in dealing with clients of all backgrounds, particularly in a global setting.”
As a mentor to other women, Hofinger encourages her mentees to ask for what they want: The worst thing someone can say is “no.” She also stresses that they become their own advocates.
“No one is going to promote you and your skill sets better than you can. No one knows what you’re capable of more than you. You can’t be afraid to articulate and demonstrate that,” she says.
Along with gaining assertiveness, Hofinger says the Kelley Evening MBA helps women use their voices to speak up when they have something to say. Combined with an executive presence, Kelley graduates are able to interact with leadership to get their points across quickly and effectively. She says one of the biggest challenges women face is reservation, holding back when they know the answer.
“Sometimes women are more reserved and afraid to be the first to speak up. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you know what you’re talking about,” Hofinger says. “When you’re in a room with leadership, having executive presence gives you a sense of how to feel it out and adapt to whatever style is in the room—and to say the right thing at the right time with confidence. My Kelley MBA definitely helped with that.”
As a senior vice president, wife and mother, Hofinger understands the hesitation by some women to enroll in a rigorous program like the Kelley Evening MBA. She says there’s never a convenient time to take that step, but she recommends to women that they decide right now to prioritize themselves and their futures.
“There are plenty of excuses not to get your MBA, but don’t wait. Invest in yourself. If you have an interest, pursue it now because life will only become more complicated,” she says. “Earning my Kelley MBA has absolutely propelled my career forward and created opportunities that I wouldn’t have had the chance to pursue otherwise. I have found value—professionally and personally—in the growth I’ve gained from earning my MBA.”