A few years ago, Megan Lees, MBA’18, realized her career was plateauing.
“The skills I had in the marketing and operations space were what I’d figured out on my own from reading articles and experimenting,” she says. “I was fortunate to work in places where I could try things, identify a problem and go solve it. But I didn’t really have any credibility.”
Like many students who enroll in the Kelley School of Business Evening MBA Program at IUPUI, Lees sought a graduate business degree in order to advance in her career—not necessarily to switch careers. Students like Lees are often looking for tactical and practical learnings they can immediately implement at work, and the Kelley Evening MBA provides the means to expand foundational skills into actionable results.
“I was ready to earn my master’s degree, and I thought an MBA would provide options for creating upward trajectory from my career plateau,” says Lees. “My bachelor’s degree in liberal arts could only take me so far, and it wasn’t giving me what I wanted in a business setting.”
After earning her undergraduate degree, Lees spent several years in a variety of operations and marketing roles. She knew she wanted to stay in the operations space, but she aspired to become an expert in that sphere and gain a well-rounded approach to business as a whole.
“I wanted to be an effective utility player; a good chameleon capable of playing a lot of different roles,” she says “That’s why I sought an MBA.”
Lees discussed the prospect of business school with her bosses.
“They told me if I was serious about an MBA, I should enroll at Kelley. They said the Kelley network and name recognition around the country would do great things for me and open up a lot of doors, regardless of where I landed.”
Like many working professionals, Lees had a very busy schedule when she decided to enroll in the Evening MBA Program. One week before the start of her first class, Lees’ now-husband proposed, making a very busy schedule even more complex.
She says the experience of planning a wedding and completing a rigorous, top-ranked MBA program—while working full-time at SCM Connections, a supply chain consulting firm—helped her to better prioritize and become more realistic about how to make it all work.
“I learned a lot in the process about what matters and what doesn’t. I learned how to be present wherever I am and to focus on whatever I’m doing,” said Lees. “When I tried to plan for the wedding, study for school and work all at the same time in the evening, nothing got done. I became really proficient at managing my life like one, big project.”
As a marketing and operations professional, Lees is well acquainted with those fields of study, but experiences throughout the Evening MBA Program provided additional perspectives from accounting, economics and finance to create a well-rounded, graduate business education.
“The Kelley Evening MBA has given me a better, holistic understanding of business,” she says. “Core courses helped me understand not only the basics of economics, finance and operations, but also how they all fit together. Now, I approach problems from more than the marketing angle: I ask how we can gain genuine ROI on a project.”
With a broader understanding of the overall business picture, Lees says she has a lot more options at her company and many more tools for bringing value to her employer. She can analyze financials and understand opportunities for improvement; these are skills she didn’t have before earning her Kelley MBA.
“I began adding value at my company within a couple weeks of starting the program,” says Lees. “It was unexpected, and it was fun. In our statistics class, economics professor Kyle Anderson taught us a series of formulas for determining the volume under a curve, and the next day at work, my colleagues and I were discussing how to find this volume with SAP tools. I provided meaningful value to the conversation with the formulas I’d learned in class the evening before. It was instant return on my investment, and it happened a lot.”
Not only did Lees acquire greater tool sets to use at her workplace, she also gained a support network of engaged and expert faculty, who are willing to work with her one-on-one and who allowed her to use class time to solve actual challenges from her workplace.
“Kelley professors are very open and approachable, and those resources have been phenomenal. They genuinely want to go the extra mile to see you succeed,” says Lees.
“[Marketing professor] Kim Saxton became a resource for me and my company as we launched our first software product. I applied the skills I learned from her digital marketing class, but also, she met one-on-one with me and my colleagues outside of class. She showed us how we should think about the problem. It was incredibly insightful.”
Lees also took advantage of an experiential learning course in marketing that essentially put her and her classmates in the role of chief marketing officers for a company that needed consulting support. The company provided all its customer data, and the student team led an internal audit to provide direct and applicable feedback.
“We outlined what we would do differently and provided a dashboard for measuring success. The company gave us a goal of $1 million in online sales within a year, and we helped them create a strategic plan to achieve that goal,” she says. “It was lot of fun, and it was rewarding to offer such consulting services.”
Lees is a founding member of the Kelley Indianapolis MBA Women’s Association (KIMWA), a student organization providing female MBAs and Kelley professors opportunities to connect with, inspire and challenge one another. She feels the added support is helpful for women looking to advance their careers.
“Having an MBA equips you so much better for adding value to your career, and that’s something women definitely need,” says Lees.
Even if a woman doesn’t aspire to be in the C-suite, a Kelley MBA equips her with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to garner career options and greater job satisfaction.
“In the Evening MBA Program, you’re immersed in this really cool climate, where you can figure out how things work in the business world, and you can experience aspects of business you might normally not have access to,” she says.
“I never had access to company finances before I earned an MBA, but now, I do. When my company needs someone to provide financial analysis and make projections, I can jump in confidently. I’m providing additional value, and I’m solving bigger problems—because I now have the tool set to do it.”