Some alumni of the Kelley Evening MBA Program use the degree to achieve a promotion with in their field, while others use it to springboard into a new one. Chrissy Arsenault, MBA’19, used it for both.
When she first decided to pursue an MBA, Chrissy had been working as a registered dietitian for several years and felt she’d exhausted her career options. While impacting patients’ lives as a healthcare provider was rewarding, she lacked opportunity for skill development or advancing her career path.
“My managers were having discussions that, frankly, I did not understand,” she said. “With my science degree, I didn’t bring any business skills to the table. I felt clueless when they were discussing things like forecasts, operations, clinic utilization rates and client satisfaction measures.
“I thought earning an MBA would help me gain the business acumen to understand these tools and propel me into the kind of leadership role that would challenge me.”
Chrissy chose the Kelley School of Business Evening MBA Program for its name recognition and strong alumni network. The latter would prove to be instrumental in identifying the career path she would eventually choose. Chrissy worked full-time and attended class in the evening and online. It was a lot to juggle, but she found motivation in the classroom.
“I chose the Kelley Evening MBA over a fully online program because it offers engagement with my classmates and professors, who provide real-life examples through guest speakers and case studies,” she said. “Working alongside very intelligent, competent professionals as my peers energized me to keep going. I learned something new from them every day.”
The most striking Kelley moment for Chrissy happened during the Seminar in Management Issues course, which is a weekend management simulation to help students refine their executive skills. Over the two-and-a-half-day learning module, Evening MBA students select leadership roles for a live case analysis of a business challenge. Working with a
career coach, they lay the groundwork for developing their career management plans. Because she wanted to pursue senior management, Chrissy’s career coach suggested she select a senior vice president role or higher in the simulation. She chose president and CEO.
“I discovered the most important takeaway that weekend wasn’t the results of the case study; it was the feedback session,” she said. “I learned which leadership traits I should be mindful of and which strengths to capitalize on. Shortly after the simulation, I received three job offers for marketing-specific roles. I attribute those offers to having interviewed with a greater self-awareness that I gained from the simulation.”
Chrissy decided that a marketing role would best complement her dual interests in science and communication. Her work in dietetics could be repetitious, while marketing offers her creativity and diverse experiences.
“There are two sides to me: one who loves advertising, messaging, PR and consumer behavior and the data nerd side of me who loves the numbers of forecasting, data analysis and evaluating market share,” she said. “The creative part was always missing in my work as a registered dietitian, and marketing really blends and marries those two.”
During her MBA, Chrissy accepted a role as an associate brand manager for SPLENDA at Heartland Food Products Group, a job that suited her strengths, experience and interests. Taking the advice of her Kelley career coach, she transitioned into a marketing role within a similar industry, rather than change her role and industry all at once. Still, it was an adjustment taking leadership in a new business.
“It can feel uncomfortable asking questions or making recommendations when you’re new to the business, but my professors and peers in the Evening MBA Program encouraged me to be curious, to challenge what’s normally accepted and to offer creative solutions outside the box,” she said. “My comfort with communication and leadership served me right away because I had greater confidence in those workplace conversations.”
Chrissy took part in a corporate consulting project in which she and her Evening MBA team strategized e-commerce offerings for a global manufacturing company based in Indianapolis. The experience gave her real-world, directly applicable marketing experience. Similarly, courses in digital marking and statistical methods helped her approach data and grasp statistical analysis in ways she could immediately apply in her new role.
“I could put these lessons into practice right away because marketers need to know how to process and dissect enormous amounts of data,” she said. “Tools we learned in class about segmenting consumer populations and appropriate targeting based on data sets were applicable daily, whether in analytics, case studies or simply asking better questions.”
At Kelley, Chrissy became involved in student organizations Kelley Indianapolis MBA Women’s Association (KIMWA) and Student Advisory Board (SAB). As a busy professional working full-time and attending the Evening MBA Program, she says the organizations were worth the time she carved out to connect with her peers.
“Student organizations gave me the inside scoop on how to approach a certain project or which professor to seek out as a mentor. My classmates were my informal guidance counselors,” said Chrissy. “I built a network of people for moral support. Plus, many of the students in the Evening MBA Program are not from Indy, so as a transplant myself, student organizations helped me meet people outside my cohort. I felt well networked with large companies throughout Indianapolis.”
Through career coaching, Chrissy developed a career management plan that allowed her to map out where she wanted to go professionally and how to get there.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be leader in the healthcare system. My professors connected me with Kelley alumni for informational interviews so I could understand their responsibilities and career paths,” said Chrissy. “These connections helped me network with senior leaders from companies like Roche, Eli Lilly and Company and Franciscan Health. If it weren’t for the Evening MBA Program, I wouldn’t have known how to navigate the next steps in my career.”
Chrissy spent several sessions with her Kelley career coach refining her career plan. Having already secured a marketing role, she focused now on the next step toward leadership and a larger company. Eventually, Chrissy interviewed and accepted a position that checked all the boxes: senior associate brand manager for Elanco Animal Health (a division of Eli Lilly and Company.)
Chrissy says the Kelley Evening MBA is a perfect complement to her scientific background and a step she urges other dietitians and healthcare providers to take in order to transform their careers.
“Earning an MBA helps you understand the big picture. I’d never seen an income statement before I enrolled in the Evening MBA Program, and now, I’m exposed to that kind of information every day,” she said.
“Not having a business background motivates you even more to earn your MBA. It gives you the technical skills to be good at your job, but also the business acumen and cross-functional leadership you need to be successful in the workplace.”