Editor’s note: The following question-and-answer interview with Olivia Pechstein originally appeared in Poets&Quants and is reprinted with permission.
“Living at the intersection of data and the story it tells.”
Hometown: Charles Town, WV
Fun fact about yourself: I am an avid horseback rider, and frequently travel to work remotely while competing with my horse Frankie. My classmates have gotten pretty used to me hopping on group project calls from hotel lobbies and the barn!
Undergraduate School and Degree: Cornell University College of Engineering, BS in Biological Engineering (concentration in Biomedical Engineering)
Where are you currently working? Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), Product Manager, GMASS Search Service
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud that I’ve been able to pivot at multiple points in my career thus far to new roles, from biomedical engineering to organizational consulting to executive analysis to product management. Each new role has required new skill sets along with the chance to grow and improve, and I’ve been fortunate to have amazing mentors to help me grow.
Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? By the time I was ready to start applying to programs, I had already decided that UDel was the right school for me. Alumni spoke very highly of the faculty and curriculum; they have a great reputation in the different publications that assess MBA programs and the coursework all looked interesting to me. This program also offered me the flexibility to pursue a dual concentration in both of my areas of interest: Business Analytics and Strategic Leadership. The combination of academics and flexibility made it a clear choice.
What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? That I can learn something in my coursework on Sunday night, and show up at work on Monday and apply it. I wanted an online program so I could apply what I learn in real-time, and reinforcing my homework with a real-world application so immediately has been invaluable in cementing what we’re learning in our classes.
What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? It has been the connections I have made with my fellow students throughout the program. I expected it to be difficult to build relationships in an online format, but I have formed great friendships from my very first class. I’m so excited to see how my classmates succeed after navigating the program together.
How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? The dynamic with my classmates and professors have been entirely different. We are all attending school while balancing other parts of our lives, and we have all made the decision to pursue this degree to further our careers. It makes group workflow so much more smoothly when everyone is eager to contribute and has a wealth of experience to share. In my experience, the remote aspect has also made everyone especially willing to connect through different platforms. I’ve attended more office hour sessions and have spent more time brainstorming with groups than I ever did as an undergrad!
What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Learn your learning style and make the materials work for you. A good program (like UDel!) will provide a variety of resources – from videos to text to interactive quizzes – for a variety of learning styles, but the onus is on you to take advantage of that variety and study in a way you find effective. Self-discipline and self-awareness are key.
What would you change about an online MBA Program? I honestly would not change anything about my online program. It has been an amazing opportunity to learn quickly without having to step away from my career, it has introduced me to amazing people, and it has been everything I’ve hoped for. I would have loved to have a graduation ceremony to celebrate in-person with my classmates, but hopefully, we can get together in the future once restrictions have lifted!
How has your online education helped you in your current job? My online education has already propelled me into a new job track in my company. When company leadership saw that I was able to apply everything I was learning to my previous role, they considered me for a role I would have never been a candidate for and I ultimately got the job. It was a leap of faith on both sides that have worked out because of the new skills and abilities I can bring to the table from my education.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I plan to reach a senior leadership role where I can influence high-level business operations and corporate strategy.