MBA students know how to make time in class pay off

March 26, 2015
Brandman MBA students Stephon Brooks and Dave Gunty

Stephon Brooks and Dave Gunty

This is the second in a series of stories about students in the Brandman University MBA program. They don’t wait until their courses are finished to begin using what they’ve learned in class to be successful at work.

We caught up with Stephon Brooks and Dave Gunty and asked each about MBA studies and the real world.

Brandman University MBA student Stephon Brooks

Stephon Brooks

Stephon Brooks may not have taken the most direct path to an MBA, but he’s already putting what he’s learned to good use. The Navy veteran started in the Master of Arts in organizational leadership (MAOL) program on the advice of a vocational rehabilitation counselor. A longtime interest in becoming an entrepreneur and an interest in becoming a medical administrator convinced him to go for an MBA with a dual emphasis.  He’s currently a lead supply technician for the Veterans Administration hospital in Loma Linda, California.

What’s something you’ve learned in class that you have already put to use at work?
I just got hired with the V.A. and I think it helped me with my interview, for moving to the next level with the V.A. It’s not necessarily the hard skills like math or statistics, but the people skills, human intelligence, that have helped. Because I want to someday open a rejuvenation center – basically a café with spa elements such as massage chairs, herbal teas and quiet rooms – I’ve learned about the things people don’t think of. Entrepreneurs get caught up in that first wave of success and don’t account for overhead and other fixed costs. I’m getting an idea of how much dedication and time and money it will take. It may have to be a longer term plan.

What is different about the program than you expected?
I think I was surprised at how much they want me to excel. I don’t want it to sound like you don’t have to work or that it’s easy. But I didn’t expect them to be so helpful. I didn’t expect it to be designed for me to succeed. You have so many advocates and programs and resources that are beneficial. That’s what makes it attainable.

What advice do you have for someone starting the program?
First, I would tell them to know why you’re getting a degree. Brandman will help you succeed; you will get the MBA, but make sure that you know why and how it’s going to help you to the next level.

I would tell them to keep their eyes open. It’s not school work for a grade or a piece of paper. Extract the information from each class and figure out how you can use it on your job, on your resume. That way your employer sees, when you want a promotion, that you know something the next person doesn’t know. Each class has that available.

Be focused. Network, especially with professors. Find out what they do. Talk to them. See if they know anybody in the field you want to work in. A lot are leaders in their fields and they’re at Brandman because they love it.

And be of service. Don’t just look for what people can do for you, ask how you can help. Know what you’re good at. I learned from being in these classes that I’m not that good at details (like proofreading) but I can do the research and work with people who are good at extracting the right information.

What’s next?
I’m working on a novel. (His undergraduate major at Cal State Fullerton was radio-television-film but he discovered he liked the writing part best. He wants to complete his crime action thriller this year. He plans to put his marketing skills to use once it’s completed).  I’ve had the spa idea since high school but didn’t really know how to go about doing it. That’s more of a long-term plan. I’m working toward moving from supply logistics to becoming an administrator.

Brandman University MBA student Maj. Dave Gunty

Maj. Dave Gunty

David Gunty is a major in the Air National Guard at March Air Reserve Base whose duty title is commander. His job is to make sure the people who work for him are trained, equipped and ready to be deployed. Gunty said he has gone to school and worked his whole life, including while on active duty with the Air Force. He started in organizational leadership master’s program and was adding a graduate certificate in business when he realized that he was just five classes away from an MBA. He switched programs and plans to go through commencement ceremonies in May and finish his last course by August.

What’s something you’ve learned in class that you have already put to use at work?
My organization has been through a very dramatic shift. We flew tankers for many years and, about the time I became an officer, transitioned to drones. That’s a big culture shift for my unit. Understanding how people deal with change and how leadership can facilitate change has really helped me. A lot of the course work we’ve done has looked at how people learn and the differences among generations, about how people like to be rewarded. Because I’m in the in-between generation, it allows me to facilitate and be a change agent and approach both sides.

What’s something you’ve learned in class that you have already put to use at work?
I thought it was going to be dry and more about numbers, but one of the things that is emphasized is sustainability, and that’s really important to me. You think about businesses being all about profit and making money, but when you dive in, it really does boil down to people. That’s what companies have to deal with. Companies that forget about sustainability and people fail. I think I was surprised by that focus, but that focus is appropriate. I can tell from the case studies that this is a real part of the way the world works now, especially with the Great Recession. That’s a happy surprise.

What about the program has helped you the most?
I think it has given me perspective and opened my eyes to the corporate world. It’s opened my eyes to the opportunities. The combination of my National Guard work and an MBA shows that I know how to manage and that I know how business works. That’s what you’re telling a potential employer. Having a master’s is also a requirement for promotion within the Air National Guard.

What advice do you have for someone starting the program?
Do it, for sure. It’s been a rewarding experience for me. Really take it seriously. What you get out of the classes is what you put in. We learn as much from each other as we do from the faculty. Be open-minded and really listen and relate. That’s how we benefit, by connecting with other people and learning from their experiences.

What’s next?
I have to think about my wife and three kids and what’s best for all of us. But the drone industry is growing, especially in the San Diego area. I think I’m well-suited now with the combination of experience, logistics and MBA. Everything I’ve heard makes me think I’m very marketable. Once I’m done with the MBA, I’ll definitely send my resume and stick my toe in the water.

Related story:

MBA students see immediate results at work from time in classroom: Sandra Wells and Alice Chan

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