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Winning Voices: Katie Bell, Director of Defense Marketing at Textron Systems

Winning Voices: Katie Bell, Director of Defense Marketing at Textron Systems

Each week, JWMI profiles students and alumni in its new featured series “Winning Voices.” Learn about our diverse community and what sets our program apart from those who have experienced it. For more great “Winning Voices” content, click here.

Katie Bell
Director of Defense Marketing
Textron Systems
Program/Concentration: Jack Welch MBA 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOB RESPONSIBILITIES AT TEXTRON SYSTEMS

As Director of Defense Marketing for Textron Systems, I oversee the marketing strategy and lead its marketing team to support our company’s defense capabilities, products, and programs.

Before this role, I worked as Director of Marketing, Communications, and Public Affairs for Textron Inc. at another location. My family recently relocated to Maryland to enable this career move. I’m grateful for my employer and its Educational Assistance program, which funded a significant portion of my MBA coursework.

Why were you looking to get an MBA?

I considered pursuing my MBA a few years out of college but decided to postpone. Then, as I was reading a leadership article a few years ago, I noticed a reference to the Jack Welch Management Institute. I was intrigued by its “Learn Today, Apply Tomorrow” mantra. The idea of immediately applying what I learned in my work was refreshing compared to programs that focus on large textbook and theory learning. The Jack Welch MBA offers a practical, hands-on approach to learning that makes a lot of sense, especially for busy professionals.

Did you find the curriculum immediately applicable?

Concepts I learned in my JWMI classes were applicable in my daily work. Many times, I completed class assignments related to projects and initiatives at work. For example, the Organizational Change coursework was applicable while we were working to enhance employee engagement. My People Management class helped me develop relevant questions to ask during interviews. Financial Management concepts helped as I prepared for capital requests. Personality profile and emotional intelligence work in our Leadership in the 21st Century class helped me identify ways to work effectively with others. The list goes on from there.

LOOKING BACK AT WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT AN ONLINE PROGRAM WHEN YOU FIRST EMBARKED, WHAT WAS YOUR OVERALL IMPRESSION NOW? DID IT MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS VIA DQ BOARDS, EOP VIDEOS, FACULTY ETC?:

The JWMI online program made it possible for me to pursue my MBA when working a demanding job and raising a young family. The program exceeded my expectations. I appreciated the opportunity to learn not only from my professors but also from my fellow classmates. Each faculty member was genuinely engaged and consistently responsive, a most impressive trait! The collaborative class format enabled the sharing of experiences and insights that expanded our learnings and perspectives.

What’s been your most rewarding experience in the program?

The most challenging yet most rewarding experience was the Business Analytics & Capstone course and project. We had to put on the hat of “Board Member” for all of our discussion question responses to classmates—which stretched us all to think more deeply and critically about concepts.

The Capstone project stretched my learning limits. For this project, I researched a competitor business and developed a concept that could substantially grow the company. I prepared a succinct Board of Director’s presentation, which I then presented in video format. Although the presentation had to be five minutes or less, the hours spent researching, analyzing, and challenging my concept made that five-minute presentation extremely effective in communicating my “pitch” to the Board.

I should mention that for perspective—while our Capstone class was underway, I was working in my new job, which transitioned temporarily to remote work due to Coronavirus quarantine restrictions. My husband and I both worked from home while also managing our children’s new learning schedules, selling our home, and house-hunting out of state. Completing my MBA program during a tremendously challenging point in time made the journey even more rewarding.

How did you navigate school, family, and work? What strategies did you implement to get it done?

Time management skills are critically essential to embarking on a learning journey while working full-time and caring for a family. Support of your family is also crucial to success. I did schoolwork in the early morning hours and late in the evenings to limit disruptions to our regular family routine as much as possible. Sometimes I needed extra time to complete assignments, and my husband always jumped in to keep our children busy while I focused on getting my work done.

When I hit “submit” on my final assignment, my daughters were ecstatic that I didn’t have to do homework ever again! At that moment, I realized my daughters had spent four years watching me work hard to complete my degree. It was overwhelmingly gratifying to see their excitement for me and their recognition of my achievement.

WAS THERE A PARTICULAR PROFESSOR OR MEMBER OF THE STAFF THAT YOU FELT HELPED YOU TO EXCEL? PLEASE ELABORATE.:

Everyone at JWMI—administration, staff, faculty—were outstanding. The Jack Welch MBA understands the importance of customer (student) satisfaction, and every professor is 150% engaged in your learning and success. I experienced some health challenges throughout my journey and had to request a few project extensions. Every time my professors were supportive and provided me with the flexibility I needed at those times.

I’m incredibly grateful for Dr. Steven Soranno, my Business Analytics & Capstone professor. He was extremely understanding of my situation— a new job, working from home during quarantine, health challenges, selling a house, buying a house out of state—and worked with me when I needed help and encouragement.

Please share any advice for new students embarking on the MBA journey.

Before embarking on an MBA journey, I would suggest having a plan mapped out for how and when you plan to do your schoolwork. I found it helpful to map out a weekly calendar noting when big assignments were due, which helped me track the requirements ahead of time and be as prepared as possible.

Figure out a realistic timeline for you to complete your MBA. It took me four years to complete my MBA. I recall many times doubting my ability to get all the work done. Every week I focused on completing all of my homework and assignments, and before I knew it, I was in week 10, finishing my final assignment for a class.

It’s also important to recognize that life may throw you curveballs during your journey. Don’t let those curveballs deter you. Talk to your professors, ask for help and support, and take the journey one day at a time.

When we hit quarantine and knew life would be extremely hectic preparing for our move, I considered delaying my final class until after our move. Instead of postponing, I decided to take on the challenge of getting it all done before the move. It wasn’t easy, but I took things one day at a time and finished!

Connect with Katie Bell on Linkedin

For more information on the Jack Welch Management Institute, visit us.

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