They often say it takes heart and soul to complete an MBA program. But with so much heart, is there still time for love? And, can love and an MBA ever mix?
This Valentine’s Day, we wanted to find out. So, we asked JWMI students (and husband & wife duo), Deron Shields and Eileen Musser to share their experience (as a couple) in the program. What we found will warm your heart.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Deron: Attending JWMI inspired me to leave my corporate job and start my own hotel management company. Currently, we are in negotiations to acquire our first hotel property in the Pacific Northwest with a business model to acquire and manage up to 10 properties within the next eight years. My focus has been on a successful launch for this new venture. So right now I’m doing everything, from developing a mission statement, values, and direction, to raising capital and running my business plan by mentors, like a few select professors at JWMI.
Eileen: I work for a biotech company in the Bay Area. I have held various positions across the company over the last 16 years: development, human resources, clinical operations, marketing and my current role in Oncology Scientific Collaborations. I work with medical societies building relationships and exploring shared areas of interest for collaborations. I also create medical education campaigns for large congresses, such as American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
How did you meet? Tell us a little bit about your love story.
Deron’s version: A mutual friend set us up on a blind date. We were both single parents raising small children (I had three girls, and Eileen had a boy and a girl). Eileen was reluctant to go out on a date with me and initially refused. I finally convinced her I was just looking for someone to share an adult dinner with and it “wasn’t like we were getting married.” I asked her to meet me at one of my favorite restaurants, which happened to be closed that day and since I was late getting to the restaurant, she thought for sure I was hiding out, “checking her out somewhere.” However, we did find a spot to eat and went shoe shopping (as I was starting a new job the next day)… it was pretty romantic.
Eileen’s version: Deron’s version is exactly what happened. I can only add that while I had no interest in dating at the time, he won me over with his sense of humor and adventurous spirit. Eighteen years later we are still together and very happy.
How did you both end up deciding to take this MBA journey together?
Deron: I value education and pushed for all five of our children to attend and graduate college. I never had a desire to return to school though. I wasn’t a great student in college, myself, but I always enjoyed working and worked full-time while attending college. However, working for a biotech company with just a bachelor’s degree puts you at the bottom of the ladder as the majority of employees have a master’s or doctorate.
I have always followed successful business leaders like Jack Welch. I read his books and followed his amazing career and was aware of the Jack Welch Management Institute (JWMI). Eileen suggested we take advantage of our company’s tuition reimbursement program and go back to school to get our master’s degrees. My comment was “Do you know how old I will be when I would get my degree?” and my wife said, in her logical way “You would be the same age if you didn’t.” I convinced Eileen we should go to JWMI for our MBAs. We followed the same course path and track until the new Healthcare Concentration was introduced. Then, Eileen split off for the healthcare-related courses.
Eileen: I am a continuous learner and was frustrated that my travel schedule prevented me from completing a psychology masters that I started at a local university. I decided instead of delaying higher education, I would find an online MBA program. I started at another online university but was struggling to stay engaged with the curriculum. I convinced Deron we needed to attend together, as he loves business and was always reading up on business news, philosophies and trends. Deron introduced JWMI to me, and it has been fantastic since the first class.
What’s your favorite thing about being at JWMI as a couple?
It’s fun working together. We can be very candid and honest in our reviews of each other’s work which makes us better writers and students.
How do you support one-another within the program?
Deron: I am the more organized one whereas Eileen is for sure the more creative and intelligent one (yep, it’s true). I can get 100 things done in an hour to Eileen’s ten, so my “job” is to keep both of us on track with homework, assignments, and papers. It’s not always easy as Eileen has a pretty intense job and travels a significant amount of time.
Eileen: My favorite part of attending together is being able to discuss and debate the coursework with each other. Especially, when we can push each other to apply the learnings to situations in our current positions.
What advice do you have for other couples applying to the JWMI program?
Deron: I would like to say don’t make it a competition between each other as to who can get better grades or has a higher class ranking (except, I do.) A little healthy competition is fun. Right? 🙂 Seriously though, we work together and run ideas and thoughts past each other regularly. Working full time and going to school is challenging. But, we set aside time to do homework and ponder discussion questions (DQ’s) together. It makes for some great discussions and debates.
Eileen: I highly recommend it. Attending as a couple helps significantly with keeping on track. We both know the demands of the program and are equally committed to setting aside time for homework. When I was attending on my own, it was much more challenging to find the balance between protecting homework time and spending time with my loved ones.
Each week, JWMI profiles students and alumni in its 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.
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