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Prashanth Bantwal Rama
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR COMPANY.
I was recently promoted to Operations Superintendent at HollyFrontier, but in my previous role, I worked as a Technical Services Manager at CVR Energy. CVR is a downstream energy company with crude oil refining, gathering, and refined petroleum marketing operations located in the Midwest. There, I led a team of Chemical Process Engineers and also managed the refinery laboratory responsible for monitoring day to day process unit operations, providing technical assistance for refinery troubleshooting and improvement planning, refinery sample testing, product quality assurance, front-end minor project development, and capital budget planning for the refinery. After my graduation with a M.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering, I started working as a Process Engineer at CVR Energy almost 14 years ago, and over time, earned increased responsibilities in Engineering, Supervisory and Managerial positions supporting the Process and Operations of the refinery. This helped lead me to my most current position at HollyFrontier.
WHY WERE YOU LOOKING TO GET AN MBA?
A few years ago, I had a casual conversation with my prior boss/mentor in regards to my career progression. The topic of the “value of an MBA” came up. This immediately kindled my interest in pursuing an MBA. Not wanting to leave my career, I started looking for online programs. And within a few months, I signed up for the Jack Welch MBA program. The structure and flexibility of the program fit perfectly with my desire and needs to better myself and continue my education to learn more valuable leadership and management skills.
DID YOU FIND THE CURRICULUM WAS IMMEDIATELY APPLICABLE?
When I joined JWMI in the fall of 2016, I had many different expectations of what my experience would look like once I completed my MBA program. However, now going through the program with each uniquely tailored course geared towards leadership, I can proudly say that I have far exceeded my expectations and gained new skills and valuable knowledge from Jack’s philosophies and the program’s curriculum. And furthermore, it transformed me as a better business leader by arming me with an impressive toolkit of frameworks such as John Kotter’s change management, Michael Porter’s 5 forces, McKinsey 7S Model, financial management tools, and Warren Buffett’s investing tactics to name a few. All of these tools, along with concepts from the Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review articles and case studies, made for an invaluable journey of discovery and learning.
The JWMI experience challenged me to grow professionally with the richness of perspectives ingrained in me all throughout this program. I have a renewed focus on pushing myself to be better in addition to a new confidence in my abilities and my communication skills. And, similar to Jack himself, I developed a habit of starting my day by reading the Wall Street Journal. This helps me to keep abreast of the latest news and developments; in addition, listening to quarterly earnings calls from companies in the oil and gas industry has become a regular routine. I can’t thank JWMI enough for all that it has given me.
DID YOU FIND THE CURRICULUM WAS IMMEDIATELY APPLICABLE?
My responsibilities have grown tremendously since starting the JWMI MBA program. I expanded my influence over multiple departments of the refinery. I was promoted to the Technical Services Manager, wherein I managed the team of Process Engineers when I first started this MBA. It was the perfect timing for my MBA; over the last two years, I was awarded increased responsibilities for the refinery laboratory and have handled multiple strategic capital projects with multi-departmental initiatives with great success.
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, JACK CALLS, FACULTY ETC.?
I was a little skeptical about the online program initially, but soon after the first couple of weeks of my first leadership course, I quickly overcame that anxiety and adapted effortlessly to the new way of learning.
The flexibility of the program allowed me to take full advantage of the “Learn on Monday and Apply on Tuesday” principle of JWMI. The insights that I gained from the People Management course around improving performance reviews and providing candid feedback to our employees have been invaluable. My team’s performance has improved thanks to the 6-part structure I learned for giving clear and actionable feedback during my teams’ performance reviews (now more frequent than our annual reviews.) Furthermore, the workforce strategy concepts defining key strategic positions and hiring players helped provide a solid foundation for my hiring style that I will cherish and use throughout my career.
My most significant area of growth is in understanding and learning the language of business. I now can read annual reports with confidence and understand the financial statements, or at least I know where to look for additional information in these 10K statements. Also, the strategy course cemented my understanding of how to define a clear strategy and then garner buy-in from key players within the organization. “Communicating clearly and concisely with data” has also been an added value I received from my JWMI discussion board experiences.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE IN THE PROGRAM?
As mentioned above, all the above-cited practices have helped me boost my confidence immensely in my communication of ideas and in how I build trust among our team and peers I am now more confident about who I am as a team member and leader. The above practices provided me with a platform to take risks, learn new things, and realize how I can maneuver through various situations and problems with varying perspectives. I can say that I have built “confidence without attitude” and I will embrace this principle to follow my career path and aspire to become an authentic leader with the integration of values, priorities, and passion.
HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE JOB, FAMILY, AND WORK? WHAT STRATEGIES DID YOU IMPLEMENT TO GET IT DONE?
It was challenging at times, but with the continuous support of family, I made it through the finish line!
My strategies for maintaining academic success in the JWMI-MBA program are as follows:
- Religiously dedicate at least 1–3 hours each evening to learn the concepts that were taught that week
- Prioritize your day-to-day workload to ensure that you do not lose focus on your full-time job duties nor important family time.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to gain valuable perspectives by engaging in different managerial and leadership discussions with professors and a variety of classmates from different industries from all over the world.
PLEASE SHARE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW STUDENTS EMBARKING ON THE MBA JOURNEY.
Just go for it! It is never too late to start your MBA journey, and it will be worth every minute you spend and the experience that you gain from JWMI’s unique and wonderful program. I can tell you the experience is entirely what you make of it and how you embrace it in your learning quest.
Also, I would advise finding something that allows you to reenergize and refresh yourself, so you don’t burn yourself out. Do that thing regularly. For me, it was spending time with my kids and family during my free time that kept me going!
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