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Winning Voices: Natalie Southwell, Software Engineer Senior Manager in IT Security at Home Depot

Winning Voices: Natalie Southwell, Software Engineer Senior Manager in IT Security at Home Depot

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.

Natalie Southwell
Software Engineer Senior Manager in IT Security
Home Depot

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR COMPANY.

My leadership responsibilities have increased in the eight years I have worked for Home Depot. I initially started as a Project Manager; overtime, my role grew to manage new technologies, people, and process, tools. Currently, as a Software Engineer Senior Manager, my primary responsibilities include managing the legal applications and systems to ensure they are strategically designed and engineered with the latest technologies that can scale to maximize productivity and departmental efficiencies.

WHY WERE YOU LOOKING TO GET AN MBA?

I recognized the need for an MBA as I looked at my long-term career goals. While less formal learnings and certificates were okay, a full emergence in a structured curriculum I knew would be more transformative for my career. The MBA program is towards from the top-down. Learning from a former CEO, Jack Welch, and other top executives and CEOs featured in the program provided a different perspective on company management, vision, strategy, and performance. I was learning the CEO mindset.

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HOW HAS THE JWMI CURRICULUM HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?

At the beginning of my JWMI MBA journey in 2013, I had no idea how the curriculum would change my life. I am proud and amazed by the many accomplishments that I attribute directly to the program. Candidly, it would be difficult to quantify the sheer number of lessons that I have applied within my career and place of employment throughout multiple capacities. Every lecture, video, assignment, discussion question, or response to a peer, enhanced my business acumen and was applicable.

Knowledge is power. I became a more informed leader armed with data and facts that would prove to enhance my ability to lead more passionately, fearlessly with my team’s development in mind.

While attending JWMI, I was promoted from Sr. Project Manager to Program Manager (managing a portfolio of projects budgeted at over $100M), to my most recent promotion as Sr. Manager of Software Engineering. The courses that had the most profound impact on my career were People Management, Financial Management, Business Analytics, Strategy, Operations Management, Organizational Change, and Managerial Economics.

Financially, from the inception of my JWMI MBA program to now, my salary and bonuses have totaled over $53,000 in salary gains, excluding annual stock awards. To include all of the benefits would be close to over a $100,000 increase.

In addition to promotions and raises, I also experienced more opportunities. I was recently awarded a trip to the White House to meet fellow governmental officials as a result of my leadership role in the Political Action Campaign for the Home Depot.

DID YOU FIND THE CURRICULUM WAS IMMEDIATELY APPLICABLE?

The curriculum was both challenging and rewarding. It goes beyond the standard textbook as you leverage real-life advice from Warren Buffett and other top CEOs, Wall Street Journal articles, Lynda.com, Harvard Review case studies, and other tools that are applicable from the moment you first learn it. I found the curriculum’s content to be challenging but relevant and motivating.

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WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE IN THE PROGRAM?

Finishing the program with a 4.0 GPA, a Welch Scholar designation, and was honored with the opportunity to carry the JWMI banner at the graduation processional have been the biggest thrills! I was an average student in my undergraduate studies with less than desirable achievements. JWMI gave me a second chance to prove what was possible. I remember when I signed up, I wasn’t sure if I could master the content or would enjoy learning or even survive such a rigorous program. To say I had doubts would be an understatement. I wanted to quit, and in fact, I did quit for two years (don’t do it, see advice #4 below). But the faculty and staff were incredibly supportive, they encouraged me to continue, and as a result, I am walking in victory as an alumnus who will hopefully lead a path for someone else in the future.

HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE JOB, FAMILY, AND WORK? WHAT STRATEGIES DID YOU IMPLEMENT TO GET IT DONE?

Very strategically! Managing a full-time demanding job, ministry duties, family, relationships, and friends was not easy. There were times, I felt overwhelmed by all the expectations, but through proper time management and great family support, I was able to get in a regular cadence to be successful both at work, in school, and personally. My husband was my backbone as he kept the household functioning in my absence. Frequently I would head to Starbucks on Saturday mornings and in the evenings to study and draft my assignments. It became a family affair. My adult sons encouraged me and proofread my assignments before submission. My mother and mother-in-law would champion me to make sure nothing fell through the cracks. They all were so proud to see me walk across the stage at graduation.

PLEASE SHARE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW STUDENTS EMBARKING ON THE MBA JOURNEY.

  1. Set goals for yourself because as you go through the class, they will push you through when you want to give up.
  2. Locate a study buddy or someone that shares in your passion for learning. Lean on them for support.
  3. Apply, apply apply! The real magic is in the application of the curriculum in your career. If you think the information is irrelevant, you are not digging in enough… it is ALL relevant and applicable.
  4. Forgo the breaks in the program unless your life depends on it. Keep going no matter how challenging it may get for you. You will be happy you did.
  5. Finally, have fun and enjoy the ride because there are incredible peaks and perks along the way. Enjoy!

Connect with Natalie Southwell on Linkedin

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