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Jenkins Professional Online MBA Graduate Jean Bigoney Applies New Skills to Career

Jean Bigoney at one of the Jenkins Professional Online MBA Program Raleigh Residency events. Jean is pictured in the suites at Carter Finley Stadium overlooking the field.

Jean Bigoney is set to earn her Master of Business Administration this May through the NC State Jenkins Professional Online MBA Program — ranked No. 7 nationally for best online MBA programs. 

Bigoney works remotely in the Triangle as a senior regulatory affairs specialist for a late-stage start-up Viz.ai headquartered in San Francisco. She enrolled in the online MBA program in fall 2017 to better make sense of her industry and to have more flexibility in career options. 

For Bigoney, earning an MBA has helped her communicate with colleagues in other job functions. “Coming from a science and engineering background, things like marketing and finance were completely foreign to me. Now I can speak the language of people I work with and get where they are coming from. They feel understood and it makes projects go much more smoothly,” she says.

Assistant Director of Advising and Student Affairs Vilma Mueller says of Bigoney, “She’s a 4.0 GPA student with great professional qualities and personal attributes, a rich background in academia, science, entrepreneurship as well as corporate America.”

We caught up with Bigoney to learn more about her experience in the Jenkins Professional Online MBA Program program and congratulate our #NCStateOnline spring 2020 graduates! 

Tell us your story. Why did you pursue the Jenkins Professional Online MBA?

I had reached a point in my career where I realized that many of the positions I was interested in either required an MBA or an interest in pursuing one. You can only go so far as a subject matter expert until you reach a ceiling. I felt like I was good at understanding whether a project concept had technical merit, but the question of whether it made sense to commercialize it eluded me. That is what drives projects forward, and I wanted to understand it. 

I enrolled in the fall of 2017 and the main reason I chose the online program was because I was at the very western tip of North Carolina, so in-person classes were not an option. Other online offerings were not competitive in terms of reputation and price. As a resident of North Carolina, the in-state tuition rate makes the Jenkins MBA a great value.

One of the things that made NC State attractive was the tie-in with engineering. Something that has always fascinated me is how to foster innovation in a corporate climate. The depth area of “Innovation Management” was an excellent fit for my interests. 

Describe your experience in the Professional Online MBA program.  

It had been a long time since my last degree so it was certainly an adjustment! There was a lot of support at the beginning to help get acquainted with moodle, WolfWare, and all the tools needed for online course delivery. Since most of the courses were online, it was a treat to be able to meet fellow classmates at the Raleigh Residencies

The team projects have been a great way to meet fellow students and form lasting connections. More than once I’d see a familiar name in the participant list for a course and be able to work with someone I’d already been on a team with, so it is possible to interact with fellow students.

How did you balance working and completing your degree? 

It definitely had its ups and downs. There were times when I had downtime from work and could comfortably devote time to the MBA coursework. There were also other times when things were intense at work and I didn’t have the bandwidth I would have liked to have had for my courses and turned in work that did not reflect my best effort, but that’s real life! It’s a matter of setting priorities, and the same thing applies to different deliverables in a work situation. 

Did you have any faculty members who were particularly inspiring or stood out to you?

Quite a few faculty members stood out. Three that come to mind immediately are Professor Roger Mayer, whose course in “Influencing People” I very much enjoyed. Professor Karlyn Mitchell did an amazing job of teaching all the nuances of corporate finance. And Professor Stacy Wood gave me a wonderful introduction to Consumer Behavior as a field that lives somewhere between the behavioral sciences and cognitive neuroscience. 

What is your advice for other working professionals who are thinking about continuing their education or are currently enrolled in a master’s program? 

I think if you are working, an asynchronous online offering is an excellent way to continue your education. After I moved to the Triangle I was able to take advantage of in-person classes offered at the RTP campus. Even then, however, work commitments sometimes collided with the fixed schedule for in-person classes. If you have to travel for business or get tied up in multi-day meetings, it may not be possible to attend an in-person class. Having asynchronous offerings gives you the flexibility to work on coursework ahead of time for those commitments or catch up if you have to. 

Feel free to share any other thoughts regarding your overall learning experience at NC State. 

Some subject areas translate more readily than others to an online format. Quantitative courses, for example, are even better online than in person. You can review the lectures as many times as you like and at your own pace, as opposed to an in-person lecture. Other subject areas that rely on interactions among instructors and students are tough to translate to an online venue. But there are tools such as forums and web conferencing for virtual teams. Learning to manage these types of interactions will be increasingly important for the future. We already have a trend towards remote working for several reasons: the availability of tools like WebEx and Zoom, people being unwilling to uproot their family to go work for a start-up that may not be around in three years, and the money that companies can save by having remote employees. COVID has forced the issue and will likely forever change the acceptance of remote working for both employers and employees. What that means for leaders is that understanding how to effectively use the tools available for managing global virtual teams will also become more important. Those valuable skills come into play when doing an online degree program like the one at NC State.

Congratulations to Jean and the rest of the NC State Jenkins Professional Online MBA spring 2020 graduating class! 

Are you interested in advancing your career by earning a Master of Business Administration degree? Visit the program page or online.ncsu.edu for a full list of degree and certificate programs. 

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