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On the Hunt

The interview process is stressful no matter when it happens. But throw it into the middle of a global pandemic and national economic crisis? That only adds an additional layer of complexity to the situation.

While many companies across the country were forced to freeze hiring, furlough employees or make other reductions in the workforce, some businesses and organizations continued making strategic hires.

And for a crop of recent Jenkins MBA graduates, these career shifts came at the perfect time.

Prior to COVID-19, MBA student Brett Ward was working at a 4PL as a senior account manager and supply chain strategy consultant where he managed a portfolio of clients in IT system integrations and operational improvement projects focused on transportation and logistics cost reduction.

He was approached by a recruiter for Celonis, a process mining and intelligence solutions company, via LinkedIn shortly before the federal and state mandates were passed. As COVID-19 was making its way across the country, he knew the hiring process would not look like others in the past. “I participated in a first-round interview about two weeks before the stay-at-home order went into effect in North Carolina and held all interviews virtually. I eventually made it to a final round case challenge interview that was scheduled to be held in person in the local Raleigh office,” Ward says. “However the day before we were set to meet, the stay-at-home order was announced and the presentation was changed to be delivered virtually.”

And his offer couldn’t have come at a better time. 

“The day I received a formal offer letter for my new role as a customer success manager, my previous employer announced company-wide cost reduction of 30 percent, as well as furloughs involving nearly 30 percent of our U.S. team,” he says. “While this wasn’t the main decision driver to take the new role, it was an insight into the impact COVID was having on small to mid-sized businesses.”

Ward wasn’t the only one making career pivots during the pandemic. As the Jenkins MBA Class of 2020 students prepared for graduation, many were exploring new opportunities.

Michael Suarez, for instance, has spent years working for GSK in the company’s material waste improvement group. In a desire to move from a technical position into a business management function, he looked to the Jenkins online MBA program to give him the knowledge and insight to transition roles. 

A month before graduating from the MBA program, he applied, went through a virtual interview process, and was offered a new position with GSK as a supply relationship manager. “For the last nine years I’ve worked in the industry I’ve served in a technical operations function. In my new role, I’ll have the opportunity to build relationships with the CMO, while making sure our supply chain is robust. It’s a step in the right direction of where I wanted to take the knowledge I gained through the MBA program,” Suarez says.

Another recent Jenkins MBA graduate, Lucas Lankford, also decided to make a career move to better utilize his new skills and know-how. Lankford, whose background is in biology, decided to pursue his MBA after receiving a master’s degree in biomanufacturing from NC State.

During his final semester with Jenkins Graduate School, Lankford was working in downstream process development at Pfizer. “I started keeping my eyes open for higher-level positions where I could use more of my new qualifications and skills I gained from the MBA program,” Lankford says. “I saw a position at Ology Bioservices but wasn’t sure if I was willing to move to Florida for a job at the time. It remained posted through February, so I decided to submit my application. Ology scheduled a Webex video interview with me for the middle of March before everything started closing and about two weeks later, I was offered the position of senior scientist.”

In his new role, Lankford will be developing and optimizing processes for vaccines and therapies, as well as supervising a team of scientists and technicians. 

He credits the Jenkins MBA program for preparing him for this new career. “Because Ology Bioservices is a contract development and manufacturing organization, my new role requires a good understanding of business processes and project management in order to work with the clients and ensure each project remains in scope and is successful,” Landford says. “I will also be in more of a leadership role so many of the skills I gained from the program will help me be successful as I transition to this new level.”