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Leveraging Your Degree for a Promotion

Learn how MBA student Anna Fabry leveraged her MBA for a promotion within her own company while she was still in graduate school.

By Jess Clarke

Many Jenkins MBA students leverage their advanced degree for a job promotion after graduation. 

Others, including Anna Fabry, advance in their career while they’re still in graduate school. But not many of those take the initiative to write a job description for a new position they create for themselves — and receive their employer’s approval with a pay boost.  

Fabry did.  

When pandemic-related eating at home caused sales to soar for Palermo’s Pizza, the frozen pizza company where she works, Fabry used the company’s growth to grow her career, moving from food scientist to the new position of innovation product manager. 

The MBA program helped her do it. 

“Two things a company always needs to do are innovate new products and then market them in the right way. I didn’t fully grasp that until the last year” since she’s been at Poole College, says Fabry, a part-time, online student who expects to graduate in December.  

Her new role, which combines product development and marketing, taps the business interest that led her to pursue a business concentration as an undergraduate food science major.  

The position is “a welcome challenge. I know I have the knowledge to do it. It keeps me on my toes and allows me to use my MBA every day,” Fabry says.  

Lisa Batts with the Poole College of Management Career Center was a valuable resource as Fabry pursued her new role.   

With Batts’ guidance, “I analyzed the company’s needs, found a niche and wrote a job description to fill that need. I figured out how to take what I’m doing and make it have an impact on the bottom line,” Fabry says. Batts “helped me prepare for how to present it to the company, and we talked through any challenges she could foresee with what I was proposing.”

After years as a Palermo’s food scientist, working with food safety and other technical issues, pandemic-related challenges shifted Fabry into other duties with Milwaukee-based Palermo’s. Her new tasks required such business skills as leadership and project management, sourcing raw materials, pricing, and understanding customers’ needs.           

Fabry used that experience to move into a role more business-related. 

In articulating her value to Palermo’s, “I said I was already fulfilling these duties,” Fabry says, “and given that I’m getting an MBA, could we move forward in a strategic way that benefits both of us?” 

They could.

Now, in developing ideas for new frozen pizza products, she collaborates with colleagues on ingredient sourcing, finance, quality assurance and other issues, “working with cross-functional groups to get things commercialized,” Fabry says.

She has applied her MBA knowledge in her job since she started the Jenkins program.

Fabry cites the Jenkins marketing certificate she’s pursuing and a class in product management as particularly valuable for her in her new Palermo’s position. 

And a course on consumer behavior “was paramount in helping me understand how to apply those concepts to frozen pizza…and connect consumer behavior with our marketing initiatives to create an amazing product,” she says. 

Fabry’s relevant courses wouldn’t be as useful without effective faculty teaching them. 

The instructors have just been fabulous. They challenge you in the right ways and want to make sure you understand the ‘why’ in all the concepts.

The Jenkins professors aren’t the only teachers. Fabry has learned from her MBA classmates, some of whom she considers role models. “Seeing other students who were in challenging roles themselves and how they carried themselves through really helps me,” she notes. 

She and her husband moved to Durham for his medical training, and she’s been working remotely for Palermo’s, but they’ll return soon to Wisconsin. When they do, she’ll be even more prepared to make an impact in her new role.

“The knowledge I’ve gained in the MBA program has helped me build my level of competence…going through different situations at work,” Fabry says.

I’ve really built my self-esteem knowing I can accomplish things despite whatever challenges or setbacks we hit…not seeing ‘no’ as the end of a discussion, finding ways to navigate around the ‘no’s and find solutions to problems.