Earning an MBA: A Shared Experience for Nicole and Robert Panor 

Nicole and Robert Panor with their graduate hoods prior to lining up for the Jenkins MBA Hooding Ceremony.

Nicole and Robert Panor with their graduate hoods prior to lining up for the Jenkins MBA Hooding Ceremony.

Like many graduates, Nicole and Robert Panor posted messages on their LinkedIn accounts celebrating completion of their academic studies. Both received their graduate degrees from the NC State Poole College of Management’s Jenkins Professional Evening MBA program in May 2018.

They were among the 254 graduates who marked the completion of their Jenkins MBA studies at the college’s inaugural Hooding Ceremony for its Jenkins Graduate School graduates, held on May 10 at the Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh. The Panors, however, were the only graduates who started – and completed – the program as a newlywed couple.

“We both feel that our MBA experience has provided us with confidence (in) our abilities to effect positive change and lead as strategic thinkers in our organizations. The real world practicum and projects also gave us a chance to work with businesses in industries outside of what we have previously experienced. Having an MBA, we both feel that we know enough or can ask the right questions to be dangerous in meetings,” they posted.

The two had met while working professionals in New York City, moved to Raleigh for new career roles, began searching for an MBA program, got married and went from honeymoon to graduate studies in the Jenkins MBA professional evening program.

“We looked at all of the big programs here in the state and Jenkins was certainly the best value. Great school, great program, and great price. We also needed a school that would fit our lifestyle. We wanted to continue working full time while getting our MBA – and we wanted to do it as quickly as possible. The Jenkins professional evening program, accelerated track, certainly made the most sense…and we’re glad we did it,” they wrote in an email interview with Poole College communications.

Following are their responses to an email interview about their experience.

Tell us about your career path prior to entering the NC State Jenkins MBA program.

Nicole: I received my undergrad degree from Clemson University where I studied communications, then moved to New York City right after graduation in 2008. I lived in NYC and worked in events and event marketing, traveling all over and also producing some of the largest event in the city for about six and a half years before moving to Raleigh with Rob (we met in NYC) in 2014. I was director of events and event marketing for an agency in NYC before moving to Raleigh. Once in Raleigh, I did some freelance consulting before working at the Triangle Business Journal. I now am event marketing manager at Valassis Digital.

Robert: I started my career in physical commodities trading at Morgan Stanley in NYC where I managed their structured and complex electricity and natural gas operations before transitioning to Goldman Sachs to manage physical metal and power trading/logistics operations. I moved to Raleigh with Nicole in 2014 for an energy trading job at an energy company with a regional office in Raleigh. I was offered a job at Cisco as their Global Marketing Procurement category manager summer 2017 while in the middle of the MBA program.

What made you decide to pursue an MBA degree – individually and then to do so together?

Nicole: After moving to Raleigh, I knew I wanted to stay in event marketing but I felt that over the last seven years so much had changed in the world and everything had such a large digital focus. Getting my MBA was never on my radar; however, I loved school and I have a constant desire to know more. When Rob mentioned he wanted to go back to school, I quickly jumped on the chance as well. Why not do it together? Felt like a great move to make.

Robert: Obtaining an MBA was always personal and professional goal of mine.  I made the decision to start in 2016 as I knew it would be important to learn new skills to increase my marketability as a strategic thinker and leader outside of the energy industry for which I spent my entire career.

What about the NC State Jenkins MBA program attracted you and led you to enroll here?

Nicole and Robert: We looked at all of the big programs here in the state and Jenkins was certainly the best value. Great school, great program, and great price. We also needed a school that would fit our lifestyle. We wanted to continue working full time while getting our MBA – and we wanted to do it as quickly as possible. The Jenkins professional program, accelerated track certainly made the most sense, and we’re glad we did it!

What was your area of focus, and if you completed a certificate, in what area?

Nicole: Marketing management with a certificate in Marketing & Decision Analytics. Marketing is my passion and what I did in NYC; however, the data side of things was still new to me. I knew that analytics was where the industry was headed so it made sense to peruse the certificates on top of the depth area concentration.

Robert: I received certificates in Operations and Supply Chain Management and Decision Analytics. I also took a number of marketing courses to help with increase my knowledge of the business I support in my career.

What are a few key takeaways from the program that you expect will help you along your career path?

Nicole: My biggest takeaway is certainly the confidence, with the knowledge I have now from the program, to be “dangerous” in meetings – to disrupt the status quo, but in a good way. Sometimes what a company has done for years isn’t always the absolute best decision or method of doing things. And if there are other concepts and strategic methods, I want to bring those to the table. Having my MBA has given me a new way to think about ideas and concepts, and I hope to continue to apply that throughout my career.

Robert: My biggest take away is having the confidence to ask challenging questions and challenge the status quo within my organization. I also feel the data driven courses increased my ability to tell a business story with data which is a skill my company requires to be considered for promotions.

What are some challenges either/both of you faced as you were both working toward your degree at the same time?

Nicole: With both of us in the program, it was perfect. We leaned on each other for support and there was never a question when we had to make a sacrifice to study or get homework done. It was perfect having someone go through the program with me; so there was that constant support there.

What are some coping mechanisms/time management techniques or adjustments you made to accommodate academic and professional responsibilities?

Nicole: I think because we did the accelerated track and were working full-time, we didn’t really have many struggles come up during our time at Jenkins. We got married in July of 2016, missed the first week of classes in August because of our honeymoon and then jumped right in for our first semester in August of 2016. Five quick semesters later, we were done! I will add the one summer of classes (we took four!) was pretty painful. There were a few weekends spent indoors. However, Rob and I were very good about making our family and personal life still a priority; so, we’d make sure all of our homework was done on either Saturday or Sunday so that we’d always have one weekend day to spend together.

Any recommendations for other couples considering doing the same?

Nicole: Just be prepared to go all in. If you’re signing up for this journey, go for it – know that you get out of it what you put in to it. We were able to maintain a high GPA on the accelerated track, working full-time – and, in fact, we both switched jobs right in the middle of the program. And we made sacrifices – late nights studying or weekends doing homework – to make this happen.

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