Clara Pitts is the former vice president of product management at Education Dynamics. She earned her graduate degree in business from Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Pitts sat down with us to reflect on her education and to give us perspective on applying the knowledge she gained as a student to her current profession.
The job market has been pretty strong lately for managers, as they are used in almost every company. My specific degree, an MBA with a focus on technology and e-commerce, has been in demand in recent years because companies are often faced with changing technology and have to learn to manage that change. So overall, the job market has been very good for people with my degree.
The nice thing about a business degree is that it is very versatile. While most people don’t pursue this degree if they don’t plan to be a manager in an office setting, what you learn in business school can be applied to pretty much any business type. Learning to manage people is a skill that can be used in almost any setting and more generally in your life. So the commitment, outside of the time spent in classes, isn’t great and can be re-purposed if you choose to pursue a different path.
I started as a content manager for a website and gradually worked my way into managing the staff that contributed to the site; then the operations for multiple sites; then the marketing and operations for one very large website; and then eventually started overseeing all of the product managers. The product managers manage each of their sites as an independent business unit. I was given a lot of opportunities to try out new things by my managers and was coached by our COO on how to manage people. I decided to get an MBA when my management skills, both financial and operational, were not up to par with what my job was demanding.
My degree is pretty closely related to my job. My MBA is in technology and e-commerce, and the company that I work for develops websites and markets on behalf of our clients, so my degree followed the business almost exactly.
The main advice I would give is to use your business experience as much as possible when in school. The more that you can apply your real-life experiences, the more the information will make sense and be useful. And save your books—they will be useful later on!
I didn’t join any organizations because I was a part-time student in an executive MBA program, so we weren’t really a part of the campus life. However, my program was cohort-based, so a finite set of us took all our classes together, which was great for networking but also with supporting each other as we went through the program as working adults. We got to know each other really well, which made it much easier to work in groups and made classes a lot more fun. We’ve also kept in touch and recruited each other for jobs since the program ended.
All of my degree related to my job, and beyond normal class experiences, we did a lot of group projects and a final project in which we built a business plan over a full semester. That was the best training experience as it applied everything we had learned through the entire program and was very applicable to product management and development.
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing members of my staff excel at something they set out to do. I love seeing my team do great things and work together to accomplish those things. The most challenging part of my job--which is also rewarding--is balancing all the priorities and making good business decisions that accomplish the activities that will give the biggest return, all while making sure that business necessities that may have small return are also completed.
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