I’m over the moon to FINALLY be doing this!
My name is Jen Oloo. I currently live in Austin, Texas and hold the position of EVP, Client Service at Brandmuscle, a marketing technology firm. I’ve been with Brandmuscle for over 8 years and initially joined the organization as a Manager. I’m originally from a small beach community outside of Los Angeles.
Through my 15 years of experience in this field, I’ve often considered going back to school. 2015 is the year I’m making that happen. A busy travel schedule and two young children at home made it clear that online learning would be an ideal environment for me to earn a degree. Rocheser Institute of Technology stood out right from the gate, being named one of the top online programs by U.S. News & World Report, and is a well-recognized and respected university.
RIT’s Executive MBA admission process was a key differentiator for me. Their personal touch and comprehensive interview process was refreshing. These people obviously care a great deal about who will be included in their program. I felt that if accepted, I would be contributing to a cohort of like-minded, top-performing individuals.
I was right.
Arrival: Let the games begin!
After a 4-hour delay out of Austin, I arrived in Rochester, NY for residency. The RIT EMBA team had arranged comfortable accommodations. Big rooms, plenty of work space, and most importantly, a king size bed in which to PASS OUT! After I ironed my suit and checked in with my family, I was off to bed.
Day One: Meeting the dream team
My alarm sounded at 6:30AM. After attending a conference call with my CEO, I met the shuttle van to head to campus. I chatted with two classmates on the way to campus; an entrepreneur from Florida who had completed his undergrad at RIT and already had one Master’s degree under his belt, and the other from Los Angeles, working in analytics for a high profile aerospace company. There were smiles all around and excitement in the air! As we arrived on campus, I admired the beautiful landscape and instantly felt pride that this would be MY school.
The EMBA staff had arranged for breakfast and kept the coffee hot; what a lifesaver. After introductions, we moved on to a team building exercise with Mike Palanski. Professor Palanski led us through a fun icebreaker that helped to create immediate rapport within our teams.
After kicking off team contracts with Mike, we covered iPad setup with Dave Ballard. Dave is a knowledgeable IT resource for online students. I’m sure I’ll be reaching out to him several times over the next 17 months. Having an iPad will ensure that we can access materials from anywhere, which is fantastic as I’m always on the go.
The afternoon kept us busy with the Dean’s lunch and professional portraits, followed up by a session on Ethical Decision Making with Dr. Robert Barbato. This first class ignited my mind. It was a powerful way to kick-off the program and it felt satisfying to be back in a classroom environment. Dr. Barbato made me consider and reflect upon on how ethics impacts my life today, demonstrating that I can take what I’m learning in class and utilize it in parallel with work.
We closed out day one with dinner at Max’s. There were lots of choices and the food was delicious. Max’s was a lovely setting to reconnect with all the staff and professors we had met earlier including a couple new faces. We arrived back at the hotel after 10PM, which made for an action-packed day.
Day Two: Thank goodness for Visine and Great Student Resources
So tired! Day 2 began with a healthy dose of eye drops. First up was a short session on writing with Dr. Pat Scanlon. Once more, the EMBA staff came through with providing a resource to help us succeed, a writing coach. This guy is amazing. He reads who knows how many papers and turns them around within 48 hours. I’m looking forward to utilizing Dr. Scanlon’s expertise and quick turnaround time.
During the afternoon we took a virtual tour of the online interface and were introduced to Jennifer Freer, Business Librarian. Jen is clearly an over-achiever with a huge brain in which to store endless amount of information. Needless to say, her contact info is now in my quick dial list.
After a brief stop to pick up student IDs, we met for a Capstone project overview with Executive MBA Program Director Marty Lawlor. He brought in two alumni to take us through their experience. This session was paramount in understanding the level of effort required to succeed and the team cohesion necessary to get us to graduation. The alums conveyed how much they had enjoyed the program and how hard they worked to earn their degrees.
Accounting with Dr. Tessoni and Roberta Klein was up next. I have always thought of accounting as “that numbers thing those numbers people handle”. Dr. Tessoni was engaging, ensuring to drive home key concepts that will serve as the basis for our next 12 weeks with him. Finance is a knowledge gap for me and I can already tell I will learn a great deal throughout his coursework.
After our sessions we headed over to the Barnes & Noble bookstore to grab some RIT swag and then enjoyed dinner at Dr. Barbato’s residence. This personal touch is just the type of thing I’ve come to expect from the staff and professors in this Executive MBA program. We were able to unwind, speak with alumni, and learn more about our new teammates. Each day solidified my enrollment decision and fostered pride in my new school.
Day Three: Bitter sweet, but well-connected
After two long days, I needed a high-energy class to keep my eyes open. Enter Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace with John Mueller. The spirited discussion (and constant flow of coffee) kept me going. After lunch we reviewed the academic policy with Marty Lawlor. This was a good level set on what’s expected of us during the program. In conjunction with our team contracts, we are clear on exactly what each of us must commit to in order to be successful.
We ended the day with an intro to leadership and finalized team contracts with Mike Palanski. After three days with this group, I felt incredibly connected. I already had team meetings scheduled on my calendar for the following week, homework assignments to complete, and all the tools necessary to hit the ground running. Our group quickly built rapport, earning mutual respect and admiration.
Heading into our first week of classes I am energized and confident. I’ve made a life-changing decision by enrolling in the online Executive MBA program at RIT. I’m so grateful to embark on this journey with supportive staff, engaging instructors, and a team I can count on. These are my people and I will make them proud.