Category: Graduate Student Profiles
Energized About Energy
As a student in her home country of Germany, Kira Sargatzke (IMBA’12) wasn’t sure whether her undergraduate education would translate as a recognizable degree on a worldwide level.
After graduating from high school, she went to college while simultaneously working at international chemical company BASF. BASF sponsored her education while she was in school, and after graduating she stayed at the organization for two and a half years.
“When I graduated from my first study it was clear to me that I wanted to get another degree,” she said. “I wanted something internationally known and regarded because in Germany, I graduated with what’s called an English diploma degree in international business administration. It’s in between a bachelor’s and a master’s. Other countries don’t really know what it is, so that was the reason I wanted to get my MBA.”
During her first years at BASF, she rotated through several different departments, getting to know the ins and outs of the overall company. During her postgraduate years as a full-time employee, Sargatzke focused on the strategic planning department—where she was responsible for the monitoring of different business unit strategies, industrial strategies, and regional strategies. But despite the advanced knowledge and experience she obtained throughout that time, she felt going outside her country and company to learn in a different classroom environment would be extremely beneficial.
With her previous education and work experience, she wasn’t interested in a two-year MBA program. In Boston University’s International MBA program, students spend three months in China before coming to Boston to finish their degree in just 12 months. A lover of travel, Sargatzke felt BU was a perfect fit.
Despite heading into the situation with a bit of wariness about living in China, Sargatzke figured three months was the perfect amount of time to feel it out and get acquainted with her surroundings.
“We worked on an integrated project while we were [in China],” she said. So we had to investigate a few businesses there, and just seeing the similarities and differences between those companies and those in the western world was really interesting.”
After she graduates in May, Sargatzke wants to utilize the skills she learned in the IMBA program in a scaled-down work setting. She’s already spent time at a large corporation and feels she wants to apply the concepts she’s learned to a smaller company, where it would be easier to showcase her ability.
Her main goal, however, is to be challenged, and the field she feels could satisfy this need the most is energy.
“I’d like to work in a growing industry where companies are facing changing market requirements and new challenges in a very fast-paced environment,” Sargatzke said. “With renewable, alternate sources of energy, the possibility of creating sustainable solutions for the future is a strong personal focus. But in my old job, I was exposed to the more traditional industry of oil and gas energy, so I’m interested in that, too.”
Sargatzke has already taken several courses in strategy, such as corporate strategy for growth and strategy implementation, that have given her a highly positive outlook on her prospective career. Those classes, coupled with the different learning environment, has made the IMBA experience one she has no regrets about taking part in.
“What’s impressed me the most about this program is the collaboration and communication between professors and students,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference, but all of the professors here have been so approachable, and I’m learning a lot from both them and my classmates.”
By Michael Pina
Redesigning a Design Career
After graduating from England’s Teesside University in the mid-1990s, Phil Duffy (IMBA’12) figured he had two options he could pursue with his undergraduate degree in industrial design.
“With industrial design, half the school wants to go and design cars, and the other half wants to design things for the film industry,” he said. “I was the guy who wanted to design ships and rockets for movies, but in the UK the film industry is almost nonexistent.”
Knowing full well that getting a foot inside the entertainment industry’s door can be next to impossible, Duffy decided that as long as he was able to stretch his imagination and come up with new, fresh ideas on a regular basis, he’d be happy.
Instead of heading to work right away, Duffy, a longtime student of martial arts, decided to move to China and soak up as much of the nation’s culture as he could. He originally intended to spend about a year there, but stayed a total of 16 years.
“I worked three years for several no-name consumer goods companies as a design manager but then I landed a position at WowWee.” He stayed ten years at WowWee, a Hong Kong-based toy manufacturer, running product development for the company before deciding to start one of his own.
He named it Blue Monkey Toys. Duffy ran Blue Monkey for three years as a company that did a little consulting but also produced its own products.
“We made toys that would actually become creatures,” he said. “They could walk around the house, visualize where they were going, and avoid walls and stairs. They had personality.”
Despite having virtually no business education in his background, Duffy figured that his prior 13 years working at WowWee would see him through the difficulties that come with starting your own enterprise. But after three years, Blue Monkey Toys was forced to close.
“I made classic, big mistakes that you don’t make if you go and get your MBA first,” he said. “I didn’t have anybody working for me who specialized in finance or marketing. I had to play those roles and I didn’t know how.”
Feeling like he needed to reaffirm connections with the toy industry’s US market, Duffy decided to enroll in Boston University’s one-year International MBA program, where students spend three months in China followed by nine more in Boston. Here he’s learning how to prevent those same mistakes from happening in the future. He’s chosen marketing as his concentration, a decision he hopes will diversify his skill set once he reenters the field.
“Eventually I hope to get back to an entrepreneurial situation, should the opportunity come,” Duffy said. “But to start, I want to go back to design and look at it from a marketing point of view. Being at school has really helped me build up the marketing side and understand how a product can be a revenue-generating concept before it goes into development.”
The decision to return to school at the age of 41 was an easy one for Duffy. He knew he needed a challenge, and the intensity that comes with trying to receive an MBA in a single calendar year has provided more than enough intellectual stimulation.
“The international management side of things was all about an area I love,” he said. “And it directly relates to everything I did with my business.”
Once he receives his degree in May, Duffy plans to reenter the consumer product industry armed with the knowledge he’s absorbed in the past year. One of the most important classes he’s taken so far was Consumer Behavior, a course that deals with the psychology of consumers and their purchasing patterns. As a designer, that information is essential for Duffy.
“A lot of the time marketers will look at products and make decisions based on the numbers and the marketplace, but they’re not really looking forward,” he said. “When you have an 18-month timeline to come out with your product, you need to be forward thinking, and an understanding of design thinking allows you to do that.”
By Michael Pina
New Horizons for a Frequent Flier
Airports represent a gateway to adventure for many people. They’ve been that to Alex Bonder Weissbrod (MBA’13), too. He’s traveled throughout Europe, South America, Israel, New Zealand, and Japan. For Bonder, however, airports have also been a workplace and a place of wonder.
Growing up in Mexico City, as the child (and brother) of physicians, Bonder traveled frequently with his family. But as much as he enjoyed their destinations, Bonder found the airports themselves fascinating. He quickly learned which airlines represented which countries and would check to see which nations were in attendance during his airport visits.
As he got older, he was the one who planned the family trips, giving more attention to the nuances of the journey than any travel agent might. He learned about airline hubs, compared loyalty programs, and discovered the quirks of various aircraft types.
It seemed inevitable that Bonder would work for an airline, and after graduating from college with a degree in economics, he did. He began working in revenue management for Aeromexico, eventually becoming the chief of staff for the organization’s CEO.
He believed he had found his dream job. Making a commitment to the airline industry in Mexico, however, meant making a commitment to continuing his education. The executives at Aeromexico, Bonder says, all have impressive graduate degrees, including MBAs and PhDs.
Not surprising for someone interested in hubs, Bonder looked to the city known as The Hub for a graduate school. Bonder had come to Boston as a teenager to study English.
“All the students in the area bring energy to the region,” he says. “I came to Boston because I wanted to change my style of living. Compared to Mexico City, an amazing cosmopolitan city with over 21 million people, Boston is a small town. I like that it is rich in culture, and that I can walk everywhere. I think that being in a different environment enhances your learning experience,” he says.
He was impressed with the School of Management’s (SMG) general management program. When he visited the school, he found the students to be very friendly. Now, after just a few months at SMG, he feels his classmates are “like family.”
Perhaps unexpected for a man who is used to the view at 35,000 feet, he has found that his horizons are opening up as well. Living in a city that is a global leader in health care, Bonder is giving the family business, medicine, a second look.
A class with Associate Professor Melvyn Menezes has given him a new passion for marketing, as well. “Before I came to SMG, I wasn’t interested in the field,” he says. “I never thought of it as being much more than just advertising. But the marketing class has been just amazing. We’ve learned a lot of strategies,” Bonder says.
After receiving his degree, Bonder may return to the airline industry. But because of the new vistas that SMG has opened, he’s considering other possibilities as well. Guided by a career advisor at the Feld Career Center, Bonder has attended multiple panels on the consulting field. He’s intrigued by the industry’s multiple management challenges.
Working for a consulting firm might offer a new adventure while still allowing him to work with the airlines, he says. It might also give him experience in his new interests in health care and marketing. Whatever comes next on Bonder’s journey, it’s clear the flight plan will have multiple destinations.
By Madeline Bodin
Counting Her Steps
Students of the School’s Master of Science in Mathematical Finance (MSMF) program are not weak of heart. To take on such a rigorous course of study, you just can’t be.
“A lot of people are scared of math,” says first-year student Mudita Dhingra (MSMF ’12). “But I’m the opposite. I love solving mathematical problems. For a lot of people they’re just numbers, but I love the idea that when you put them to the right use, you can get so much information from them.”
Growing up in New Delhi, India, the daughter of a university professor of Spanish and a World Health Organization (WHO) consultant, Mudita is articulate, driven, and deliberate. She’s goal-oriented and loves to lead. “Leadership experience started early with me, with things like being a class monitor,” she says. “A lot of people might want to run away from those types of responsibilities, but I’ve always enjoyed them.”
At Sri Venkateswara College as a math major, Mudita was in heaven. Not only was she able to focus on math (she was valedictorian of her class one of three years, and among the top three the other two years), but she had the chance to lead the college mathematics association as vice president. She liked organizing math events and spearheading the efforts and overall decision-making of the association. After college, Mudita joined Standard Chartered Bank in Mumbai, as part of wholesale banking, and was actively involved with the bank’s Living with HIV initiative. But she wanted to know more than just front-office finance.
“Because I love being around people, my friends and family thought I would pursue an MBA. But I’m also very detail-oriented and always want to know what’s going on behind the scenes. When I’m quoting a figure to a client, I want to know the math that’s going on behind it. I may get my MBA later, but I want to be strong with my quantitative fundamentals first. My ideal career is to combine my finance and leadership skills with my love for numbers in something like risk management or equity research.” With such goal-oriented interests, you might be wondering what, if anything, Mudita does to relax and have a good time. She did a lot of public speaking and debating in school, but the thing that really took hold of her heart was dance, specifically a classical Indian dance from Tamil Nadu called Bharatanatyam.
“Dance isn’t something I would call a hobby,” she explains. “It’s a passion for me. I started learning Bharatanatyam when I was seven years old. It takes a lot of practice, but that’s my way to relax. I looked forward to it more than anything else, and I got to exercise and learn something amazing at the same time.”
Bharatanatyam, a “story” dance based on ancient myths about Indian gods, requires intense teaching from a guru for many years. It involves many intricate moves and costumes, and a particular set of instruments and style of music.
“I danced for 11 years before my guru, my practiced teacher, felt I had learned it in all its nuances and that I could perform independently and professionally.” Mudita is looking forward to the chance to perform publicly in the United States and, when her busy schedule clears up, she may trade formulas for choreography, at least temporarily.
By Alissa Mallinson
The World is Her Stage
Parminderjit Bhullar (MBA PNP ’13), known as Pammi, is an actor, a world-traveler, and an education advocate, but she found the path to her future by chopping vegetables.
The acting, travelling, ledgers, and passion for education have all pointed her towards a career in education management. The vegetables brought her to the Public and Nonprofit (PNP) Management program at the School of Management.
Dedicated to facilitating innovative educational opportunities for others, Bhullar’s most memorable educational experiences have occurred on stage. In high school, she acted in a Humane Society play that showed elementary school students how to care for their pets.
“The auditorium was so small,” she says of the rural school she attended outside of Pittsburgh. “You really got a feel for how your presence was affecting the students. It was so personal.”
As a theater minor at the University of Pittsburgh, she participated in four plays, including one that immersed her in the Suzuki Method of Actor Training, which emphasizes strenuous, martial arts-like preparation for roles.
“It was difficult work,” she says. “I was sore every day.” But she also bonded with the other members of the cast in a way she hadn’t in other plays. She maintains those friendships to this day. “I learned how much camaraderie you can build through hard work and pursuing a common goal,” she says.
She found camaraderie again while researching graduate schools. Bhullar had been fast-tracked as an employee at an investment firm. However, she realized that although theoretically successful, her career was not fulfilling her dream to use her business skills to support innovative education.
During her graduate school search, she attended an SMG Public and Nonprofit Club community service event at a Boston-area organization that delivers meals to the homebound. Bhullar joined the club members in chopping vegetables for the day’s meal and touring the facility.
The people were warm and friendly, and Bhullar realized that at the School she would be surrounded by other students who share her values.
Among the shared values are an international perspective and a zeal for foreign travel. As an undergraduate, Bhullar studied for a semester in France, and before starting at SMG, she and her fiancé, Eric Tracey, taught English to Tibetan refugees in India for four months. On a volunteer basis, she was also able to help a few organizations in India clarify their financial statements.
“I realized, ‘this is where I can contribute,’” she says. “It helped form my path more clearly.”
Over winter break, that path led her to Honduras with the BU group Students Helping Honduras to build a school and work with a micro-finance program. Bhullar will participate in SMG’s European Field Seminar in her second year to learn more about European education.
After graduating, Bhullar plans to combine her globetrotting ways with her fervor for education. She intends to collect the best educational ideas from around the world, then put those ideas to work in a government or nonprofit organization that improves communities through education.”I see myself contributing to an international educational organization, and then bringing that knowledge back to the US.”
By Madeline Bodin
A Grassroots Developer
Jessica Friesen, a first-year fulltime MBA student in BU’s Public & Nonprofit Management Program, grew up in an environment devoid of clean water, plentiful food, and general safety. With both parents working as teachers in Southeast Asia, she was born in Thailand, but spent her childhood in Malaysia. It was a background that focused her views on what’s truly important in life, and how people should treat one another.
“I think that growing up where people couldn’t avoid these challenges—because they’re always present—embedded in me a desire to get involved to try and find solutions,” she said.
After completing high school, Friesen moved to the United States to study theology at Wheaton College in Illinois. For one summer, she interned in Malawi with World Relief, an international development NGO, which reinforced to her the real world challenges a majority of the population is forced to endure. The experience motivated her to get even more involved in community development.
Upon graduating in 2008, Friesen spent a year and a half participating in the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Chicago. Again, her interest in the nonprofit industry grew, and she decided to go back to school to study nonprofit management from the business angle.
“The way that the world’s moving towards disintegration between the public sector, the nonprofit sector, and for-profit sector, I really felt an MBA would equip me for all the changes,” Friesen said.
In her first year as an MBA student at BU, she’s come to appreciate a few things about the school that she wasn’t expecting. One of them is the varying backgrounds of her classmates, both professionally and culturally. She has classmates from the health sector, from finance, and from manufacturing.
“The relationships between people whose social and professional skills cover a wide range,” she said. “I’m really impressed, and I’ve benefited from that a lot.”
Apart from the rigorous life she has earning her degree, Friesen is on the board for OneWheaton, a nonprofit organization that provides support for LGBT Wheaton College alumni and students. On Columbus Day weekend, she helped organize a homecoming for LGBT alumni who wouldn’t normally feel comfortable going back to the school.
“Wheaton is a very conservative, evangelical school,” Friesen said. “Our homecoming was a very healing event for many us alumni that also allowed us to provide an important presence on campus for LGBT students who may be struggling. It’s something that’s close to my heart.”
Once she gets her degree, Friesen hopes to work in upper management at a grassroots community development organization, helping in both the strategy and operations side.
“I believe that the solution to many of our world’s most pressing challenges reside in the communities where they exist,” she said. “I want to use my skills and experience to help nonprofits gain access to resources to run effective programs and achieve real results.”
By Michael Pina
Patrick Gallagher MPH ’10, MBA HSM ’11
Patrick Gallagher (MPH ’10, MBA HSM ’11) has always been interested in healthcare entrepreneurship and international development. Soon after arriving at the Boston University School of Management, he met a professor working on a business plan to provide needed medical devices throughout the developing world. Patrick not only helped write the plan, but also helped pitch the plan to a financial group to secure funding.
Horsfield (MBA’13) Wants to Shape the Future of News
Olivia Horsfield (MBA’13) is passionate about the importance of the media. “Quality news has an important role in society,” she says. “It calls powerful individuals to account, and it has entertainment value.”
However, you won’t find newsprint ink smudging Horsfield’s fingertips. For her, the future of media is digital. She’s eager to help the industry evolve from ink on paper to pixels in cyberspace. Horsfield, a Fulbright scholarship student from London, is finding that the School of Management (SMG) is helping her evolve, too, from a market researcher to a well-rounded business strategist.
Horsfield studied history at Oxford University. She “just sort of fell into market research,” knowing that it played to her strengths. “History is all about understanding people and their actions,” she says, and so is marketing.
After working for a large market research firm in her native Britain, Horsfield began doing market research for the Guardian Media Group (in Britain), which has more online traffic than either USA Today or The Wall Street Journal. Horsfield’s research drove the Guardian newspaper’s successful iPhone app introduction two years ago, and informed the relaunch of its Sunday sister publication The Observer last year.
However, Horsfield would rather guide this electronic media revolution than merely provide data for it, so she decided to continue her studies.
Her Fulbright stipulated that she study in the United States, and among US graduate business schools, she was attracted to SMG’s reputation in technology management and its broad-based curriculum that embraces nonprofit as well as for-profit management.
“The broad business background offered here is what I lacked,” Horsfield says. The diversity in the program offerings also reflected the diversity of her fellow students’ interests, she says. “They’re not all management consultants and bankers. Their interests are broad and they’re socially conscious, which makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.”
As a first-year MBA, Horsfield feels she has already learned lessons she’ll use for the rest of her career, particularly during the Integrated Project course, which allowed her to work in a team with five other students and apply what she learned in her core classes to a simulated brand acquisition. She’s also looking forward to the technology courses in her second year that will allow her to benefit from SMG’s expertise in technology management.
After graduating, the terms of her Fulbright mean that Horsfield must return to Britain, but she can envision herself working in the United States in the future. She plans to work as a strategic management consultant for the media industry, either for a boutique, or for a larger management-consulting firm. She’s also considering going back to a media firm, like the Guardian or Google, but this time working in strategy rather than market research.
“From an intellectual perspective, the challenges the media industry is facing make it very exciting,” Horsfield says. While some in the newspaper industry see technology and the Internet as its downfall, Horsfield sees them as both the industry’s savior and a perk of being knowledgeable in the field. “With the technology—Facebook, Twitter, smartphones—you feel like you’re always on the cutting edge.”
By Madeline Bodin
“In high school, I was both the jock and the dork,” says Jason Issertell (PEMBA ’12). “Football season ended around Thanksgiving, just in time for FIRST Robotics season.” The FIRST competition is a battle between teams of high school students to see who can build the best robot using sophisticated engineering principles. Jason was the captain of his school’s FIRST team, as well as an all-star football player. “Robotics competitions in high school were like sports for dorks,” he says with a laugh.
“The connection between all the things I love is the competition behind them,” he explains. “In sports the competitive aspect is obvious, but even with engineering, we didn’t just build robots; we competed against other schools for the best robot.”
“For the first time, I worked on the engineering and the business side of things, which really opened my eyes.”
Growing up in Merrimack, New Hampshire, Jason spent a lot of time building forts in his backyard. “I really love building things. It’s been a theme for me from the beginning.” After he entered the University of Rhode Island, majoring in mechanical engineering and playing football, he realized that his two loves were both full-time commitments, and academics eventually won out.
Jason theorizes that it’s his love for competition that drives him in business too. But he can pinpoint his business interest even more specifically than that. He tells the story of how he joined General Electric as an aircraft engine design engineer after a stint as a mechanical engineer at General Dynamics. At GE, where he works as a team leader, he joined a project with an unusually large scope for someone in his position, involving considerations like profitability and cost reduction that were new for him. His cross-functional team created a way to use robotic technologies to make parts, saving GE significant time and money.
“For the first time, I worked on the engineering and the business side of things, which really opened my eyes to all the other aspects of a business I’d been missing. I realized that engineering was directly connected to all of them, and that, taken as a whole, they ultimately fueled business competition in the market. I liked that.
“In engineering school, you always stay within the box of engineering. That project sparked my desire to earn an MBA in supply chain management. I wanted to take it to the next level.” Thus he joined the BU MBA program as a part-time student.
In his spare time, Jason is an avid East Coast surfer, obsessed from the first time he ever touched a board. Yes, you read that right—an East Coast surfer. He surfs all year long in New England waters, keeping warm with high-tech wet suits. “When I first started surfing, I told myself that I’d stop in October when it starts to get cold. But then I put on some extra layers and kept going. Suddenly it was December and I thought, ‘Well, spring isn’t too far now.’ I just can’t tear myself away.”
If Jason’s fantasy career of owning a business that produces high-tech sportswear and equipment becomes a reality, he may not have to tear himself away from anything he loves.
By Susan Johnston
Growing up in New Jersey, Michael Monaco (MSMF ’12) started private tennis lessons in middle school and grew to love the combination of physical and mental challenges. “Even if somebody’s in a lot better shape, you can still beat them by being more creative,” he says, comparing a game of tennis to a chess match. Monaco continued playing singles tennis on his high school’s varsity team and on a club team at Lehigh University, where his team advanced to nationals in Arizona one year.
Monaco’s strategic maneuvers on the tennis court also parallel his study of mathematical finance in Boston University’s School of Management (SMG). “Math finance is like having sound mechanics,” he says. “If you have a good backhand, that’s good, but it doesn’t mean you’ll win matches. You have to understand how to play to your opponent’s weaknesses. It’s having the tools but also needing to know how to use them.”
While at Lehigh, Monaco joined the fraternity Phi Kappa Theta and spent two summers studying abroad and interning in Prague. But an internship in New York City at Bloomberg’s FX department the summer after junior year sparked his interest in using mathematical tools to better understand the financial markets. “They had me building this model for financial conditions in the middle of the credit crisis, but I hadn’t had serious statistics at that point,” he says. “I was curious ‘how can I do this more precisely? What are the standard practices to use?’” Back at Lehigh, Monaco began taking more math classes, where a professor urged him to apply to graduate programs in mathematical finance.
The length and structure of SMG’s program appealed to the business and economics major, because many of the other programs he found lasted only a year compared to seventeen months at SMG. “First semester is pure math and second semester you start to apply the theory as much as you can based on what you learned in the first semester,” says Monaco. “During the final semester, it’s applied and everything comes together.” He says he also appreciates the balance of theory and application, as well as the diversity of his classmates.
Monaco spent the summer after his first year in Washington, D.C. interning at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) upon the suggestion of the Feld Career Center. With a year of mathematical finance coursework under his belt, Monaco says the internship “was really rewarding to contribute in a meaningful way and contribute with what I was learning.” One of Monaco’s projects at the SEC involved providing calculations to lawyers for a product whose price was in dispute, which inspired him to apply for positions in litigation support at consulting companies.
Once he graduates, Monaco hopes to stay on the East Coast (Boston, New York, or Washington, D.C.), but he’s open to other opportunities, too. Whether building pricing models or practicing his backhand, Monaco’s ability to remain flexible and think on his feet serve him well.