After years of building a career in pharmaceutical research and development, Amanda Watkins knew it was time for a change.
"I was feeling like something was missing," she said. "I wasn't really passionate about it anymore. The more I moved up to where I thought I wanted to be, the more I realized it wasn't at all what I thought, and it wasn't at all what I wanted."
Now, Watkins is a contract project manager at Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson, and is enrolled in the Master of Business Administration online program at La Salle University. She is on track to graduate in Spring 2020.
"My company laid off my entire department, which gave me time to reassess and figure out what I really wanted to do," she said. "What do I want to be when I grow up?
"I took a year to think about it, and while I was trying to make up my mind, I decided to pursue my MBA. I have always had an interest in business, and I knew after 15 years of research, I can't do another 30. I need to do something that I am truly interested in.'"
Watkins grew up in Philadelphia suburb Oreland, so she was quite familiar with the university before enrolling in the online MBA program.
"I knew about La Salle's reputation," she said. "I took my GRE exam a long time ago when I took some classes toward a master's degree. I didn't want to have to take another standardized test. I didn't have to at La Salle, which was a big thing for me."
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Watkins began her career in research while enrolled at Drexel University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences in 2004.
She was initially hired as a short-term contractor at Janssen to fill in for a worker who was going to be out for an extended period of time, but she found herself at a loose end once in.
"There was no work for what they hired me to do," Watkins said. "It was basically, 'How can I make myself valuable here for the four months I am hired?'
"They didn't have anybody in business operations, and there was a lot of work to be done. So, I started doing that instead. They realized it's a function they really needed and extended my contract."
The flexibility of the online format allows Watkins to maintain her job while making time for her husband, Pat, and sons, Patrick (4) and Brayden (2).
"The program is amazing," she said. "It's like, 'Where has this been all of my life? I didn't realize when I joined the program how flexible it is. I kind of figured there would be dedicated days I need to rush around and sit down for a lecture.
"There are some synchronous lectures or some professors who do a live session a couple of times a term, but it's not like it's every week where I have to devote two hours to a lecture. I can do it on my time, which has been really huge for me."
Watkins has enjoyed three courses the most in the program: MBA 693: Business Analytics for Informed and Effective Decision Making, MBA 820: Information Technology for Decision Making and MBA 810: Developing Your Leadership Skills.
"It's been amazing," she said. "It's so much easier to learn when it's something you enjoy and something that holds your interest. That's been different for me. I have been able to use so many things I have learned to be an asset to my team."
Ready to Roll
Watkins, who will be the first person in her immediate family to earn a graduate degree, has had some help while earning a master's degree and laying the foundation for a new career.
"My family and friends are really excited," she said. "My husband has been 100% supportive. He's picking up extra and helping out with the kids to be able to give me time to study and focus on my coursework."
Although Watkins still has a few months remaining before graduation, she is seeing the MBA pay early dividends.
"I have already been interviewing for jobs, and I don't think I would have gotten a lot of the calls if I wasn't working on the MBA," she said. "I have experience, but it's so hard to translate that when all I have on my resume is 15 years of research."
Watkins said she will celebrate the accomplishment of earning a master's degree. Now that she has the passion back in her career, she looks forward to seeing what the future holds.
"I like doing business operations, but I am also into project management," she said. "I am in a transition because I know my contract will be ending at the end of the year. I am hoping to find something using my skills that I have already learned.
"I have definitely received good value from the program. It's an investment in yourself. If you have the interest and are thinking about it, I would say definitely do it."
Learn more about the La Salle online MBA program.
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