From the time Rita Reed landed her first job as a teenager, she has always gravitated toward leadership roles. Now, her goal is to become an even stronger leader with a Master of Business Administration in Finance from La Salle University.
“While I have a lot of experience, I still felt like I wanted to understand some of the more detailed parts of the industry, especially in the ever evolving world of financial services,” she said. “I’ve been managing people for a while, so I thought, ‘You know, I can still learn some new ways to coach and develop people.’ More importantly, having an MBA definitely makes you more competitive in the job market.”
Reed is on track to graduate in 2018, but the work she has completed in the hybrid MBA program has already helped her land a job as account development manager at American Express in Philadelphia. She started the new position after more than 15 years of employment at The Vanguard Group, a large investment firm known for its mutual funds.
“During interviews, I was asked about my MBA courses and the content of the classes,” Reed said. “I am certain that being in the MBA program made me a more marketable candidate and perhaps helped me snag the role.”
Not surprisingly, Reed has already recommended the MBA in Finance program to several of her peers.
“I share with friends and colleagues, that the MBA program is actually an enjoyable experience,’” said Reed, who has also served on the board of the National Black MBA Association, Philadelphia chapter. “I like discussing business issues with other students that are also professionals. An MBA will definitely help your professional development, big time. It’s a great program that’s very tight-knit.”
There were several factors that led Reed to choose La Salle University after some extensive research on MBA programs. One of them was familiarity with the school since she grew up in the same neighborhood as La Salle — Philadelphia.
“When I went to find a program, I needed one that would fit into my life,” she said. “It needed to have a convenient schedule, and I wanted flexibility. Some programs require cohorts, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to move at my own pace.”
Affordability and prestige of the institution also helped Reed decide on La Salle, whose School of Business holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
“It was not just respectability of the institution, but there were some alumni I was familiar with and impressed with,” she said. “It seemed like La Salle focused on your education, which was important.”
Even with a hectic work schedule, Reed had been able to strike a balance between school and the rest of her commitments.
“It’s definitely manageable,” she said. “While I’m certainly learning new things, the biggest challenge is time management. Even if they’re presenting information I’m familiar with, I still need to make sure I have time to dig in or complete an assignment.”
Reed said her supervisors at both Vanguard and American Express have gone out their way to help make sure she has enough time for her classes.
“They’d say, ‘Go ahead’ or ‘We’ll cover.’ They have all been very supportive,” she said.
Her employers are not the only ones to help Reed manage to meet the demands of working a full-time job and attending a master’s degree program.
“My mom and dad just can’t imagine their child is getting her MBA,” she said. “They’re excited. My husband [Wilson Baucom] is also excited. If I have finals or a certain assignment due, that might spill into weekend time. I have to make sure my family and friends understand.”
Reed, the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree, said she spends between five and 15 hours per week on school.
“I tell my colleagues, ‘Don’t be intimidated by the topics,’ because most of the people in my world are already professional people.
“I say, ‘You’re going to know so much when you start going to school. The time piece is definitely a factor that can be managed.’ And they should do it, because once you get into that first class and you’re interacting with people from other companies, you get to talk about the business world.”
Two of Reed’s favorite courses so far have been MBA 692: Financial Performance: Control and Measurement and MBA 810: Developing Your Leadership Skills.
“After years as a leader, it was surprising that I learned new things about leadership,” she said. “They were really creative ways to engage a team and give feedback — things I thought, ‘Wow, I can actually apply that today,’ and I did. I liked interacting with the other students in class. And the teachers were phenomenal. They used creative ways to help us learn.”
Reed particularly enjoyed the manner in which the information was presented in the Financial Performance: Control and Measurement class.
“The course was taught by a chief financial officer,” she said. “What I liked about the course was that it was really complex information, but the teacher — this was just what he did every day in his job — made it really easy and took the intimidation factor away from learning the material.”
Ready for the Future
Reed looks forward to the rest of the knowledge she will gain in the MBA program and where her degree will ultimately help take her career. She’s especially eager to walk the stage on graduation day with her family on hand to cheer her on.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “For an MBA, you’d better attend graduation.”
Reed, who enjoys spending time with her family and her cairn terrier Lola, knows that wherever her career goes, she’ll be even more prepared to lead with an MBA.
“Leadership is just part of who I am,” she added. “I joined a financial services company and just grew from there. I have an interest in the business world. I’m drawn to how business impacts our culture and vice versa. Of course, I love people and love interacting with people. Somehow, all of those things sort of come together.”
Learn more about the La Salle online MBA in Finance program.