Sydney Slater has recently been able to apply the lessons she learned in the La Salle University Master of Business Administration in Management program to some non-business areas of life.
“I’m getting married in September 2017,” she said. “In the past year, beyond work, I’ve been wedding planning. It’s not my favorite activity, but my MBA has helped put the whole financial aspect of a wedding into perspective. That’s where I put my foot down — I’m not spending more on one day than I did on my master’s degree.”
Slater didn’t have to wait long for the MBA to pay dividends in her career either. She changed jobs three times while she earned the degree via mostly hybrid courses between 2012 and 2015. Slater started her current job as digital marketing manager at SkillSurvey in Berwyn, Pennsylvania the same year she graduated.
“I was able to apply the knowledge from the MBA program more than I ever anticipated,” Slater said. “I put what I learned, especially from the analytics and stats courses, into practice almost immediately. Even the broader level concepts continue to be useful. When we have quarterly meetings looking at cash flows and EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization], most non-finance people look around the room thinking, ‘I have no idea what language our CEO is speaking.’ From that perspective, I feel like I use my degree more often than I expected.”
After working in sales in the early stages of her career, Slater has found her true niche in marketing analytics.
“I wanted to be somewhere I would always be learning,” she said. “Not to put sales down at all, but if you can sell you can sell, and that’s that. I wanted a career in a field that’s constantly evolving, changing, one that’s never static. As a digital marketer, I’m always learning. I have to be.”
Slater, who grew up in Philadelphia suburb East Norriton, enrolled at the University of Miami to become a marine biologist. She shifted gears and became an English major, but the economy was tanking when she graduated in 2009.
“I still don’t understand why we ask 17-year-olds what they want to do for the rest of their life, but we do,” she said. “It turned out no one could do much of anything in 2009, so most recent grads were in the same boat that I was. I had a pretty diverse background after changing majors and holding different internships, but when I first entered the corporate world full-time, I thought, ‘Yeah, this is exactly where I want to be.’”
She also met her fiancee, Matt Mullin, in Miami. He is a sports journalist for PhillyVoice.com. Slater knew she would eventually return to school for a master’s degree, but she wanted to have a better idea of where her career was headed before going back.
“It was really about figuring out what would enable me to do my job better, to become more knowledgeable in my field, to help propel my career forward,” Slater said. “Also, a big part of it was that I wanted to do this for myself.
“Investing in education has always been a huge part of my life. I made some lateral moves early in my career and going back to school helped me build my confidence to transition into different areas of business. Getting my MBA helped me prove to myself that I could do this.”
Slater attended courses at all three La Salle campuses. After she started taking one course at a time in the beginning, she ramped up to two at a time. Slater said she went from spending between five and eight hours per week on school with one course to between 10 and 15 hours per week with two courses.
“It really does ebb and flow,” she said. “People ask me all of the time, ‘How much of a time investment is it?’ It’s a big time investment, but it’s really more of a life investment. It’s not just about the hours you spend in and out of the classroom. You truly have to take a step back and re-arrange your entire life because you’re essentially working two jobs — going to school full-time and working full-time.”
Exploring Every Option
Flexibility was one of the biggest reasons Slater chose La Salle, after she did painstaking research on different MBA programs.
“When I was evaluating different programs, I went to information sessions and spoke to the administrators,” she said. “Nicole Blair was the assistant dean when I was accepted and I probably emailed her questions every other day for about four months leading up to my decision. Everyone at La Salle was more than happy to help me, and if anyone has tested the limits of their patience, it’s me. There are a lot of great schools in the area, and I looked at many of them. In terms of flexibility, responsiveness, a student-centric approach … that’s what really set La Salle apart.”
Slater said the MBA in Management curriculum definitely provided her with the solid all-around knowledge base she wanted.
“In the capstone courses, we focused more on applying concepts to real-world scenarios, to our own careers and companies. Looking at financial statements didn’t terrify me anymore; I know what to look for and how these numbers reflect the day-to-day operations and overarching goals of a business. As an undergrad English major, being able to understand how these stats shape and impact the structure and strength of a company was huge for me,” she said. “La Salle did a great job making complex concepts accessible; explaining what they actually mean from an employee and an employer perspective.”
Slater said the support her family and friends provided her while she earned the MBA was a big reason for her success.
“It’s not stated enough how much you really do need a supportive network around you while you do this,” she said. “I can’t even begin to give credit to the people I know who went through this program with small children, with sick relatives living with them, with way more on their plate than I did.
“Luckily, I was at an age where losing all of my free time to enjoy being in my mid-twenties was one of the biggest hurdles. Having my fiancee, my parents and my friends understand how hectic my life was at the time was essential. Sending the ‘I’m sorry, I have class that night’ or ‘I have to study, I have a final due that day’ texts was very common. They were overwhelming supportive because they knew how important this was to me.”
The Next Chapter
Now that Slater has everything in place for her future, she knows how crucial the MBA has been to her career stability.
“As a result of me essentially stalking Nicole for five years and asking every possible question about the program, she invited me to come back in January and talk to the new students starting in the spring about my experiences, what I had done there and any advice I would give,” she said. “I’ve been in contact with her and the new dean to help them in any way I can. La Salle has been really great about keeping an active alumni community.”
So, what would some of that advice be?
“I would say — and this is advice I didn’t follow myself at all — to be patient and know yourself going into this,” Slater said. “It’s not a decision that you can make lightly. I had many friends start school, take a class and say, ‘I can’t do this right now.’ You should really know yourself and understand the program fully because it is a huge investment of your time and your energy.
“At the end of the day, it has to be something you want to do. Getting your MBA can’t be something you do because your boss says you need it to get a promotion or just because your company is going to reimburse you. It has to be something deep-seated within yourself that this is a goal or achievement personally for you.”
In other words, make sure to plan well.
Learn more about the La Salle online MBA in Management program.