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Michael Shields, MBA, Class of 2017

After a career change and layoff, Michael Shields found that he was in a job market with little opportunity, and decided it was time to go back to school. Initially, he was uneasy about online degrees, but his wife found Florida Tech and after examining the business programs, he felt confident in becoming a Panther.

With his Master’s of Business Administration, Shields hopes to get on a leadership track and eventually become a high-level corporate executive. In the meantime, he wants to also obtain a CPA certification and a doctorate degree in business. His family drives him to succeed in his career; he wants to uphold his family legacy, and inspire his son and daughter.

Shields spoke with us more on how he was motivated throughout his student journey, and gives some advice to those looking to obtain their MBAs.

Q. Tell us about your background.

I earned an economics/finance degree and started out in investment banking. Then I moved into sleep disorders diagnostics and treatment, which at the time appeared to have tremendous business potential. However, industry and overall business circumstances changed, and I found myself laid off in a very tight job market and ultimately realized that my best and probably only chance of finding the level of employment meaningful to me would require adding to my education.

Q. What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?

I eventually had to take a full-time night shift job; therefore, my schedule would only permit me to take an online format. I had reservations about online courses which delayed my decision a couple of years. My wife actually found Florida Tech, and the online business programs had some great choices that fit my interests. Florida Tech was a brick-and-mortar school and had the reputation I was looking for, and Bisk made the application process very comfortable and stress-free.

Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?

My goals have always been to find a high-level corporate executive pathway and eventually a CFO or CEO-type of position. I am expecting my new Florida Tech degree to get me on the trail so I can work toward that echelon of career advancement.

Q. Do you have any future plans (education, career) now that you have your degree?

While my goals are to get on a corporate executive path, I now realize the importance of continuing education. I am making plans to earn my CPA certification as well as earn a doctorate degree in business, and hold open the option of being an online teacher myself.

Watch our interview with Michael Shields at commencement. 

Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?

Its ability to effectively deliver a high content and quality learning experience. The weekly format kept me engaged, and it really was not possible to take more than a day or two off at a time. The degree was really earned.

Q. What was your favorite class and why?

Investment Management, because of the trading simulation that we had in class (I still use it). I was really surprised with Organizational Behavior – that was my best class grade-wise, the professor was great and I actually enjoyed the research and writing.

Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?

The confidence of having a current and challenging degree that earned me a membership in Phi Kappa Phi. Also, the discovery of a potential career path if I choose to eventually be an educator myself.

Q. What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?

If you are in my type of situation, then respect the time and sacrifice that it takes to get the most out of the program. Here’s what I mean: many MBA students are already in their field, and the degree is simply an enhancement or ticket to better mobility. That person just needs to earn the degree. I’m using my MBA to start a new career, so it was important to actually learn the material and focus on my GPA so I could honestly report it on my resume. Also, you need a support system.

Q. Who has been your support system?

My wife; I did the MBA program in the minimum time, and there were times that I needed a break. I knew I had to press on, and her encouragement really helped. I work 50-60 hours a week and spent 12-20 hours a week on school. Fortunately, I could overlap and multitask some of that during the night shifts, but I could only take maybe one full day off a month, so personal time suffered, and my family had to understand my priorities.

Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?

My paternal grandfather was the CEO of a large electrical supply company in North Dakota, and I was inspired to have a career like his. Additionally, my family dynamic is that I’m the oldest of all the grandchildren and the only male from that generation that carries the family name. My grandfather’s brother had no male grandchildren. My son and I are the end of the tree, and I have always felt a responsibility and pressure to be a large-scale provider and family leader. It’s the kind of pressure I certainly do not put on my son, but I do hope that my MBA inspires both my son and daughter in at least a small way.

Q. What is one fun fact about you?

I assert that I was a lot more fun 30 years ago while earning my bachelor’s degree and that earning my master’s degree left no time for fun. But while I was a Boy Scout leader, my son and I achieved the High Adventure Triple Crown, which includes backpacking at the Philmont Ranch in New Mexico, wilderness canoeing in Ontario and sailing at SeaBase in the Florida Keys.

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