May 15 Alumni Business Administration

Alum shares ROI story from his Gies online MBA

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Most work environments are already AI-driven or are about to be. Gaining mastery of AI and business analytics through an online MBA program can make emerging leaders more valuable to their companies, prompt pay increases, and help further their careers.

Artificial intelligence and the use of Big Data within companies may be in their infancy, but demand is rapidly growing for professionals who know how to harness it, when to use it, why to be cautious, and what’s around the bend.

The online MBA program (iMBA) at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business equips learners to lead their companies through the confusion and capture AI’s opportunities through data analytics.

Innovative thinkers who want to advance their careers in finance, manufacturing, health care, education and other sectors take core business courses and also choose from four specialty areas, such as AI and Business Analytics, to gain mastery through real-world, career-focused, collaborative projects and discussions. A survey of alumni shows that Gies College of Business iMBA graduates see an average 23% pay increase, and 56% receive a promotion, new position, or job offer during their studies.

Gies iMBA alumnus Rory Camangian recently was promoted from lead product marketing manager to principal of business strategy of AT&T Mass Markets’ Generative AI team. In this role, he and his team are leveraging generative AI technology to spark innovation, optimize decision-making, streamline processes, and facilitate content creation.

“I can say without a doubt that my contributions to my company on a day-to-day basis have been greatly enhanced by an MBA,” Camangian says. "The knowledge and discipline I’ve gained from the program has undoubtedly played a significant role in these opportunities for me.”

We talked with Camangian about his experiences with the Gies College of Business iMBA program.

Q: What made you choose Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois? Were there particular amenities that drew you in?

A: The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a top university in the US and the world, and that was certainly a selling point for me. However, the determining factor was their approach to executive education through online programs and the blend of online learning with high-engagement elements involving instructors, fellow students, and individuals associated with the university. Moreover, many of the professors at Gies College of Business have taught at other elite universities throughout the nation, are high-level consultants in corporate America, and are well-published thought leaders in their fields.

Q: Some people worry that they can’t carve out time for earning a master’s degree while working. What advice do you have for them?

A: I loved the way Gies College of Business orchestrated the program. Their approach was to lay a solid foundation through individual online learning, offering multiple high-engagement classes to choose from throughout the week and office hours in the evenings and sometimes early on the weekends. We were able to work through the course material on the weekends, on Monday if needed, and we turned in our work late on Tuesdays. I never found it difficult to get the work done.

It’s important to note that Gies College of Business is a community of learners, and participating in study groups and collaborating with others to better position yourself for learning is commonplace. If one puts in the work and dedicates themselves to achieving this, they need not worry. My advice would be to get started.

Q: What did you learn that has been a huge help personally and/or in your job?

A: I’ve been in the workforce for some time now, and I always had great instincts and understood how business gets done, but being able to add the academic component to some of the things that came naturally to me was unexpected and a game-changer.

When I engage with and listen to leaders at my company, who also have advanced degrees, I’m able to understand the full intent behind certain decisions and why we plan and execute various tactics to grow our business. Before I earned my degree, things may have flown by me, but I’m now able to understand strategy at a greater level and immediately spot innovation, which is really fun for me.

Q: What were your impressions of the instructors?

A: I was really impressed by how open and approachable they all were. Their classes were engaging, and their office hours were enjoyable. My professor of Process Management (now Operations & Supply Chain Management), Dr. Udatta Palekar, who has consulted for big companies like Boeing, allowed me to ask all the questions I wanted during office hours. The same was true for many other instructors; they were very willing to help us learn the material with real-world examples and not just theory.

Many were open to learning from us as well. There was one instance where I was able to contribute to a topic during class that was evolving at the time, and the instructor of that course was very open to hearing about my experiences and what I was working on to enrich the course material and advance learning for others.

Q: What’s the first thing you did at work that was a result of what you’d been learning in your classes, and how far along in the degree were you?

A: I had this amazing experience where a lot of the course material I was working through at the time was appearing in my day-to-day work. Shortly after taking Process Management (Operations & Supply Chain Management), I was working closely with AT&T’s supply chain and logistics team on inventory-related projects. I was able to contribute more because I recently gained a greater understanding of their jobs and the restock equations fueling our inventory management platform.

Leaders at my company value greater financial acumen, and the finance and accounting courses offered me the opportunity to increase my depth of understanding. The same is true for analytics. The statistics and economics courses offered me a greater understanding of our forecasting models and the consumer trends that are fueling our results. Like I said, many more situations at work weren’t passing me by. I was able to look at business with greater clarity and through an academic lens. Every time I finished a course, I felt more enlightened and had a more comprehensive understanding of various aspects of business. Achieving an MBA from Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was one of the best investments I made for myself.