When Jered Gaspard decided to take the leap and return to college for a Master of Business Administration, he knew exactly where to go.
“I love Lafayette,” Gaspard said. “I grew up here and have lived here most of my life. UL Lafayette is something we’re fortunate to have.”
Gaspard attended class on campus with a few online courses and graduated with an MBA in 2016. The degree program is now available fully online. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and humanities from UL Lafayette in 2012. And make no mistake, he’s one proud Ragin’ Cajun.
“Of course, our business program is one of the highest-rated ones in the country,” Gaspard said. “We’re pretty fortunate to have that here, and I was definitely willing to take advantage of it. UL [Lafayette] is a big part of the reason why Lafayette is a great city. I’ve got a family, and we love living here.”
Gaspard worked 45-50 hours per week while he earned the MBA, which helped him land his current job as project manager for PHI HeliPass in December 2016. Prior to that, he was the information technology (IT) Project Manager for LHC Group, where he worked for a decade.
“The MBA is beneficial in terms of the skills you bring with you and the skills you develop during the program, but then it also gives you a level of confidence when you’re looking for another job,” he said. “Whenever you’re looking to make career moves, it gives you a level of confidence in making those moves.”
The IT Crowd
Gaspard worked in retail for several years before he started at LHC as a senior support technician in 2006.
“I’d taken a really good new retail gig, and then I had this IT job that fell out of the sky,” he said. “I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll give it a shot. It’s something different.’ It was definitely my first office gig, but it wasn’t one of those behind-the-desk-all-day jobs. It was more running around, pulling cable, punching phone lines and doing a lot of hands-dirty kind of work.”
However, Gaspard worked his way up in the company and eventually found himself behind a desk, managing enterprise-level IT infrastructure and business projects.
“It was very enjoyable,” he said. “Technology was fun. Having worked in retail management for a while, I had a really good sense of how a business runs and how that machine ticks over, so I had the basic soft skills to work with management effectively and understand the role of technology in the business. I was able to really take to it and make technology work in a very effective way in that business.”
Gaspard said he wanted a new job for more consistent work hours and a change of scenery.
“It was not a dissatisfaction with the previous gig,” he said. “It was more that it was time to move on to something else and sharpen other skills I either hadn’t used or hadn’t built yet. It was time continue growing. That’s how I ended up here.”
He’s happy that he prepared to take on that new career, which is more software than IT infrastructure, with the MBA.
“So far, it’s great,” Gaspard said. “I’m participating in the business at a level I don’t know I would have expected, but that’s exactly what I was looking for — an opportunity to get into the nuts and bolts of operations. I figured the MBA would be the best entry point for understanding how the business worked and gaining a foothold in speaking that language a bit better than I did.”
Night Time Is Right Time
Gaspard said part of the reason he was able to earn an MBA on campus with such a busy work schedule was because UL Lafayette offers business courses at night.
“It’s very much built around people who work,” he said. “The expectation is that most students have jobs — they work 40 hours a week. I had enough control of my schedule at that time to do it. It was just good fortune that I was able to participate in all of my classes.”
Gaspard said he enjoyed the business systems and technology courses the most since the material was right in his wheelhouse.
“I was a system administrator, so it was something I was familiar with,” he said. “It was learning the business end of a lot of stuff I already did on a daily basis. That stuff was a lot of fun.”
He also liked the behavior courses, which were applicable to his former job as well as his current job.
“That was a component of business school I thought was really interesting,” Gaspard said. “It was a lot of fun understanding how organizations work and how people and their behaviors fit into organizational culture. That’s something in my work life I use fairly often.”
But it was the international business and international law course that really hit home with his new job.
“Some of the projects were very cool, what with getting to interact with students from other countries,” he said. “In my current gig, we deal with the oil field, which is worldwide. We have clients in West Africa, Brunei, Brazil and Trinidad. If for nothing else, you got an expanded world view and understanding of the things to be careful of when doing business with other countries. It was very beneficial.”
Gaspard recommends that students gain work experience prior to joining the MBA program in order to take full advantage of what they learn.
“The MBA is most effective when it’s accompanied by some work experience, some business experience,” he said. “The expectation that you’re going to get this piece of paper that’s all of a sudden going to make you very effective in a business environment is patently false.
“It’s very important to have a good understanding of how businesses work in the real world, not on a theoretical level but on a real material level. Get some work experience and see what that looks like in the real world so you can have all of this knowledge in your head in real context. It’s more valuable that way.”
Gaspard, a former professional Zydeco musician who enjoys reading and writing, said another significant reason he was able to complete the MBA program was the tremendous amount of help he received from his friends and family, including his wife Monica and two children, Grayson Gaspard (6) and Jazzlyn Menard (20).
“Without my wife’s support, it definitely couldn’t have happened,” he said. “Being in school and being out two nights a week for three years, it makes things difficult when you have young kids at home. Of course, I’d rather do it when they’re younger than when they’re older. You’re going to miss something, but there are certain things you don’t want to miss. Everybody was fully supportive and expected eventually I would try to earn a graduate degree.”
The Gaspards are also expecting another child. They plan on continuing to emphasize the importance of higher education.
“We’ve got a college fund we’re working on for our younger kids,” Gaspard said. “I plan to make sure they understand how important that is. My mom graduated from UL [Lafayette] right around the time I started. She started a little bit later — just like I did. I’m 38 years old and just got my master’s. I was a little bit late to start down the path. It’s something I understand is very valuable. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Any guesses on which university their two younger children will choose?
Learn more about UL Lafayette online MBA programs.
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