Once a Ragin’ Cajun, always a Ragin’ Cajun.
With a desire to transition into a management role, Robbie Watson enrolled in the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Project Management program online at his alma mater, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“From a technical standpoint, in the engineering field, it helps take you to the next level to have higher education,” he said. “The market is saturated with people with certifications. The MBA allows you to step out ahead of everybody else.”
Watson, a network engineer at Perspecta, in New Orleans, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from UL Lafayette in 2003. He is on track to walk the graduation stage again 16 years later.
“I’ve been technical since I graduated,” he said. “I’m getting a little bit older, so I’m looking at more leadership roles and management roles. I’m transitioning from the technical arena to be more of a part of the process as an analyst with driving-the-business-type goals.”
Watson grew up in Lafayette and decided to pursue an engineering career after seeing some of his former high school classmates succeed in the field. He moved to New Orleans for a wider range of engineering jobs near the Gulf of Mexico. Watson has worked in the industry for 15 years. He also taught electronics at Remington College for more than a year.
“There were a lot of opportunities in engineering,” he said. “I have never had any issues with a down market. When the market takes a turn, there are still a lot of engineering jobs. It’s been pretty successful. There are a lot of opportunities I could take. Plus, I have always liked math.”
Coming back to UL Lafayette for a graduate degree made sense to Watson for a couple of reasons.
“Having earned my undergrad there, I see the reputation UL Lafayette has,” he said. “People respect my degree. It is a well-known university. Plus, it was my alma mater. It was the perfect fit.”
Home Away From Home
With a full-time job keeping Watson busy, the flexibility of the online format allows him to complete schoolwork any time of the day he has the bandwidth.
“I live in New Orleans, so traveling to Lafayette for school wasn’t the way to go,” he said. “Regardless of whether it was in Lafayette or not, online fits my schedule better.
“For full-time employees who have been working 10-15 years in the industry, online seems to fit better. I like the independent aspect of it. I can gauge and work around what I think is enough to get an ‘A’ or pass a class.”
Watson especially enjoyed the math-centric courses, but he sees the value and summative benefit of all of the courses. The knowledge has also put him on a new level at work.
“Once my employer knew I was going for my MBA, my managers and higher leadership started opening up their doors and bringing me in on conversations,” he said. “In a lot of the management classes I was taking, they were telling me the same thing I was learning in management at work. The higher-level management classes opened a lot of doors within my company for communications and leadership.”
Watson believes having real-world experience before enrolling in a master’s degree program is advantageous. Having worked for a while ties it all together for him.
“If you’ve been working in your career for a while, a lot of the information makes sense and you’ve seen it,” he said. “If you come right out of undergrad straight into the MBA program, it might be kind of challenging. I’m seeing that from a few students.”
Fruits of Labor
Although Watson still has more than six months remaining in the online MBA program, he clearly sees career opportunities on the horizon.
“I’ve updated my resume with an anticipated MBA graduation date of 2019,” he said. “I’ve got some calls back from Fortune 50 companies saying, ‘Let’s start the process of talking now. When you get your MBA, let’s talk again. The MBA is opening the communication for down the road, after I graduate. I never had that before. It has already helped out on my resume.”
Although both of Watson’s parents earned bachelor’s degrees, he will be the first person in his immediate family to earn a master’s degree. His wife, Jennifer, is happy and supportive of his preparation to write a new chapter in his career.
“It was the next logical step,” Watson said. “My family and friends are starting to see the fruits of the labor. I have no complaints about the MBA program at UL Lafayette. I’ve enjoyed it. For the value and for online, it’s definitely a good deal.”
Watson believes it is important to have the right frame of mind when enrolling in an online master’s degree program.
“I treat it as a second job,” he said. “I look at it like we have instructors and we have coaches, but it’s ultimately up to me to be successful. I set time aside every day — even if it’s 4 o’clock in the morning. I do what it takes to get it done.
“If I can’t find the answers within the curriculum, the great thing about today’s world is, there’s the internet. You can go to Google and YouTube and find a wealth of knowledge. It’s self-motivation. It’s up to the individual to succeed in this program.”
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online MBA program with a concentration in Project Management.