Lifelong Learner Reflects on Decision to Pursue a Belk College MBA

Thursday, January 3, 2019
Student Insight: MBA Ambassador, Jackson Switzer, recollects critical business lessons

My wife says I have too many degrees. You could say she has a point. Right after my undergraduate studies at the University of Alabama in Chemistry, I earned a master of science degree. Then, I segued immediately to a Chemical Engineering Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech. Having run out of ways to postpone starting an actual job, I finally began work as an engineer at a specialty chemicals company.

Despite all of my years of schooling, however, I soon realized that I still had a lot to learn about how business works in the real world. While I was busy designing new chemical processes at a plant, I had a limited understanding of their impact on my company’s bigger objectives. To piece it together, I started talking to my colleagues in other parts of the business to understand their role and background. In addition to clarity on what part I played in the company’s overall mission, I learned that – despite their various business focuses – the leaders in the organization had one thing in common: They all had an MBA.

I quickly realized that an MBA may hold the key to my questions about what makes a business like the one I worked for tick successfully. Also, it seemed like a great excuse to get back to school.

Since starting in UNC Charlotte’s part-time MBA program, I haven’t been disappointed. I’m on my way to learning why some businesses succeed and some fail in today’s challenging global environment. In my Entrepreneurship course offered through the MBA program, for instance, I had the opportunity to learn about the failure part, in particular when we were tasked with starting an actual for-profit business at the start of the semester. It turns out selling hundreds of can coolers at a Panthers game is equal parts invaluable sales training and incredibly humbling.

In the Marketing Management course, Dr. Sunil Erevelles taught us critical business lessons, such as that in today’s world, the biggest threat to a company isn’t being inefficient, it’s being irrelevant (so long Blockbuster, hello Netflix). For the record, he stressed the importance of reinventing your business model before your competitors do.

The most memorable lessons I learned thus far at UNC Charlotte, however, may have been in the Global Competitiveness in Latin America class, a week-long intensive joint course with visiting students and professors from the EGADE Business School of Monterrey, Mexico. Among the takeaways 1) we all face the same fundamental challenges when trying to compete on a global scale, and 2) we all love BBQ from Queen City Q.

These fundamentals are in addition to the other benefits of the program, including flexible class schedules and being able to network with classmates and alumni who represent a diverse spectrum of businesses in the greater Charlotte community.  

Just recently, I attended an Entrepreneurship Decisions Public Speaker Series event featuring three 49ers: Chris Moxley, Jerri Shephard, and Scott Wooten.  Their venture - 704 Shop - has been way more successful than my foray into starting a can cooler business (they actually make money). 704 Shop started as a hyperlocal brand raising Charlotte pride, but it’s now much larger - a design-forward streetwear company alongside a branding consultancy.

From Left to Right: Scott Wooten (704 Shop), Jerri Shephard (704 Shop), Chris Moxley (704 Shop) and Jackson Switzer (MBA Ambassador)

Interactions like these have broadened my perspective and been an important part of my education and personal growth; I’ve learned that while I’m now better prepared to succeed at my current job, I also possess specific skills that can be honed for application in any industry for success long past the time I leave the Belk College of Business. Which might even mean this lifelong learner can be done with school for good.

Jackson Switzer, MBA Ambassador

Jackson Switzer, student in the Belk College MBA, serves as a Student Ambassador for his graduate program.  Learn more about Jackson Switzer in his MBA Ambassador spotlight.