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David Buckley is chief marketing officer and vice-president of marketing and ecommerce at Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores, Chicago. He graduated from Duke’s Global Executive MBA programme in 2009.
Every day I am reminded how fortunate I am when I walk into the office at Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores. My role as chief marketing officer is extremely rewarding, challenging and fulfilling. I am doing my dream job even though early on in my career I would have thought it was unattainable. In my office, however, I still have materials from my time at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and when I see the logo it reminds me of my journey and how important my business school experiences have been.
I vividly remember the day when it hit me that I needed to pursue an MBA. I was working as a sales manager at a media corporation and looking at the forecasts of media use by consumers. My whole career up until that date had been in the media but I could see the landscape was changing fast. The business model in an industry that had once thrived, in part because of the barriers to entry, was quickly crumbling. The speed of technological change was promising to bring increased competition from outside companies. I also realised that my industry was primarily led by people who, like me, had little out-of-industry experience or formal, higher-level academic business training. Surviving in the media, I concluded, would require a diversity of thinking and knowledge of more structured, analytical frameworks for solving complex issues.
An important consideration for me in selecting Fuqua was that all of the school’s executive MBA programmes have the same core curriculum and were taught by the same top-ranked faculty as the full-time programme. This was extremely important in my decision-making process, given the time and money I was preparing to invest. Ultimately, I decided the best fit for me was in Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA programme.
However, I knew balancing work and academic demands would be difficult. Fuqua stresses its “Team Fuqua” concept, which emphasises working with other people, rather than as individuals, to accomplish great things. This idea was consistent throughout the programme and it was clear once I started that my team had to extend beyond my class cohorts into my work and personal life. In fact, Fuqua requires your employer to send formal acknowledgment of the time commitment you will have to make, even if it is not funding your studies.
My family also had to commit to my pursuit of an MBA. My kids understood when Daddy was wearing his Fuqua baseball cap he was actually at school, even when he was at home. Most of my classmates had to juggle with these same issues and nothing made this clearer than our graduation ceremony. Many of our children walked up with us to receive our diplomas in recognition of the sacrifices they also made throughout their parents’ journeys.
However, the rewards have meant it was all worth it. I learnt so much from my classmates, who ranged from chief financial officers to doctors. The diversity made the classroom discussion less theoretical. For example, in our corporate finance class, teams were given the assignment to report on a corporate restructuring from a set of cases, but had the option of presenting a different scenario. One of our classmates was an entrepreneur who had brought a company public, so the class discussion on his presentation was significantly more robust than that of a typical case.
When I saw the travel schedule for the programme, I was excited about the interesting places we would visit. In addition to Durham, North Carolina, where the school is located, our programme had us studying in Budapest, Istanbul, Dubai, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. The best understanding of global business issues occurs when your discussions are with people who are not only from a particular part of the world but also are working in those business environments. It is a different perspective to that of someone who may be from a different country but is working for a company in the US. This global mindset and appreciation of how business works differently around the world influences the way I think about challenges facing my company each day.
The analytical skills and knowledge I gained on the programme provided a bridge from my pre-MBA experience and allowed me to quickly adapt and progress in a new career. There is no way this would have occurred without the pursuit of my EMBA.