Former college tennis player Ashley Chen has spent a lot of time firing aces during her 10-year career at Northrop Grumman. Most recently, she accepted a position as deputy program manager in October 2018.
"In my career, I started veering toward the management path," Chen said. "It was becoming apparent that my business acumen was lacking and I knew I needed to get some formal business education."
The Master of Business Administration online program at Baylor University served Chen well in that regard. She graduated two months after leaving her job as operations manager to accept the new role.
"I had started hearing managerial terms, but I didn't have a whole lot of knowledge behind them," she said. "I was able to connect the dots once I started taking classes, which was very helpful."
The primary reason Chen chose Baylor was the reputation of the university and the online MBA program's Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation.
"It was really the name that got me interested," she said. "Baylor is an accredited program and is renowned for its university classes, in general. I also felt Baylor would adhere to academic honesty, which is a big part of an online program so once I found out about the online MBA program, it was a fairly easy decision."
Chen, who is from San Diego and now lives in Maryland, needed the online format to balance school with a full-time job — especially since she took two courses per term. She finished the program in 16 months, business foundation courses included.
"I didn't want to hinder my work schedule," she said. "I work very long hours, and didn't want to feel constrained and leave at a certain time every day to go to class. I'd rather just stay up extra late and do homework and it worked out well for me because I was very strict about my schedule. Every day, I came home from work and did classwork and the online flexibility helped."
Chen earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University Fort Wayne where she was a tennis team captain for three seasons for the Mastodons.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do with my degree," Chen said. "Mechanical engineering has so many specialties. I graduated in 2008, which was not a good time for new grads. Northrop Grumman was hiring, and I was drawn to their mission statement. It was a blessing because everything fell into place."
After starting out as a mechanical engineer in 2009, Chen has been a hardware engineer lead, control account manager, hardware engineering manager and an operations manager for the Virginia-based company. She is in her second stint as a deputy program manager.
"All of the classes in the online MBA program are applicable to my new position," she said. "That was a big part of why I couldn't pass up a good opportunity."
MGT 5402: Negotiations and MKT 5440: Strategic Brand Management were Chen's two favorite courses in the online MBA program curriculum.
"With both of those courses, there are so many applications outside of the classroom," she said. "While they were a ton of work, they were really interesting courses and have a lasting effect."
Chen hopes to continue climbing the ladder at Northrop Grumman with the clout of a Baylor MBA. She believes the degree will keep opening doors for her in the future.
"I'm a deputy program manager for a big program right now," she said. "I'd like to keep growing and maybe manage a portfolio of large programs and see where that takes me."
The support of friends and family throughout Chen's time in the online MBA program was a key to her success.
"My friends know I work crazy hours and asked, 'Why would you put more on yourself?' I said, 'If I don't do it now, it's just going to get harder.' They said, 'If anybody can do it, it’s you,'" she said. "They were really supportive. My family was on board -- especially my husband, Steve. I'm grateful for his support because it would have been too hard without it."
Lots to Love
Chen wrapped up the online MBA program experience by walking the graduation stage in Waco. Just as in tennis, she had a crowd of supporters cheering her on.
"I told myself, 'If I'm going to put in all of this work, I'm going to make it down there for graduation,'" Chen said. "My husband and I flew down there, and my family flew in from San Diego. Everyone was celebrating my accomplishment and overall it was a great experience and well worth the travel."
Earning a graduate degree online was something special for Chen, who believes any professional seeking an MBA should consider Baylor online.
"I was blessed/lucky, because I had my family onboard, so I’d recommend pulling on your support system if you can. Also be sure that you're willing to dedicate the time and it's something that you really want," she said. "It's as much as what you make of it. If you really want to do this, you'll absolutely get the tools to do it."
Chen was also impressed with the quality of her first experience with online education.
"I tried to not wait until the last minute to ask questions because I knew the professors were busy," Chen said. "When I had questions, they were very responsive and understanding of everyone's schedules. That was nice to feel their support.
"I was skeptical about how group projects would turn out and how easy it would be to manage everyone's schedule. I'd say for the most part that it worked out well. Once you figure out the tools, it's business as usual and was not tricky but is easily understood."
The icing on the green-and-gold cake was that Northrop Grumman paid for Chen's degree.
"My company clearly saw the value in my pursuit of a Baylor MBA," she said.
Lean more about the Baylor online MBA program.
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