Shuffling between project deadlines and daycare drop-offs, it’s no secret that most working parents have to create efficient solutions to jam-packed schedules. And while adding graduate school into the mix may seem like a challenge, many online master’s programs are designed to fit into the busy lives of full-time parents and professionals.
Just consider USC’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, where student Brandon Lawson is balancing fatherhood, his schoolwork and a pharmaceutical sales position.
Lawson began his higher education journey at Georgetown College, a small liberal arts school in Georgetown, Kentucky, where he was captain of the football team and graduated with a bachelor’s in accounting and minor in communications and media studies.
Graduate school, however, wasn’t an immediate next step for Lawson. Instead, he took a leap and moved to California, where he worked as an accountant and auditor for the state. Eventually, he made the transition to pharmaceutical sales, which enabled him to head back east to Kentucky. It was around this point that Lawson considered obtaining his master’s to advance his career.
“The whole goal about getting my MBA is not only to further my career, but to transition to tech sales and then eventually into leadership,” Lawson told USC Online.
While researching different programs that could fit within his bustling schedule, he “stumbled upon USC,” which seemed like the dream program for a working father and avid football fan.
“I wanted to do school online because it allowed me to continue to work full time. I have a family, a wife and a son that I have to consider. So being able to have something that was convenient with work and family — that was a high priority to me with getting my MBA. And then more so, it might sound cliched, but I always loved USC. As far as football, I was a big Reggie Bush fan back in the day, and it was just my opportunity to get into a great program that was ranked top five when I got in and now ranked number one in the country,” he enthused.
The online MBA program, offered through USC Marshall School of Business, prepares students to become leaders in today’s digitally driven business landscape, placing an emphasis on business fundamentals, social media management, data and analytics reporting, managing remote employees and more.
With online learning, students are able to connect not only through class sessions, but also via WhatsApp chats and remote team-building exercises. The program is perfect for those with full-time careers or who prefer to work independently: About two-thirds of the coursework is asynchronous, which means students can study on their own time and personalize their workload management.
While Lawson concedes that it’s been a bit difficult to juggle his family, his job and the rigors of the online MBA program, he’s been able to make it work, thanks to effective time management. A typical day, he explained, starts very early — 5 a.m., as he still wants to fit in a workout. Once he’s done, he gets his son ready for daycare and heads to his job as a pharmaceutical sales representative. Afterward, it’s time to pick up his 2-year-old again, and then enjoy dinner with the family before classes or time in the library.
“It’s a packed day, to say the least, but one of the things that I’ve benefited from is organization and time management. Understanding what’s the priority and what needs to get done first. Being able to rely on different individuals within my cohort [is paramount] because at the end of the day, we all have our strengths that we can leverage with each other. I think one of the biggest benefits being in an MBA program is that you learn from each other,” he explained.
Already, Lawson’s courses have equipped him with insights and skills he can directly put to use at his role at Eli Lilly and Company. In particular, Lawson underscored the online MBA’s strategy class, which has helped him to better understand his CEO’s decision-making strategies and communication initiatives.
“One of the most immediate, rewarding parts of getting the MBA is understanding why the company is moving in the direction that it is and why they communicate the way that they do. Not even just my strategy course, but I would say all of the courses have been able to be applied directly to what I’m doing in real life. And I think that understanding the ‘why’ behind a lot of things allows you to move more strategically in your career,” he explained.
But Lawson’s success in the program can be attributed to more than the career-enhancing coursework. He also pointed to the USC community as an experience highlight — and not just because he’s thrilled to be rooting for USC’s football team.
“When people say the Trojan Family, outsiders kind of look like, ‘You’re pulling my tail a little bit.’ But it’s real. I can truly say that I’ve benefited from it — just knowing amazing people and meeting different connections and being able to actually be an asset to the network as well and connecting with individuals. I would say that’s been one of the most rewarding parts is being able to understand that we’re in this together. We’re lifting as we climb and together, we win,” he said.
Lawson, who dreams of one day establishing his own foundation or becoming a CEO, had clear advice for those considering graduate school on top of family obligations and a demanding work schedule: “Set expectations upfront with your family. Let them know that this is only two years and then set up a plan. And always work ahead. You never know what will come up.”
When asked if he had any words of wisdom for potential online USC students, Lawson noted that connecting with the Trojan Family is a key part of future success.
“Make sure you commit and get to know the people in the Trojan community. That’s how it will be worth it … USC is number one for a reason. We’re not just taking classes here … USC requires you to put in work to be successful. One of the most beneficial parts of it is, you’re going to get out what you put in. Also, being online, I’ve been able to make some long-lasting friendships and relationships that I would never have made outside of USC. The biggest asset is the people that are inside the program,” he emphasized.
Learn more about the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program today.