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Beyond academics: Teaching real-world leadership skills

Bryan PerryBryan Perry (MBA ’18), global strategic marketing manager at BASF, attended the Evening Executive MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Finding time to balance family, a demanding career, and school wasn’t easy, but Bryan wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

What made you choose the UNC Kenan-Flagler Evening Executive MBA program?

I chose it because of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s commitment to leadership and personal development. I considered other programs, but it was clear that the Evening MBA program goes way beyond teaching hard business skills like economics, accounting, and so on. From a peer perspective, UNC Kenan-Flagler stood above the rest in terms of developing well-rounded leaders. From the initial CCL Benchmarks 360 assessment to the personal development plan you create, UNC Kenan-Flagler understands and helps students develop the personal characteristics leaders need. In short, they uniquely focus on real-world leadership skills, not just academics.

How would you describe the cohort experience?

Highly valuable. It’s easy to think you’re on an island when you start an MBA program, but then you realize everyone has the same challenges. I think about the team I’m in and the true diversity of the team – not just ethnicity and gender, but true diversity. My teammates have different experiences that bring in different perspectives – everyone from the head of anesthesiology to army officers – and I’ve learned so much from them. I’m a doer and very extroverted. The cohort sharpened my leadership skills because my group was extremely intelligent but all learned very differently. I had to learn not to overpower and how to effectively bring other members of my team along. The biggest lesson for me was realizing that I had teammates and group members I could lean on to develop well-rounded skills as a leader.

This program sharpened me in so many ways, but mainly it taught me to do a better job at listening to others and bringing them into the conversation. I learned to read subtle cues from others and understand time management and how to keep a brave face on, even in hard times, better than ever before. The skills I learned during my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler made me a stronger, well-rounded, more empathetic leader.

Can you share an expected and unexpected benefit of the program?

To me the expected benefit wasn’t just about dollars and cents, it was about being considered for different roles in my organization that I otherwise wouldn’t have been considered for. However, what really surprised me was the marketability I’ve given myself and the network I’ve built. It’s provided a security I didn’t necessarily have before in my career. The program also helped me get a lot better at managing my time.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

I would just add that the majority of working professionals considering an MBA think, “Can I really manage the workload and the time with everything else I have going on, and can I sit in class for four hours every week?” The answer is yes; you just figure out how to do it. It can be challenging, but you will find your routine. The cohort-based learning helps – everyone is here putting in valuable time and energy together. As long as you understand that, you’re going to get through. Looking back, I am so glad I made this decision!