MBA HyFlex program helps business leader transition career
Ann Ditlow, B.S.’14, is a current MBA student and business leader who recently found herself entrenched in a finance career she had not planned for. “I was working as a business analyst and had no plans to take on a career in finance, but in the latter half of 2021, I started working as an analyst for 4Front Credit Union,” says Ditlow. Although she did not have a finance background, the coursework in her MBA program at Western Michigan University is helping her excel in her new role and leading to a promising future career.
“I was asked to join 4Front due to my SQL and Power BI knowledge. My supervisor, the senior vice president of finance, thought I could work well with two existing financial analysts on the team and wanted my expertise on improving data analysis, while also helping me learn the industry.” Ditlow knew it might be a risk to explore a new career path, but she moved forward and took the job.
Amid her 2021 career transition, Ditlow was also enrolled in the Haworth College of Business MBA HyFlex program. “The HyFlex format was what enabled me to move from Kalamazoo to Traverse City and switch careers in the first place. After the new program format was officially announced, I was already shopping for houses,” says Ditlow.
Her decision to take the Finance for Managerial Decision Making course in the Spring 2022 semester proved to be a pivotal step in growing in her new role. Ditlow shares, “I spent several months feeling like I was drinking from a fire hose—the learning curve is steep, and this career transition has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. But my team and supervisor have noticed my progress—I went from no industry knowledge to actively participating, contributing and driving meaningful financial analyses.”
Finance for Managerial Decision Making, taught by Dr. Matthew Ross, assistant professor of finance, is a required course for the MBA program. The class is known to be challenging, but WMU Haworth’s HyFlex learning model helps to ease some of the workload. The HyFlex class can be attended in person or online depending on students’ scheduling needs and is packed with relevant content. In addition to weekly homework assignments, recorded lectures and built-in time for help from the instructors, Ross assigns teams of students to analyze a pre-selected Harvard Business Review case study and present it in class.
Ross shares, “Ann did a wonderful job working with her teammates to critically analyze case studies in the course. She independently researched content beyond the classroom to challenge assumptions, greatly strengthening the financial analysis of her team. Ann and her team delivered an impressive analysis of capital structure decisions that contributed to the housing bubble and subsequent financial crisis of 2008. She made incredible strides as an individual in this course while also helping to enrich the learning of her classmates. She serves as an excellent example of how students can leverage their MBA degrees to accelerate their careers.”
Ditlow also received excellent feedback from her team members. Fellow MBA student and team member Rob Missman shares, “Ann was a fantastic team member. She demonstrated a strong work ethic and provided a unique perspective that the rest of our team leveraged for counterpoints as we built our presentation. It is important to have someone represent a different viewpoint throughout discussions, and Ann did that in a very constructive way. She is someone you can count on to deliver on time and is always willing to pick up extra work when you need it.”
The knowledge that Ditlow has gained through this class has not gone unnoticed by her supervisor. “In my recent performance review, my supervisor shared that my career transition has been ‘miraculous and unprecedented,’ and his expectations of me are now sky high. I have Dr. Ross to specifically thank for that. The depth of his finance course could not have come at a better time for me,” says Ditlow.
Despite her remarkable achievements in class, Ditlow remains humble, “I have tons more to learn, but it could not be going better. Thanks to the educational support I received, I am now a voting member on 4Front’s asset-liability committee and managing $932 million in assets.”
WMU Haworth’s HyFlex format makes learning more accessible while providing a flexible way for working professionals to further their education. Navigating the intricacies of business can be tough, especially during a career transition, but with the support of caring faculty, relevant content and a course format that maintains work-life balance, MBA students can take their careers to the next level.