Blog By Derek Ochodnicky
As in most things in life, timing is everything. That has been the story of my life the last two years. I seem to have been in the right place at the right time. That’s how I got into the MBA program, started career and met my girlfriend. I am getting my MBA part-time while working in the automotive industry as an account manager for a tier 1 automotive supplier. My background isn’t in business though. I don’t have extensive experience in the industry either. If anything, my path started in the opposite direction. I obtained an undergraduate degree in German language studies from GVSU and I was a teacher for five years. That’s one of the big reasons I wanted to get my MBA. I felt I was lacking something to be competitive in the automotive industry and in the field of business.
You’re probably asking, why does “the right place at the right time” matter? Well, I got into the automotive industry by accident. It was always something I wanted to do, but I didn’t think I would be able to because I lacked the experience and knowledge. I had just started my degree at U of M-Flint. My sister had been talking to someone she knew and they got talking about work. He mentioned they needed a “jack of all trades” person in their office within the next few days to replace someone leaving. If they didn’t, they would be in trouble. My sister told him to talk to me, which I did. To save time, I was made an offer and I am still here. It wasn’t an easy road though, that’s for sure. I struggled a lot at the start. I would go into meetings and everyone would be talking so fast using their lingo and abbreviated words. Engineers would rattle off six acronyms with one verb and that would be the entire conversation. Finance people would talk about things like PV, FV, EBITDA, etc. I would sit there, nod and act like I knew what was going on. “Fake it till you make it” became my living, breathing motto.
Fate, or whatever you want to call it, decided to make things easier for me. My classes turned into a form of foreshadowing. After my first semester, every class I had eluded to what I was about to experience at work. I started a finance class and then a large financial project came up. I went to a supply management class and then I got involved in various meeting at work involving production and run rates. I started my marketing class and then we went through rebranding. I enrolled for my e-commerce class and then we started a social media push that I was in charge off. Everything I was learning in class was being used the next week or two later at work. It was bizarre. I went from a guy in the room trying to just figure out what was going on to the guy leading several projects.
My boss was rather impressed with me. This led to me getting a promotion and raise three years ahead of schedule. I then negotiated to have my entire degree paid for by work as well. He had always been encouraging me to get my MBA. As I was struggling with my new job early on and trying to balance going to class he would say, “An MBA is totally worth it. You’ll learn things that you’ll use here every day.” I assumed he was just saying that, but it became a reality.
As I enter the last stretch of my MBA, I look back at my journey. There were classes challenged me and there were classes I loved. It just amazes me how everything I learned started coalescing. Work became more manageable for me. My studies have not always been easy, but they have made my life easier. As they always say, “Work smart, not hard.” Right now, I am taking a negotiations class. I wonder, what will come next?