Matt Straatman

Executive MBA: ROI extends beyond tangible benefits

Matt StraatmanMatt Straatmann, account executive at Dell EMC, shared his UNC Kenan-Flagler Executive MBA experience. The program exposed him to a new set of entrepreneurial skills and changed his perspective on the program’s ROI.

How did the cohort structure impact your EMBA experience?

 The diversity of backgrounds and perspectives within each class cohort is truly something that distinguishes UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Executive MBA program from others.  I’d say I learned just as much, if not more, from my classmates than anything taught by my professors in the formal curriculum.  Most students, including me, entered the program with deep experience working in a single business function, such as sales, marketing, HR, finance or engineering and sometimes unknowingly possessed a somewhat myopic view of business as seen through the lenses of those particular roles.

As a sales professional, I found learning from my engineering and finance peers incredibly valuable. It gave me new and unique perspectives into how those professionals thought, communicated and approached any given business challenge. This experience shaped me into a more well-rounded business professional and gave me the confidence and insight to communicate more intelligently with any person in any role in any organization.

Was there a standout faculty experience and how did it impact your career?

 While there are so many amazing professors at UNC Kenan-Flagler that influenced my academic and professional development, Dr. Ted Zoller truly stands out as someone that had an immediate impact on my career and really shaped my professional goals. Dr. Zoller is truly a well of knowledge when it comes to all things entrepreneurship. Not only is he adept at teaching his students the fundamentals and frameworks for creating, launching and scaling new businesses, but he also has the network and hands-on experience as an entrepreneur himself to back all of it up.

During my second year in the program, I had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Zoller on a Global Entrepreneurship Lab (GEL) in Denmark.  We met with dozens of Danish entrepreneurs and executives around the country to learn first-hand about their experiences in founding and building their own enterprises. Through GEL, I also acted as a consultant for a European start-up company participating in the Next Steps Challenge Competition. Overall it was truly an invaluable experience that instilled a passion for entrepreneurship in me and laid a foundation of entrepreneurial skills that I continue to apply in my own ventures as well as my current role as a technology sales professional.

Since graduating, I’ve continued to stay in touch with Dr. Zoller, leveraging his expertise and network to develop my own entrepreneurial ideas as well as those of my customers. His excitement and passion for entrepreneurship is contagious, so beware!

How would you describe the ROI of the UNC Kenan-Flagler program?

Like most working professionals considering an Executive MBA and evaluating its potential return, I focused my initial ROI analysis on weighing the expected quantifiable benefits (higher salary, accelerated career growth timeline, etc.) against any perceived risks or negatives (student loan debt, potential conflicts with my current job and family responsibilities, etc.).  Although three years later many of those tangible benefit goals have undoubtedly materialized for me, so many more unexpected benefits have developed in between that deserve to be calculated into the ROI I continue to realize.

First, I’ve built an extensive network of peers and professors who will continue to play a role in my professional development and open doors to new roles and responsibilities.  In fact, my current position stems directly from an opportunity provided by someone in my UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA network.

Second, I developed a new set of entrepreneurial skills, established a network of experienced and qualified entrepreneur mentors, and found a passion for start-up consulting. Since completing the EMBA program, I’ve consulted for several small start-up companies on the side and continue to stay involved in the UNC entrepreneurial community.  Had you told me three years ago that I would be advising and helping early-stage ventures scale and grow their businesses, I would have called you crazy.

Finally, as a sales professional, having an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler has opened doors to new sales opportunities with immediate, tangible business results that I never expected.  Having an MBA from a top-ranked program like UNC Kenan-Flagler has strengthened my personal brand, set me apart from my competitors, and helped me to develop meaningful business opportunities. I often leverage the skills, network, and experience I gained in the Executive MBA program to help my customers solve their own business challenges or drive new initiatives forward. At the end of the day, I bring greater value to my customers and that is a true differentiator.