Making the career pivot: From manufacturing to venture commercialization

Can you successfully switch your career path while working and earning a part-time MBA? Just a decade ago, full-time MBA programs were largely considered the best pathway for those seeking to make sweeping career changes. Nowadays, part-time MBA programs that allow students to work full-time while pursuing an MBA have seen overwhelming increases in students making successful employer, industry and functional changes during and after earning their MBAs.

Students, faculty, career coaches and employers agree — switching careers in the middle of a part-time MBA requires planning and work. But by leveraging MBA curriculum, network and career advancement services, students have been able to make enormous gains in their careers.

This is one of three stories highlighting University of Utah David Eccles School of Business Professional MBA students who made major career pivots. Learn about the surprising turns their careers took to get them to where they are and how an MBA helped them land their dream jobs.

Nick Wilkes career pivotNick Wilkes had a bachelor’s degree in engineering and seven years in operations roles with a Fortune 500 aerospace manufacturer before applying to the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business’ Professional MBA (PMBA) program. At this company, Wilkes spent much of his focus on achieving short-term financial objectives. While he enjoyed working in the manufacturing industry, Wilkes wanted to expand his role to include more long-term strategic work.

Wilkes then worked for nine months at the University of Utah’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center (MEP), a consulting center for manufacturers, establishing their processes and procedures and delivering consulting services.

While this role at MEP allowed him to work on strategic initiatives, he felt as though he had exhausted what work he could do in the manufacturing world. So, he approached the PMBA Career Advancement Center to tailor and advance his career goals.

Wilkes worked quite regularly with Susan Marks, head of the Career Advancement Center, who pushed him to consistently make new network connections.

“In general, I felt like she and the Career Advancement Center held me accountable to my own goals of building a network,” said Wilkes. “With work and school, finding time to push your career development is tough, but the conversation was always, ‘Who are the last 10 people that you talked to this month that might lead you down this new path?’”

Marks helped Wilkes make direct connections with the University of Utah’s Technology & Venture Commercialization (TVC) office and set up a meeting for Wilkes.

“She pushed me that way because she knew I was more business-focused,” Wilkes said. “She connected me with the previous director there. It was more of a networking meeting, so that was kind of a personal touch.”

This networking opportunity led to the job opportunity Wilkes looking for. He now works as a technology manager for TVC, narrowing in on his business-focused interests.

“What I am liking about it so far is that all my work before has been with very mature technologies,” Wilkes said. “With TVC, some of these are simply ideas, concepts or prototypes. That entrepreneurial mindset is something that I have been seeking — a more early-stage kind of business development.”

The network that Wilkes has developed is something that he still relies on after obtaining his MBA.

“One tangible thing is the MBA network, and in a cold call or business conversation, you have this network to rely on that makes things warm. In addition, connections to future employment opportunities are endless,” Wilkes said. “The network is there and available, and you can pull on it anytime.”

Learn more the University of Utah’s Professional MBA program curriculum and career advancement services. Take your first step by requesting more information, attending an admissions event or contacting our office at 801-581-6836 today.

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