When Eric Ernst, MBA (’18) was looking to move his career at John Deere forward, he ran into a roadblock. As he inquired into an open position in the company, a hiring manager told him no.
“I applied for a position, and he told me he wouldn’t interview me because they were targeting MBAs. He actually mentioned an alumna from Loras to talk to, and that is what helped propel me forward with the MBA after pondering it for years.”
Now in his 12th year at the company, and with his MBA from Loras College, Ernst, a quality engineer, will no longer be prevented from career advancement.
Ernst’s fellow Deere employee, Jenna Gacioch,MBA (’18) also earned her advanced degree from Loras. In fact, they were in the same cohort.
“Eric was a godsend to me at a couple of points,” she said.
Gacioch is currently an administrator for an application that provides feedback to suppliers.
Internally, the culture at John Deere strongly encourages employees to continue their growth both intellectually and as community members.
“In my role, we are revamping all our systems, and one of the things I volunteered for was an analytics program on building subjective feedback: how people give feedback and how we get it more frequently and how we apply analytical tools. I am able to roll it directly into what I am working on now.
“I don’t know if I would have been a good fit for that project without my degree.”
After initially starting to pursue her MBA elsewhere, the lack of a challenge led Gacioch to seek out a different avenue.
“The first location was just the standard MBA. I had my undergrad in business, so it was all the things I had already studied. That is fine if you want to check a box, but I wanted to learn more. I investigated other programs, and Loras had the analytics. That is what made Loras the right fit form,” she explained.
It was a change that she knows was the right move.
“I learned a ton, and I was able to individualize it for myself.”
Ernst feels the same way and knows that his degree and experience at Loras has set him up to succeed moving forward.
“For me, I wanted to learn something new, and I feel like I walked away with something special. I now have a skill set that really can be applied regardless of what position I might have in the future.
“John Deere is a huge data-driven company, and I now have this understanding of how these databases work and what kind of data we are populating them with. By being able to navigate that and utilize the visualization and analytics tools, I’ve been able to come up with things to help my department’s production area in regard to reporting assembly-line issues, status of machines, and effectively communicate cross-functionally to drive decisions.”
What made the degree more attainable was the support Ernst and Gacioch received from their employer. In both cases, John Deere provided the financial support to pay for their degrees while they continued to work, but the support extended beyond that.
“Earning an advanced degree is highly encouraged at John Deere. They allocate time during the workday so you can work on your homework and not have to do it on personal time. It was helpful because Eric and I could work on things together since we work in the same building”
That support extends among all the Deere employees who have graduated from the Loras MBA program. When schedules allow, they get together to go over what they are working on and help keep each other sharp.
“You got to know a group of people, so it was easier to study and bounce ideas off each other, unlike a normal MBA where you just take classes willy-nilly,” Gacioch explained
Ernst agreed, “Generally speaking, there was a core group that went through it together over two years, and it was really a highlight, forming those bonds”
The other component that both felt they benefited from was the analytics focus.
“The analytics coursework and the diverse group of professors working with us were really helpful, specifically with regards to using visualizations and learning the Tableau and analytics tools,” Ernst said. “I don’t necessary use them day to day, but because I can better understand how they are applied where we can, I have already been able to apply a good deal of that knowledge.”
“It was challenging. I like data and interpreting it, so I thought it would be good to build my skill set with something I hadn’t studied before,” added Gacioch. “It was a good fit because of the business focus, rather than just how to program everything with an IT focus. Loras’ approach was much more appealing to me. I am now able to work with the IT groups, relate to the language and understand what they are looking for. I can’t build a query, but I can talk to IT, who will build the query and make things go much quicker.”
In the end, both are pleased with their decision to go to Loras and know it helps set them up for success moving forward.
“You’re not setting yourself up to be a data scientist, but understanding this background makes you better at leading the people who are doing it or finding the ways to use it where they aren’t using it already,” explained Ernst. “The perspective of data is the biggest differentiator”