How my online MBA paved the way for future career success | Top Universities

How my online MBA paved the way for future career success

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated March 1, 2024 Updated March 1, 2024

Sponsored by Gies College of Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 

If you’re looking for a convenient way to level up your professional skill set without taking time out of work, you’ve probably considered whether an online MBA can offer what you need. 

That was certainly the case for Georgios Alexandros Lagogiannis, who was looking for a flexible, high-quality online MBA programme to help him achieve his long-term career goals from his location in Greece.  

The online MBA at Gies College of Business caught Alexandros’s eye due to its customisable course content, flexible structure and affordable cost compared to other MBA programmes in North America. 

We spoke to Alexandros to learn more about his online MBA experience and to find out how the degree has positively impacted his career post-graduation. 

What was it about an online MBA that really appealed to you? 

I’d been working for eight years in a family-owned business and had decided that I wanted to move on. I have a bachelor's in management and a master's in trade and finance. But in the back of my head, I always thought that, being a professional in business, an MBA was something I wanted to do. 

So, when I decided to make a pivot in my career, it was a good time to study an MBA. I started researching courses online, looking at a lot of great options. Why an online MBA? I guess it's the flexibility. Basically everybody when they're thinking about business, they're thinking about the United States. I didn't know the University of Illinois beforehand, but after researching and learning more about the university and its mission and its accomplishments, I think the combination of the price tag, the programme, and the curriculum were right for me. 

Another thing is the programme at Illinois was 72 credits, when most of the other online MBA programmes are 60 credits. More content means more studying, which is great because I did an MBA for my personal development. I didn't do it so much for the title, so the more chances I had to interact with students and faculty was to my benefit.  

Were there any things that really stuck out to you in particular when choosing the online MBA at Illinois? 

The university had decided to stop its on-campus MBA, and to me, this showed the university's commitment. They moved all the resources from the on-campus MBA programme to the online MBA, so students have access to the same faculty and the same resources. That was a really big factor, convincing me they were serious about online learning. 

Did you have any reservations about studying an online programme? 

Since COVID, people’s opinions about the merits of online education have changed. Back when I studied, you would have some people still saying that you have to study in person, but I knew I couldn’t go there myself, so the online MBA was the best option. I trusted the university and they exceeded my expectations. 

What were some of the advantages of studying an online MBA? 

I think most students that choose online education, and specifically this programme because of the way that it's structured, are looking for flexibility, price and quality.  

There is structure, in that you know there’s a set schedule for when assignments must be submitted, but there is flexibility within the structure, which is important for people with families and/or work.  

In terms of the actual course content, were there any particular highlights for you on the online MBA? 

In the online MBA, we have four specialisations and then we have electives, and I personally enjoyed the financial management specialisations, covering investments and financial accounting, and also I took the mergers and acquisitions and financial analysis electives.  

One class was taught by a CFO from a big publicly traded company, and he had a lot of insights from his professional experience, which was really great. It was a class which really changed my perspective. 

I also enjoyed the entrepreneurship specialisation, learning about what’s important when setting up new businesses and building a business plan. This was exciting.  

Post-graduation, how has the MBA impacted your professional career? 

During my studies and now, I work as a freelance consultant, continuing in the same industry. Professionally, I now feel I have better foundations and feel more confident when facing clients or travelling abroad for work.  

Now I can understand numbers better and have in my mind some strategy models. I can direct my decision-making in a more organised way and communicate in a way that’s easier to understand. 

How would you reflect on the networking opportunities available within an online programme? 

I attended most, if not all, of the live weekly classes, and the reason for doing this is that almost always there will be breakout groups during the session where you can meet with other students, discuss the topic and then go back to the main room and openly discuss with the whole class. 

Exchanging views with other students and professionals was a really nice experience, and, as you attend more classes, you would get to see the same people and enjoy those conversations more and more.  

Every year, the university has an event for alumni and current students called iConverge. I have made friends all over and hope to attend the event one year and meet them in person.  

There are other ways the university tries to connect both students and faculty. For example, a few weeks back, a faculty member emailed me to say that one of my professors would be attending a conference in my city, so I called a couple of other alumni in Europe, and they flew over. And we all met up, and it was a really nice experience.  

What are the key things you think an applicant to the online MBA should know? 

I think the quality of the programme is great, and I guess the most important thing I gained out of this programme was learning how to learn and how to communicate. Besides the quality, I think it's a university that cares that you learn. You learn how to practice effective time management and how to switch from one platform to the other and how to work with people across the world. 

It’s also the quality of the people you meet. I met people that had worked in so many industries, from Amazon to financial services companies. And I’d stress the fact it’s 72 credits as well. You’re not going to do two MBAs in your life, so you may as well do one with a lot of content. 

This article was originally published in December 2023 . It was last updated in March 2024

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