Alumni Profile: Paul Merage School of Business- UC Irvine

Posted by Sarah Swan on 13 July 2015 / 0 Comments

Alumna Melissa Beck reveals the challenges and rewards of pursuing an Executive MBA at UC Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business.

Melissa Beck

Executive MBA, UC Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business

Occupation: CEO of Big Brother Big Sister of Orange County & the Inland Empire

How did you fund your MBA? Can you offer advice to students looking to fund their MBA?

I was able to get a scholarship that paid for a portion of my MBA, but I know that is less common each year and that many of my classmates received no assistance in paying for their program. The rest of the program I paid for via a student loan. What I can tell you is that on average the salary of each of our classmates increased 50-100% either during the program or directly after graduation. Your MBA is an investment in your career and it pays off quickly.


What were your biggest challenges in pursuing your MBA?

By far the largest challenge is juggling family, career and school. Not only do I work full time and went to school in an Executive program, I have three small children. My program was a little under 2 years induration which felt both long and incredibly short. The faculty and the administration will remind you that your career comes before school (I greatly appreciated that understanding) but when you are in a class of type A individuals, it can get competitive. When you add a family into this mix it can become overwhelming. The advice I gave my husband (since he went back to business school after I graduated) is that this is a time to enjoy the learning process and to be a little selfish, it is only 2 years, get all that you can out of it. I relied a lot on my husband at home during the time I was in school, my kids started to ask him for things before me and it stung a little bit, but 6 months after graduation, everything equalized again and those days were behind me. I now have my dream job that was only possible because of my degree and our family has never been happier.


When did you decide you wanted to pursue your MBA?

I began my career in public accounting and was originally working my way to a CPA designation. It was during this process that I began to wonder if being a partner at a major accounting firm was my ultimate goal. I realized that a CPA was somewhat limiting and that I would rather have an executive role on the inside of an organization and that an MBA was the best path to that goal. It wasn’t until about 8 years later that I finally applied to an MBA program. What I will tell you is that the time is never right, but the quicker you start the sooner you are done and can start to reap the benefits of your hard work.


Was the program scheduled in a way that made it manageable to continue working?

Yes, the Executive MBA program at UC Irvine is all day Friday and Saturday every other week. I did have to take every other Friday off work, but was able to work that out well and my boss was extremely supportive. This was also a really great schedule for my family. I was home every night by 6pm, so on Friday’s it had no impact on my family (it was as if I had gone to work) and on Saturday’s my husband was able to manage our kids and every other week I was able to be home with them and go to their activities. It was a great schedule all the way around.

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