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One Year to Career

Practical one-year master's degrees as business capstone for any undergraduate major

By Judie Kinon
Photography by Matthew Mahon

One Year to Career

ONE-YEAR GRADUATE DEGREES ARE HOT. And while McCombs' popular one-year Master's in Public Accounting program is decades old, a new crop of one-year master's programs is now flourishing at the school. 

Students with backgrounds as diverse as liberal arts, the natural sciences, and engineering enter a year of "intense experiences and training in business," says Dean Jay Hartzell.

"Our burgeoning portfolio of master's programs provides students who have little-to-no work experience access to top early-career positions in world-class companies," says Hartzell. "Graduates of McCombs finance, marketing, business analytics, and technology commercialization one-year master's programs go on to Fortune 500 companies in technology, consulting, and financial services."

Students cite the speed and convenience of the programs as critical. The MS in technology commercialization even offers online and weekend classes, making it possible to work while earning the degree.

Hartzell is encouraged by the success of these programs, and he says other such offerings are in the planning phase, including master's degrees in energy management and health care management. "This is the future of business education," he says.


Intense Integration: MS in Business Analytics

Began Sadeghian, MSBA '16

Bejan Sadeghian, MSBA '16

Before One-Year Master's: Process Integration Engineer at Samsung
After: Senior Analytics Consultant at IBM 

Intense. That's how Bejan Sadeghian, MSBA '16, describes his 10 months in the Business Analytics master's program. "But it was perfect — a short program that allowed me to completely shift into a different industry," he says.

As a process integration engineer with Samsung for three years, Sadeghian had taught himself a bit about big data analysis out of necessity on the job. Now he was ready to delve deeper. "This program gave me the best mixture of technical and business education," says Sadhegian, who has a bachelor's in electrical engineering.

Coming from a manufacturing environment, he says his business coursework often reminded him of situations at his old job.

He cites several classes on statistical process control: moving averages and autoregressive models. "It was all stuff I wish I had known when I was working at Samsung."

In just under a year, Sadeghian built on his foundational understanding of simple analytics models like linear regression and decision trees, and he learned to build and apply more advanced techniques like support vector machines and convolution neural networks.

"The social media and text analytics classes were great at introducing more unstructured analytics that are of high value in the workplace," he says. In fact, the big data technology and services market is exploding, with a recent International Data Corporation report forecasting it to increase at about six times the growth rate of the overall information technology market through 2018. 

After Sadeghian graduated, he landed a job with IBM as a senior analytics consultant, and he's working now as a data scientist on a health care analytics project.

Sadeghian still refers to some of his course notes for tips on approaching client problems. "Everything we learned had a real world application," he says.



Next Level Validation: MS in Technology Commercialization

Varuni Hjaltson, BBA '87, MSTC '14

Varuni Hjaltason, BBA '87, MSTC '14

Before One-Year Masters: Product Line Manager at Dell
After: Commercial Planning and Strategy Manager, Dell Center for Excellence

 "I remember jumping up and down in my cubicle, screaming inside," says Varuni Hjaltason, BBA '87, MSTC '14, laughing as she recalls the moment she opened her acceptance letter to McCombs' MS in Technology Commercialization program.

Hjaltason loved her job as product line manager with Dell, but she knew that an advanced degree would move her to a new level in her career. And, indeed, it has. "It awakened me again and has excited me for the next chapter of my life."

Because it bridges technology and business, the MSTC gave Hjaltason fresh insights into product management — a subject she thought she already understood well. "I knew how Dell managed the product life cycle, but I was very interested to see what the research said or what other companies did," she says.

Hjaltason was cured of what she calls "tunnel vision" as she studied factors outside her existing role. "I learned from more engineering-type folks to look differently at the entire process, from product concept through launch."

She also gained valuable skills in market validation, skills she put to work right away when looking at new products at Dell. Hjaltason says she even refers to her old class notes now in her new role as a commercial planning and strategy manager for the Center of Excellence at Dell.

As a wife and mother of two, Hjaltason says the flexibility of the MSTC — courses are held every other weekend — made it work for her when a traditional MBA would have been overwhelming.

"I think, 'Hey, I should be thinking about retirement!' But I can't see that. To me, I'm like a 25-year-old ready to go on my next big adventure. I've got a lot to prove."


Economic Choice: MS in Marketing 

Xavier DeTangle, MSM '17

Xavier DeTangle, MSM '17

Before One-Year Master's: Business Development Officer at Muxy
After: Consulting Analyst at Accenture 

Helping a friend with his Austin startup sounded great to Xavier DeTagle, MSM '17 — until his priorities suddenly changed.

DeTagle recalls, "My wife and I began talking about starting a family. I knew I needed stability."

In his hunt for a graduate degree that could help, DeTagle, who had majored in economics as an undergraduate, learned about McCombs' one-year MS in Marketing. "It's economics applied to marketing," he says.

In a world where it's easy to gather the finest minutiae about consumer purchasing habits, marketing has moved far beyond demographics. "It used to be, 'We're going to target 18-to 24-year-old males,'" he says. "But through machine learning and other new methods, we're now able to segment the market based on actual behavior."

Courses are analytics heavy, "but this program does a really effective job of translating that 'mathiness' into business strategy while pushing us to view a product as more than just a thing. "The product is a solution to a problem," he says. McCombs' marketing degree was the solution to DeTagle's problem. With his first child born in February, he has already secured a position as a consulting analyst for Accenture upon graduation. "There's stability and room to grow. So yes, it's pretty cool," he says.


Analytical Intuition: MS in Finance

Russell Brocket, MSF '13

Russell Brocket, MSF '13

Before One-Year Master's: Data Analyst at Source Consulting
After: Senior Associate at Dimensional Fund Advisors

With all its necessary focus on equations and formulas, the MS in Finance program's greatest strength is in "giving you the skills to intuit what's behind markets," says Russell Brockett, MSF '13. 

Brockett chuckles when recalling one professor's mantra that "There's always more than one cockroach in the kitchen" — a reminder that business problems are rarely caused by a single factor.

Combining such nuggets of wisdom with business instinct has helped Brockett navigate the complexities of his job with Dimensional Fund Advisors — the eighth-largest mutual fund company in the U.S., which works only with institutions and financial advisors. In an office with multiple Nobel Prize winners, Brockett trains financial professionals in investment theory.

He didn't start his education in business. Instead, Brockett entered the McCombs program a year after earning a bachelor's in psychology and government, but he doesn't see the shift to finance as a divergence from his lifelong interest in human behavior.
There are a lot of parallels among finance, government, and psychology,” he says. “What you see in the market is all related to how people make decisions.”

That's why he valued McCombs' unique intersection of finance theory with practical quantitative experience. The program is strong on analytics skills like Excel modeling and portfolio attribution analyses, but he explains that "above all, it provides a good foundation in how to use analytical intuition."

He says the program was "the best of all worlds": top-tier faculty, small class size (only 29 in his), and a fast-paced curriculum that allowed him to start working in his new field in one short year. And what he learned at McCombs not only helped him progress quickly within his organization, he says, "It also helped me land a job I love."

Judie Kinonen is a freelance writer based in League City, Texas

From the spring 2017 issue of McCOMBS, the magazine for alumni and friends of the McCombs School of Business.


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