How the EMBA Program Positively Impacted My IT Career

A planning map of the Suquamish Tribe Broadband Internet Expansion Project

More than once during my time as a student in the WSU Executive MBA Online program, I was asked why, as an IT director, did I decide to pursue a business degree. My response was always the same; I felt as though I had some natural leadership and management talent, but I needed proper teaching to bring those skills into focus. I knew the amazing leadership and change management courses in the EMBA program were what I needed to enhance the skills and abilities I already had. Little did I know when I started the EMBA program in August of 2019, would I start putting those enhanced skills right away to work, taking on the world-changing events of a pandemic.

April 2020, I was tasked with assisting my organization, the Suquamish tribal government, with converting to a completely at-home work model. Something we had never done before. Nearly 400 employees, all sheltering at home, but also still necessary to perform health and human services for over 1,200 enrolled tribal members. I had so many ideas and concerns flying through my mind on how to begin tackling this problem. Then I remembered that just a month before, I had been taught how to properly use a SWOT analysis in Accounting 533. I used the same template from class to build out the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to designing a work-from-home platform. It was a great way to start organizing this large-scale project, and a skill I would have never had from just my IT background.

By September of 2020, the tribe was included for Federal funding through the CARES Act. The tribal council determined one of the larger issues they wanted to tackle with this funding was the lack of broadband internet in the more rural areas of Port Madison in Washington State. For the first time in my career, I was offered an extremely large sum of funding to being a 5-year infrastructure project which will help a great deal of people. I can easily say I would be lost at this point without the education I received in the Executive MBA program with proper budgeting from Accounting 533 and Finance 526, flow chart design and management from Operations 581, and clear and concise promotion of my plan to the tribal council from Marketing 506. I could continue for hours how every day I use what was taught in the EMBA program.

I’m pleased to say my team and I have nearly completed phase one of the broadband rollout. 109 free, public access points will be online by June 2021. Next, we will pivot towards direct housing internet assistance, with the plan to develop a local Internet Service Provider (ISP) in conjunction with the local public utility district. I can without a doubt say that the WSU Executive MBA Online program has not only enhanced my skills as an IT director, but is helping to improve the lives of those in the Suquamish community.

Dedicated to the Susquamish tribe: Thank you to the Susquamish tribe for permitting the use of the above expansion project map!

By #CougaMBAssador Aaron R. W. Wheeler

Aaron Wheeler headshot.