For Robert Volpe, the time was right. He had already enjoyed a successful career in technology strategy development and product marketing, but wanted more.
“I was looking to get a broader business perspective,” he said. “I wanted to learn the hard skills like finance, economics and accounting because I knew they would be beneficial to my career moving forward. I was at a point in my life that I could dedicate the time to an MBA program. I didn’t want to just get the degree. I really wanted to learn as much as possible.”
Volpe took full advantage of that opportunity, completing both the Executive MBA program and an MS in Finance degree with such dedication and success that he earned the Business School’s Outstanding Student Award for the spring 2011 graduating class.
Volpe balanced his rigorous school schedule with a full-time job, leading strategy and business development for early-stage companies and as the principal in his own consulting company. A regular at the local Starbucks, Volpe was at the coffee shop at 5 a.m. studying, leaving at 8 a.m. to get to work on time, then heading to project meetings with his MBA project group in the evenings.
“With a 60-hour a week job, early mornings and weekends were the only times I had to study,” he said. “I just had to be very structured, and I’ve always been very disciplined.”
Volpe found that the fruits of his labor paid off almost immediately. The classes in the MBA program enabled him to add strategic analysis, corporate strategy and critical thinking to the projects he was working on at the time. And marrying his extensive background in market strategy with the finance coursework helped him to better model, forecast and budget.
“One cannot think strategically without understanding finance,” he remarked.
International Travel and Career Development
Volpe also made time for international travel. Already a world traveler with more than 30 countries stamped into his passport, his travels in the past few years have taken him to emerging markets like China and Vietnam. His work travels also led him to the West African county of Cote d’Ivoire, where he met with such dignitaries as the former president about renewable energy projects. He credits his degree programs, and these overseas experiences, to greatly expanding his knowledge of business accounting and finance, working across borders, and negotiating deals.
“The international focus of the program and the international experience of the professors and cohort were extremely valuable to me,” he said. “It went beyond the book learning offered by other programs.”
The Cohort Factor
In addition to the rigorous coursework and international experiences, Volpe recognizes the value of the intangibles as well—his classmates. MBA students in the Executive Program have average work experiences of 16 years with 10 years or more in management. This career experience gives them a unique perspective. They don’t just learn the lessons from textbooks and case studies. They can apply the concepts to relevant work experiences.
“Each week I worked alongside high-caliber students on thought-provoking projects specifically designed by the faculty to challenge students to look outside comfort zones and delve into areas where there is no obvious answer,” Volpe observed.
The combination of peer and faculty-led learning boosted Volpe’s leadership, teamwork, ethics and communication skills. All are essential to being an effective manager and, in Volpe’s case, a successful international business leader and consultant.
Now that Volpe has completed his degree programs, and been named the Business School’s Outstanding Student, he has a little time to reflect on the past few years: “Managing full-time work with a rigorous academic schedule has been challenging, but it’s also been very rewarding,” he remarked.
The degrees have allowed Volpe to expand not only his business opportunities as a consultant and business advisor, but also the value he offers to his clients. The Executive MBA program provided a broader business perspective, while he gained an intensive understanding of organizational risks from his MS in Finance. And the credential of his MBA and MS degrees at CU have given him a decided edge over the competition. Recent projects have included leading business development and strategy for technology and renewable energy companies as well as constructing new business models for the creation of improved, integrated energy systems for local and global communities.
“Not only has my MBA/MS from the Business School at the University of Colorado Denver given me the tools and skills to succeed,” he said. “It has allowed me to reach toward my greater potential, and make a positive impact on the world.”