As opportunities keep knocking, Daniel Negrete keeps answering.
"Around 2018, I had some ideas of wanting to go back to school," he said. "The company I work for, Belk, started a tuition reimbursement program. Within the first two weeks, I applied. Because there are several different start dates [at the University of South Carolina Aiken], it was a quick transition."
Negrete graduated from the online Master of Business Administration program at UofSC Aiken in August 2020. He plans to add an MBA with a specialization in finance in 2021.
"Because it's a continuation of my undergrad degree, I want to add the finance specialization," he said. "It's only a couple more classes, and I wanted to explore that at the graduate level."
Although Negrete attended UofSC Aiken for one year as an undergrad, the program sold him on returning for his MBA.
"I did my research, but I also knew people who went to UofSC Aiken for their MBAs and have good career advancements," he said. "When I saw there was a fully online program and that I didn't have to take the GMAT because I had experience with Belk, it was attractive to me."
Negrete is an operations merchandise manager at Belk, where he has worked for more than five years. Because of his fluid schedule, he knew he needed an online MBA program where he could do the work on his own time.
"The online format is great — especially for working in the retail field. I work weekends, weeknights, mornings, holidays," he said.
"During holiday time, we have extended hours. If I went home at 11 p.m., I was doing homework from midnight to 1 a.m. It was accommodating and flexible to do the program online."
Carolina to California
Negrete grew up near Aiken, but he moved to California and attended Diablo Valley Community College for two years.
"I wanted to do computer science," he said. "I was thinking of going to Berkeley or one of the schools in the California University system, but I didn't like being in front of a computer all day. It was just me and my computer." Still, his interest in technology and the business classes he took in general education made him want to do business.
The stock market also fascinated Negrete as a youngster, so switching gears to pursue a career in business was already on his radar.
"I remember a long time ago turning on CNBC and looking at the different stock symbols," he said. "Apple stood out to me. It was $70 a share at the time. I thought, 'If I understood the stock market more, I could take advantage of these opportunities.' That pushed me toward business.
"The stock market is my fun area of business now. It's something I can do on my own time, apart from work, and do my own research by reading materials I read for class and seeing what these companies are doing. "
Negrete transferred to UofSC Aiken before completing the final two years of a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in finance and investments program at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
"I am relieved after two years of hard work to finish the MBA program," he said. "I am so grateful to have a job that helped me pay for graduate school."
BADM A760: Business Vision, Innovation and Strategy, the capstone course, was Negrete's favorite in the curriculum.
"It brought everything in the program into perspective," he said. "We did product strategy, marketing strategy, manufacturing strategy and financial strategy. It was very hands on, fun and informative. It connected all of the dots at the end."
The information in the MBA courses helped Negrete increase his business acumen and immediately use the knowledge in his career.
"I dabble in a lot of things in my position," he said. "I can apply accounting, finance principles, business law, ethics and business analytics. Every time I took a class, I could take something back to work and improve things or change my perspective on processes. It was good."
With the uncertainty of the pandemic, Negrete isn't sure if he will walk in a commencement ceremony at UofSC Aiken. However, he is certain that his family is proud of his major accomplishment.
"They are super excited for me," he said. "Between work and school, there are times when I think, 'I can't keep at this for too long.' [But] I will be the first person in my immediate family to earn a master's degree."
Negrete said that the overall experience of earning an MBA online was better than he anticipated, and that strong time management is essential to success as a student.
"The classes and the material I learned were all high quality," he said. "UofSC Aiken stood out because the professors were all approachable and the program is personable. If you are looking for a good program, UofSC Aiken has one. I had some apprehension about going online, but it was extremely convenient."
Once Negrete completes a second MBA program, he isn't looking at taking a single career path. He is keeping an eye out for the next opportunity that comes rapping on his door.
"I have my career, my stock portfolio and an entrepreneurial side project, which is selling small craft items through Shopify," he said. "I can market on TikTok and Twitter.
"I want to move up in my career progressively, but the MBA program has changed my perspective on doing more than one thing. It has made me more aware that's possible."
Learn more about UofSC Aiken's online MBA program.
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