Graduate advances his skills, career with an MBA
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in economics, John Abrenilla worked for a few startups analyzing big data, and eventually found his interest in corporate investigations. He became a Certified Fraud Examiner and rose through the ranks from project manager to manager of investigations, but then hit a wall.
“They asked me to complete an MBA so that I could qualify to become a director,” John said. “I enrolled at CityU, earned my MBA, and shortly after became a director.”
John chose to specialize in entrepreneurship and brought what he learned in the classroom into his corporate work environment.
“I run my team like a startup,” John said. “We have ten people and a budget of a few million dollars per year, and we find new ways to generate revenue for the company. We very much operate like a startup. It goes back to fundamentals like innovation.”
John and his team uncover cases of fraud, embezzlement and other criminal activities, and work with internal teams and law enforcement to stop that activity.
“When you study economics, you think you’ll end up at a financial firm or bank, but you gravitate toward what your skill sets are and find a passion where you can apply yourself,” John said. “Mine is finding anomalies and getting to root causes, which led me to investigations. It’s a pretty dynamic field that is changing every day.”
Experiences in the MBA program mirror the office
In addition to helping him get a promotion, John found that his experience at CityU helped him in other facets of his career.
“The program is very practical,” John said. “Anything that I can use right away and make sense of in my world interests me. My emphasis classes and the strategic financial management class truly helped me understand what I needed to do to be successful. One thing that is difficult for people in investigations and security is they don’t speak the same languages as people in finance and marketing, but because of those classes I now understand business processes and how to communicate better.”
He found that the direction he received from his instructors was similar to what he experienced at work.
“Kathy Cox and Bill Kagan were two memorable professors,” John said. “We would get on big conference calls and collaborate and they would give us feedback. It was a simulation of what corporate life is like. I found it comfortable because it’s something I’m familiar with.”
Given his demanding job, John found the option to fit his course work around his work schedule thorough the online program especially valuable.
“There were a few times when I was traveling outside of the country for business, but I was still able to conference in to instructors and comment on discussion posts,” John said. “The reality is, business kind of demands that you be everywhere all the time, and that makes traditional programs kind of unrealistic for people who have a full-time job. This program really fit my lifestyle and allowed me to study on the road and when I could.”
His experience in the MBA program was so positive that he’s considering continuing on to earn a Doctor of Business Administration. The degree may help him progress to the Vice President level, and would also be a source of inspiration for others.
“I’m the first in my family to receive a degree,” John said. “I have some nephews and nieces, so if I did earn the DBA it would give them some goals to reach for and would let them know they can do it too.”