Program Helps Executive Correct Business Blind Spots

 

Beau VanDyke has served in several capacities over the course of his career, but there is one commonality among the different positions he has held: “At the end of the day, I want to make a difference.”

VanDyke earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety, then a master’s in environmental safety, and he has worked in everything from production to project management to quality improvement at Koppers, a global provider of treated wood products, wood treatment chemicals, and carbon compounds. No matter what role he fills, he strives for purpose. “I need to know that whatever it is I’m doing, that I’m providing value and having a meaningful impact on people, in my organization.”

But along the way, VanDyke realized that to be most impactful, he needed further education in business administration; for example, accounting, finance, economics, marketing, supply chain, and tax. “As my role increased through my career, I recognized that I had some blind spots—and that my previous experience didn’t necessarily fill those gaps, so I needed a little broader understanding of the business environment to close the gaps if I wanted to proceed to higher levels in my career.”

After comprehensive consideration of several MBA programs in the Pittsburgh area, VanDyke selected the University of Pittsburgh executive MBA (EMBA) program, thanks to several factors. First, he wanted in-person education: “I see the value of sitting in a classroom and interacting with your peers and professors,” he said. “You just learn more.”

Second, the father of two very young children ruled out other MBA schedules because they simply would not be conducive to juggling work, family, and academic responsibilities. “One thing I really liked about the Katz program was the flexibility and the timing of the coursework,” he said. “And the professors and staff are pretty flexible and understanding that we are professionals and we have other obligations that quite honestly trump school.”

Third, his boss and another colleague had completed the EMBA program at Pitt, and they vouched for the quality of the curriculum, faculty, and alumni.

Now newly graduated, VanDyke can see clearly what he has gained: insights into how tariffs affect a global company; how culture plays a part in international business; and “the many factors that determine the markets we participate in, and frankly the markets that we need to get out of.”

“Previously, the way I viewed the business world was more siloed, regional, or operational. The program has given me a broader perspective and more strategic view of how an organization as a whole should act, and react, and plan for the future,” he said, citing his deeper understanding of cost accounting, financial accounting, finance, tax, supply chain management, and organizational behavior. “I had surface-level understanding of those things, but now I have it from a much broader perspective—how those elements play into the company as a whole, and why decisions need to be made, especially on an international level, to give my company an advantage.”

Advantage indeed. The leadership at Koppers has already capitalized on VanDyke’s new insights. About halfway through his studies, he was promoted to director of global safety and health.

Even beyond the strides VanDyke has taken in his career and business acumen, he has gained a tremendous amount of self-knowledge, organizational skills, and time-management know-how. “You learn how to manage through adversity and challenges, and that is part of the advantage of doing something like this,” he said. “You walk away knowing, ‘Wow, I was able to complete that. I can actually do more than I ever thought I could.’”