Onsite MBA program sends managers back to school

November 2009 » Columns » BEYOND WORDS
Gary M. DeJidas, P.E.

During the last few years, it has become clear to me that technical expertise is not the only skill engineers need to succeed. Today’s demanding marketplace requires innovation, leadership, and business acumen to play an even greater role in driving engineering companies’ growth and success. That’s why I’ve joined 14 of my fellow executives and senior managers at GAI Consultants, Inc., by becoming an MBA student at Point Park University.

GAI Consultants, Inc.
Headquarters: Pittsburgh
Number of offices: 12
Total number of employees: 650
Year firm was established: 1958
Total billings for last fiscal year:

 

More than $70 million

Website: www.gaiconsultants.com

But GAI is taking a more unique approach to executive education and continuing career development. As CEO, I decided that if GAI were to invest substantially in the education of its executive team, which is spread out across 12 offices in our Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast regions, our employees needed a program that set them up for long-term success, removing the usual back-to-school stumbling blocks.

Fortunately, Pittsburgh’s Point Park University was launching an accelerated, part-time executive MBA program that appeared to address GAI’s needs perfectly for flexibility and mobility.

Point Park’s onsite MBA program brings business school professors directly to GAI’s Pittsburgh office to teach live classes. Web conferencing broadcasts these lectures live to GAI offices in five cities, meaning the quality executive MBA education is expanded simultaneously to top managers in GAI’s Charleston, W.V.; Cincinnati; Philadelphia; Orlando, Fla.; and Jacksonville, Fla., offices.

GAI joins Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. as the first two companies to enroll in Point Park’s onsite, part-time MBA curriculum.

The company’s inaugural MBA class includes myself, Chief Operating Officer Anthony Morrocco, Chief Financial Officer Karl Palvisak, Chief Human Resources Officer David Mollish, and 11 other vice presidents, engineering directors, and senior managers. For me, the remote web-based classroom has been a lifesaver, allowing me to “attend” sessions as I travel around the country.

Of course, there are still the challenges of returning to school and balancing these new priorities with family life, civic and professional duties, and running the company.

But at GAI, class attendance is as simple as walking down the hall to the company’s training room or logging onto a live web conference at your desk. Right off the bat, one of traditional MBA programs’ biggest hurdles — just getting into the classroom — has vanished. Many graduate students can only dream about such an easy commute from the office to campus.

This approach to executive education is an innovation both for GAI and the engineering industry. Unlike many companies that select executive education for just a few employees at a time, GAI is making a substantial investment for more than a dozen of the company’s current and future leaders. The broad business tools these MBA graduates gain will help them succeed in today’s ever-changing and challenging economic environment.

The courses meet once a week for seven weeks at a time, meaning GAI’s first class of MBAs will graduate in 2011. Though the 36-credit-hour program was designed for working professionals, Point Park professors use the same syllabi, grading guidelines, and procedures as their on-campus classes to ensure that the high academic standards affiliated with the program are not compromised.

It’s exciting for all of us to learn together and to know that many future decision-makers will come from this and future MBA classes. For GAI’s comprehensive continuing education program, which works to engage employees at all levels in enhancing technical, business, leadership, and management skills, Point Park’s onsite MBA program is the crowning achievement.

For me, returning to the classroom has been an interesting exercise in self-discipline and motivation. I admit it’s been challenging to focus on homework and studying for the accelerated coursework as I split my time between GAI’s Pittsburgh and Orlando offices. But my classmates and I agree that the extra work is far outweighed by the benefits for ourselves, the executive team, and the entire company.

Gary M. DeJidas, P.E., is president and CEO at GAI Consultants, Inc. He can be contacted at g.dejidas@gaiconsultants.com.

Upcoming Events

See All Upcoming Events