Purpose, Passion, and Career Advancement

Purpose, Passion, and Career Advancement

Return on investment can take many forms for the experienced professionals who earn their degrees at the Oregon Executive MBA in Portland. For Becca Yates, MBA '18, it meant uncovering a new career path and helping to establish—and then lead—a new department at her organization.

Along with the satisfaction of self-discovery, Yates now finds herself even better positioned to continue building the life she wants for herself and her family.

“Thanks to the career advancements that started within my first year of being back at school, I've recouped my initial investment and then some," said Yates.

When Yates first applied to the Oregon Executive MBA, she was working as a senior marketing manager at Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), a nonprofit that teams with global manufacturers and regional organizations to advance energy efficiency.

Even before she started classes, Yates's decision paid off—with a promotion to senior manager of corporate communications.

“My hiring manager knew that I'd immediately start applying what I learned at the Oregon Executive MBA, so NEEA would benefit right away," said Yates.

Taking on a new role while entering a demanding graduate program wasn't always easy. To add to the challenge, Yates, like more than half of the students at the Oregon Executive MBA, had children at home—in her case a four-year-old and a two-year-old.

With an undergraduate degree in international studies, Yates wondered if the lack of a traditional business education might hold her back. In particular, the program's finance courses loomed large.

But Yates soon realized the Oregon Executive MBA curriculum is designed for students from a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds. She found herself succeeding in—and enjoying—courses in operations, leadership, and—yes—even finance.

Yates's aha moment came at the beginning of her second year in the program, when she took the corporate strategy course taught by Beth Hjelm.

“That course was life-changing for me because I realized that corporate strategy was exactly what I wanted to do," said Yates.

Yates found a way to put her new-found passion into practice, when NEEA began working on a new business plan for 2020 through 2024. After volunteering to pitch in, Yates ended up running the entire process. When the project wrapped up, Yates and her colleagues realized that NEEA would benefit from having a unit dedicated to strategic planning. Once again, Yates stepped in.

“I put together a business case for morphing my department and my team into a corporate strategy and communications team," said Yates.

NEEA accepted Yates's proposal. Toward the end of her second year at the Oregon Executive MBA, she began building out the new unit—and ended up leading it.

Yates's journey didn't stop there. In 2019, she began leading all of NEEA's corporate strategy, stakeholder engagement, and communications efforts—first as interim director and then, in October 2019, moving into the director role.

“I graduated knowing I want to look at new opportunities, but I want to look at them at my current organization and within my current industry, because it really is where my purpose and passion is," said Yates.