I have an MBA, a Masters in Business Administration from Delaware State University. I graduated in May of 2000. It’s funny how I have to sometimes be reminded of the accomplishment and what it stands for in my career trajectory.
I remember graduation day because it rained and the schools back-up plan was to hold the ceremony in the gym. Which meant that it went from unlimited seating to, you can only have two people attend the ceremony. It was not a good look, ten members of my family drove seven hours on I-95 North from North Carolina for only my mother and father to see me walk across the stage. Everyone was disappointed and some dealt with it pretty well. I won’t talk about the other ones. I still love them though.
I remember when I decided to get my MBA. I was on the softball field working out with my coach. I was in my final semester and I had one class that conflicted with practice. Coach agreed to meet me early in the morning on the days I had class to make sure I got my workout in. It was nice, because I got some extra time with her and it had a different feel from it than regular practice. We could engage in conversation as she was torching me. Unlike regular practice when I spent most of the time talking to and encouraging my teammates.
On this particular morning I started sharing with her that I didn’t know what I was going to do after graduation. You see, when I was preparing to go to college they always told me that it would probably take five years for me to complete the program. In the back of mind I kind of depended on it but somehow I ended up finishing in four years. You know how, you know something is coming, but it’s not until it gets close that you realize that it is really going to happen. Well that’s what happened to me. I woke up one day and was like “Aw hell this is going to happen. What the f*** I am graduating?” My major was in Television Productions, so the ideal situation would be for me to get a job at a television station like I had done for my internship. When I started looking for jobs the salaries were really low. I remember trying to figure out how I could be independent on what I would possibly be making.
I’m gonna be honest as graduation approached at what seemed like a rapid pace, this Black chick freaked out. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Where was I going to live? Who was I going to work for? I remember wanting someone to come and tap me on the shoulder and say, “Sharon this is what’s next…”. Up until this point the plan had been laid out for me on what I needed to do. They told me to go to elementary school, then to junior high (now called middle school), high school and then to college. All of that was mapped out for me, but now nobody was going to tell me what was next. Are you for real? Man, I was trippin’.
I soon learned I wasn’t the only one concerned. One of my classmates was trying to figure out her next steps as well. So much so, that she convinced me that we should join the military. She had learned that with degrees we could enter at a high level and make some pretty good money. I was intrigued and went with her to the Air Force recruiting office right across the street from the university. We figured we couldn’t do the Army and we liked water but the Marines wouldn’t work either. I can’t remember much from our visit to the recruiting office but I do know that as soon as we walked out the door we knew that the Air Force was not an option.
Coach was on the pitcher’s mound behind the pitching machine and I was in the batters box. In between pitches, I was telling her my dilemma. I remember saying to her,”Who in this day and age graduates in four years? Coach I was supposed to be here for at least five. I can’t believe I did this to myself.” I told her camera operators were making around $16k-$20k, and I didn’t know how I could live off of that. I really wanted to work in my field so at the time I didn’t even know what alternatives to consider. I felt, I couldn’t go home an unemployed college graduate. That’s wouldn’t be ideal for anyone. I didn’t even want to consider working a job outside of my major. What the heck would that be? Coach was trying to give me some suggestions and I just felt even more pressure in trying to figure it out. It was too much. I was overwhelmed.
When I told her I had went over to the Air Force recruiting office. She stopped pitching and said, “No, you are not going in the military”. Then she said, “Baby Girl, why don’t you stay and be my graduate coaching assistant and work on getting your masters? The athletic department would help pay for your classes.” I took the bat off my shoulder and said, “Are you for real Coach? I could stay here, help you coach and get a Master’s Degree?” She reassured me and I didn’t think twice and said, “Yes, let’s do it.” She started back pitching but I remember after every pitch, I asked her to confirm what she had offered me. Finally we just had to stop practicing and I agreed to go and figure out what I needed to do to enroll. At this point this option allowed me an opportunity to delay entering the real world. And I was down for that….
After graduation in May of 1997, I handed my degree to my Mom, followed her and everyone to the hotel, said goodbye while taking some graduation celebration/going away pictures. They got back on the road and I went to the dorm. I then moved my stuff from one side of the dorm to the other side by myself. The next day I started taking my Business Administration prerequisites in summer school. I hadn’t taken any business courses for my undergraduate degree so I had quite a few I needed to pass before I could start my master classes. I’m going to be honest, there was nothing easy about entering the world of business. I started studying Television Productions in high school, that was my passion. It came somewhat naturally to me learning new things were exciting. But this new world, I had to buckle down, focus and force myself to learn the business principles. It was anything but easy.
I think that’s why I don’t talk about having my MBA that much. Not because it wasn’t a major accomplishment, but I think because I was so young and desperate when I got it. I prolonged having to grow up and face the real world. The pursuit of it wasn’t because I wanted it and I had planned this as my logical next step but I went after it because I was desperate, confused and scared as hell.
I must admit, although it wasn’t the original plan. For me it has turned out to be one of the best things I have done for my career. When I couldn’t find my way in the world of Television Productions my MBA saved me. When I realized as a Black woman I needed to know how to not only be an artist but produce my own work. My MBA carried me. When I think something is to hard and I don’t feel like I can wrap my head around it. My MBA reminds me that I am capable of all things. Yeah, I may not talk about it or highlight it a lot, but make no mistake. My MBA is forever a part of me.
My name is Sharon Nyree Williams and I have a MBA.
This piece was inspired by a conversation with one of my mentors Ms. Vivian, when she said with a little power behind it, “You have a MBA!”
I dedicate this piece to my nieces Karess and Elia. Karess just graduated from Fayetteville State University and will be starting her masters program soon. Elia, has just decided to go back to school. #proudauntie