Finance and MBA Degrees Lead to Human Resources Career



Ryan Whitlock

B.S. in Finance, 1996

MBA, 2010

Director of Employee & Labor Relations, Consolidated Communications, Inc.

After working in a professional career for 12 years, Ryan Whitlock decided to pursue his MBA at Eastern Illinois University. He chose EIU because of its small class sizes and the ability to interact with professors one-on-one. He feels that these qualities truly enhanced his overall learning experience and allowed him to maximize his capabilities.  Having held a job at Consolidated Communications Inc. since he was an undergraduate student, he has been able to work in several different parts of the company. By doing so, Whitlock was able to develop a working knowledge of the core business functions, which led to his current position in Human Resources as the Director of Employee and Labor Relations. He is now responsible for overseeing the most important resource at Consolidated – the people. His work spans across six states in which Consolidated currently operates. He is also the lead company negotiator for five bargaining agreements with two independent labor unions.

There are several skills that Whitlock gained in the MBA classroom that he has carried into his career. Most importantly, he has developed a great work ethic. Managing a full-time career while returning to school forced him to better manage his time and prioritize everything in his life. He has gained an appreciation for work/life balance and understands the importance of having a support system. Specific to the classroom curriculum, Whitlock has used skills from quantitative modeling, finance, and organizational behavior the most: "These courses refined my thought processes about business profitability, the importance of cost-benefit analysis, and the employees who make it all possible.

The MBA program helped Whitlock to build the confidence needed to be a better decision maker and communicator. He has developed the tools necessary to conduct research, analytical skills, and the strategic thought process to consider the "big picture" of a decision.

As with most careers, Whitlock faces challenges every day. His biggest challenge comes from effectively managing a variety of unique employees.  He says, "The biggest initial challenge in any career managing people is getting to know each individual employee and developing a unique style to most effectively develop them. Every employee presents a unique circumstance for a manager. The way I've overcome this challenge is by being patient and taking the time to communicate with my employees on a one-on-one basis."

For incoming MBA students, Whitlock suggests getting as much work experience as possible before starting the program. He had 12 years worth of experience when he started the program and felt that this allowed him to immediately apply what he learned in the classroom. He also felt that his work experience helped to provide a perspective through actual business application and to develop a "business vocabulary" which was useful throughout the program.

In order for students to get the most from their academic experience, he recommends that they apply themselves one-hundred percent. While not every project will evoke passion, part of the learning experience is to adapt to the environment both in the classroom and in the business world: "It is important for students to gain an appreciation for a highly demanding workload that requires complete dedication and focus. The pace set in the program is the same pace expected in today's business environment."