Smith Online MBA Student Has His Sights Set on Tech Leadership

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Jose DeJesus

Online MBA (Information Systems and Business Analytics) Class of 2021

Software Architect, Crown Castle

When he began his MBA journey at the University of Maryland, Jose DeJesus had a clear vision for his future: the C-suite.

“My long-term career goal is to become a chief information officer,” DeJesus explains. “My technical skills combined with my newly acquired business knowledge feels well-suited to the role.”

After serving in the U.S. Air Force for several years, he started making footholds in the telecommunications industry, working his way from GIS analyst to systems engineer to GIS developer before deciding to pursue an advanced leadership degree.

“I was far enough in my career that giving up my job for a full-time in-person program represented a huge opportunity cost,” says DeJesus. “Therefore, the online format was key.”

While he liked the flexibility afforded by virtual coursework, he didn’t want to miss out on interaction with his peers. The on-campus experiences offered at the beginning and end of UMD’s Online MBA program were a huge perk.

The distinction of the Robert H. Smith School of Business was an additional selling point.

“I wanted to earn my MBA from a well-known, highly ranked and respected institution that my GI Bill would cover. The Smith Online MBA checked all the boxes.”

The opening three-day residency offered by UMD provided DeJesus a sense of belonging within the Smith School community. He was able to bond on a personal level with faculty and the peers in his cohort before diving into his online coursework, which shaped his time in the program.

DeJesus believes these in-person components are a major aspect of why UMD’s Online MBA program is so unique.

“Make the most out of opening and closing residency,” DeJesus says. “Your cohort will become close friends. It takes a little extra effort to cultivate those relationships in an online format. However, you will not regret putting in the extra work.”

The time DeJesus invested in his academic and professional endeavors paid off considerably. During his first semester, DeJesus was promoted from GIS developer to software architect at Crown Castle, a national communications infrastructure company.

The foundation he’s gained in the Smith OMBA, including his Information Systems and Business Analytics specialization, has proven valuable as he interacts with senior leaders to design and implement large-scale enterprise software solutions.

“One of the skill sets I am most proud of is how to build a proper business case around internal software tools,” he says. “Armed with my new business and financial acumen, I can help translate technical impacts into economic terms that make our finance people happy.”

DeJesus also appreciates the openness of Smith’s MBA faculty, who’ve been receptive to feedback and responsive to any questions he’s had along the way.

“I’ve had great professors for every course so far,” DeJesus notes. “One common theme is that they really care about how you learn and internalize the material. Each professor has been very approachable and easily reached by email or in office hours.”

DeJesus says the Smith Online MBA has helped him become a more self-assured leader, both formally and informally.

“I’m confident enough to contribute to important business conversations, and the reputation I’m cultivating will serve me well.”

As DeJesus finishes his final semester in the Smith Online MBA program, he reflects on the personal support system that has helped him reach this educational milestone, particularly his wife Kate.

“She really stepped up and took care of the lion’s share of daily life so I could focus on work and school,” DeJesus says. “She works full time, too, so she’s a real champ.”

When asked how he’s been able to balance the demands of graduate study with his busy life, DeJesus’ advice for prospective students is twofold.

“Procrastination will increase your stress. The best thing to do is to get ahead when you’re in a groove,” DeJesus advises. “Also, takeout. Lots of takeout.”