Billy Parsons, MBA Capella University graduate
Billy Parsons earned his MBA from Capella University and accelerated through his learning via FlexPath, Capella’s self-paced learning format.
After graduating, he was hired as the Vice President of Human Resources for U.S. Dermatology Partners in Dallas. He credits his MBA to opening new doors. “My MBA was a major part of this opportunity. I would not have received an interview, much less a job offer, without it.”
Mike Buttry, Capella Vice President of Corporate Communications, chatted with Parsons about his experience in FlexPath and how he chose the program over a traditional format. Below are highlights from their conversation.
[NOTE: Conversation has been edited for clarity and length.]
Q. Billy, where did you grow up? And how did that influence where you are now?
A. I kind of grew up everywhere. As a kid, I think I moved 28 times. My mom and dad were not highly educated. Neither one of them had made it past the 10th grade. They drove a truck and every once in a while the money would run out and we’d have to move on. It was an interesting childhood.
After high school, I joined the Navy and spent six years as a submarine radioman. After that, I spent nights earning my bachelor’s degree in business management at the University of Texas at Arlington and went on to work for a couple of different companies. Eventually, I became the chief operating officer and HR director—a combo role—for a small community hospital in South Dallas. But I found out in December of 2014 that my hospital was going to be shut down, and my role would be eliminated.
As I started looking in the job market, I discovered that I was not able to compete. When you apply for a position on a website, it tells you how much experience you need, and the level of education required or preferred. I realized that there are a lot of people applying with master’s level degrees, so I had to do something about that. I wanted to extend what I could offer my next organization anyway. And a master’s level program was something I had been contemplating for a while.
“It is an outstanding position which was exactly what I was looking for. I truly believe that if I didn’t have this MBA, these opportunities simply wouldn’t exist for me.”–Billy Parsons, MBA FlexPath 2015 graduate
Q. How did you find out about the FlexPath program?
A. I cannot tell you how many programs I looked into before I started this one! I checked out programs online and brick-and-mortar and hybrids. But I just wasn’t sure which one was right for me. I had just become interim CEO to oversee the hospital closure, so I knew juggling school, work, and family was going to be a major challenge.
Then I saw the commercial for FlexPath. “Working at the speed of life” is what the commercial said. So I thought, “I’ll go and check that out.” I learned more about it online and then talked to an enrollment counselor.
The enrollment counselor was very helpful: He answered all of my questions and really understood what I wanted. I had more than one conversation with him because I needed a bit more to feel comfortable with this kind of program. And he wanted to make sure that I was set up for success. He was very realistic about what the program was going to take, but also very helpful in telling me the benefits.
Q. FlexPath works well for people who are highly motivated self-starters. It’s not a perfect fit for everyone. What advice would you give to someone considering FlexPath?
A. First of all, I’d take a personal inventory and ask: Who am I? Am I disciplined and self-motivated? Do I have a goal in mind and want to be a key contributor to my own success?
The FlexPath program is going to give you a lot of autonomy, but also a lot of responsibility for your own success. You’re the primary driver through this program.
And I asked Capella a lot of questions, which I think everyone should ask:
- How does the program work?
- What are the requirements?
- What are the benefits?
- How does it differ from other programs that are online, brick-and-mortar, or a hybrid of the two?
- How long does it typically take people to get through the program?
- How much is dependent on me in terms of setting an agenda and a timeline?
- What kind of resources will I have in the program? What does Capella offer?
- What kind of help is available if I get stuck on something?
- How robust are the tools that are going to be accessible to me?
Q. As you went through FlexPath, what parts were the most exciting and beneficial?
A. The biggest benefit of this program is that I got to set my own timeline. I got to determine how fast I wanted to go based on the comfort level I had with each course. At the beginning of every course, I set course completion dates for how quickly I thought I could finish the assessments. I could make adjustments along the way if I needed to. I can’t tell you how many times during the program I turned to my wife and two kids and said, “Thankfully this program allows me to do it my way.”
Another key benefit is that you can do more than one course at a time. But Capella is very realistic, and they help you figure out if it’s a good idea to take on that challenge.
One of the really great things is that I was able to use my own experience, subject matter experts, and find resources on the Internet and the Capella Library to complete coursework. It’s a real-world education.
Q. What were the hard parts of FlexPath?
A. The hard parts were topics that I was not familiar with. Statistics is not something I normally use and I only had the undergrad class once. Because nobody is good at everything, I found some topics to be more difficult than others.
But that’s one of the really great things about Capella—they offer help when you get stuck. There are a ton of resources available, and there’s also a class tutor. You can post a question on an online bulletin board and when the tutor answers, everyone else in the class can see it, too. The tutor can also go offline with you one on one. They can help you fill in the gaps.
Also, you get feedback from the faculty, especially after the assessment is over. You get three opportunities to submit an assessment for evaluation, and that’s great.
Q. How did you set your schedule, and what was your process for sticking to it?
A. The first thing I did was look at key events that were coming up: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, work events—anything that really needed my time or might pull me off track. I wanted to make sure that I focused appropriately, so I would sometimes extend the dates past holidays. Or I would shorten them if I knew that my job was not going to require me to do anything extraneous for a while. I did most of my FlexPath work at night and on the weekends—that’s when I really got to bear down and focus.
I also looked at the assessments. What were the requirements? Was I familiar with the topic already from my undergrad degree, or was it going to take additional time? If it was something that was going to be especially challenging for me, I gave myself additional time.
Q. You earned your MBA in 2015. Congratulations! How does it feel?
A. Thank you very much. It’s an outstanding achievement for me. Being able to pace myself through the entire program and know that I could fit this around my life was a really fulfilling experience. It basically molded itself around what I was comfortable with, what I had time to do, and what I was capable of.
I don’t want to say that I breezed through the program, because there were some definite challenges, and it really made me stretch myself. But I’ve got an MBA! I got it the way that I wanted to and in the timeframe in which I wanted to do it. I wanted to finish before the holiday season really kicked off in December of this year. And I was able to accomplish that.
Learn more about FlexPath.