Advice from a Career-Changer: How Baylor’s OMBA Program Opens New Doors

October 29, 2021
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An online MBA with a Cybersecurity Concentration prepared Nick Simmons to be a stronger team leader and to help AT&T’s business customers better protect valuable information.

Advice from a Career-Changer: How Baylor’s OMBA Program Opens New Doors

Since joining AT&T as an intern 20 years ago, Nick Simmons has had a front-row seat to the rapid evolution of technology. In a wide variety of roles throughout his career, from technical to leadership, he has helped AT&T’s medium and large corporate customers use technology to fuel their business strategies and processes.

Nick SimmonsNick Simmons

Simmons worked for many years in sales on the tech side, which is a core service AT&T provides customers. When his focus narrowed to cybersecurity a few years ago, he decided it was time to earn an MBA.

Simmons worked for many years in sales on the tech side, which is a core service AT&T provides customers. When his focus narrowed to cybersecurity a few years ago, he decided it was time to earn an MBA.

“I realized with the way the technology was changing, the way the economy was changing and the way business was changing, it would be good to go back to school to stay relevant as well as challenge myself to continue to grow,” he said. “I wanted to be able to adapt and stay ahead of the curve.”

The Flexibility of an Online MBA

Still, with a busy work and travel schedule, he hesitated. It was not an easy decision at first.

“I always had that thought of ‘Yeah, I want to do it, but I have this and I have that.’ There is a little bit of anxiety there when you go into a program,” he said. “But there is probably never a great time to start. What started out as anxiety turned into ‘Oh wow, I need this. This is helping me.’”

Earning an MBA appealed to Simmons for the wide-angle view of business it provides, from marketing and operations to managing and leadership. As he researched schools, he realized Baylor’s online MBA would offer the right kind of flexibility for his schedule.

“Pre-pandemic, I was traveling quite a bit. The idea of a cohort was not appealing, whereas being a little bit more flexible and being able to choose the coursework as I could accommodate it was extremely important. It just happened to be an extremely good fit for me,” he said.

Classroom Solutions at Work on the Job

Almost right away, Simmons applied the concepts he was learning in class discussions, lectures and coursework to scenarios on the job, whether it was negotiation, strategy, accounting, economics or writing cybersecurity policies. One area Simmons enjoys is leading and motivating people, and he was eager to learn more through his MBA. He found the core course Managing for Higher Performance to be a gold mine of ideas.

“When you lead people, you kind of learn as you go. There is no book for that,” he said. “The different aspects of that course, dealing with life in general and being able to maintain an inspiring approach on a daily basis, taught me a lot about where I needed to make some changes and adapt myself to get a better understanding of my employees. You can pull different levers to get your people to work with you better and for everybody to be successful.”

Simmons also deepened the services he provides to his business customers by choosing the Cybersecurity Concentration. Cybersecurity continues to be top of mind for the organizations AT&T does business with—and Simmons found an opportunity to expand what he could offer from a business strategy standpoint.

“It is not necessarily the technical aspects of cybersecurity but more the business impact and how it should be incorporated as part of the overall strategy and business processes,” he said, adding that helping people be effective in their jobs is what motivates him. “You must have passion for what you do. I enjoy helping businesses protect their information and assets. The technology and resources we offer are directly related to that, so you feel good about that, helping people protect what is important to them.”

Making the Decision to Grow

Earning an MBA is a challenge, especially for students who work and are challenged for time. Simmons said reminding himself that getting a degree was his choice kept him engaged—and alert to opportunities to put it to work.

“I always kept the mindset that this program is for me. That perception alone helped me apply it to business conversations every day, whether organizationally or with decisions to be made on strategy,” he said. “I could always find something to tie back to the OMBA program. From there, it quickly became something that was another tool for me to leverage on a daily basis.”

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