Baylor’s Online MBA is Tailor-Made for the Post-COVID World
Earning an Online MBA prepared Richelle Pennington to lead and communicate with impact in a fast-paced virtual environment.
Richelle Pennington always planned to pursue an MBA, but the timing never felt right. For the better part of a decade, she climbed the corporate ladder in a series of marketing roles across industries, rising to the position of regional marketing manager for Lyft by 2019.
When the pandemic hit, she finally stopped to catch her breath. “With everything so uncertain, I realized I needed to make it a priority to grow and learn,” she said. “It was time to invest more in my future.”
While earning an online MBA (OMBA) from Baylor during a season of job transition presented its fair share of challenges, Richelle credits the program for preparing her for the next stage of leadership in a startup environment.
By coincidence, Richelle began her OMBA program the same week she began a new role as a brand manager at Neighborly, where she worked for close to a year. After another year-long stint at Slice, a computer software company in the food delivery space, she landed her current role as the head of Growth Marketing and Content at Wonolo.
Wonolo, which stands for “Work Now Locally,” is an on-demand staffing platform that connects businesses with talent to fulfill a broad range of needs, from food delivery and event staffing to packing and delivery. Richelle leads a team of five people in generating demand through paid marketing and content creation.
The prospect of immersing herself in an academic program after nearly a decade spent out of the classroom was “daunting and scary,” Richelle said. After beginning the online MBA, her fears were quickly assuaged when she realized how practical and applicable her coursework was.
David Coe“Since establishing the OMBA program eight years ago, our mantra has always been for our students to apply tomorrow what they are learning today,” David Coe, the associate director of student services for the OMBA program, said.
In Richelle’s experience, this mantra has certainly rung true.
When she joined Wonolo in April 2022, the company maintained a hybrid workforce. Now, it is entirely remote. While she had worked remotely in the past, she had never navigated the challenges of leading a team in a fully virtual environment. “Thankfully, the OMBA has increased my comfort level with doing everything across a screen,” Richelle said.
After several years of collaborating virtually with classmates to schedule project meetings, communicate efficiently and produce high-quality deliverables, undergoing the same process in her job at Wonolo feels like second nature.
Like every leader, Richelle faces the daily challenge of forging meaningful connections with her team members and inspiring them to reach their full potential. The virtual element adds an extra dimension.
“Inevitably, communication looks slightly different in a virtual or hybrid environment,” David said. “In our communication and management courses, students are learning to lead individuals and teams with greater consideration of this environment.”
One of Richelle’s greatest takeaways from her OMBA classes was the importance of learning each employee’s unique motivations. “I was challenged to think more creatively about how I approach leadership,” she said. “It is no longer feasible to take a one-size-fits-all approach and treat all team members the same.”
Richelle gives the example of one team member who responds positively to public recognition. By receiving verbal affirmation for a recent achievement in a team meeting, this employee becomes more excited to work on her next project. Another team member, in contrast, would find the same kind of recognition uncomfortable, Richelle said. She has learned over time that he values direct affirmation in a one-on-one setting.
Another key takeaway from her OMBA classes involves the use of data. According to David, the OMBA program has placed an increasingly heavy emphasis on interpreting and communicating data effectively across roles and industries in recent years.
“I wish all my teammates could take the OMBA course on communicating with data,” Richelle said. “For me, learning how to tell my team’s story of impact and understand the ways we fit into the larger organization has had a flywheel effect. With more clarity and purpose, the entire team starts performing at a higher level.”
Richelle is making a name for herself in the startup world, but OMBA students emerge from the program with greater confidence in their ability to tackle the unknown in a wide variety of industries.
“When it comes to navigating the unique challenges of the post-COVID era, the OMBA program will never tell a student that there is one way to do something,” David said. “Instead, our students emerge from the program with the strategic, broad-level skills they need to grapple with whatever roadblocks are just around the corner. Whatever comes, they will be ready.”
Are you looking for ways to lead more effectively in a post-COVID environment? Click here for more information about Baylor’s Online MBA program or fill out the form below to speak directly with an admissions advisor.