Robert Stevens sees each new calendar year as the start of a fresh challenge.
“A few years ago, I got on a kick of deciding that I wanted to have one big, major goal that would take me about a year to achieve, every year,” he said.
“The first year that I did it, I wanted to lose weight. I lost about 110 pounds. The next year, I wanted to travel more. I started traveling all over the place with my family.”
Stevens raised the bar higher in year three by enrolling in the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an International Business Concentration program at Eastern Washington University (EWU). He checked that goal off his list when he graduated from the program in June 2020.
“I had been thinking about pursuing my MBA for a while,” he said. “It had always been a long-term goal of mine.”
Though the pandemic slowed Stevens’ career ascent in 2020, he made good on a career goal in 2021 — he landed the role of senior director of customer success for California-based iBASEt.
“I’ve been telling people as we contend with COVID-19 that they need to embrace the fact that work and life are going to bleed into each other, and that plans need to be flexible,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to schedule out all their time. They’re going to have family obligations.
“When it comes to working on the MBA — especially a double load of accelerated classes — it’s been the same thing. I choose to handle the work/life/school balance by letting the pendulum swing wherever it needs to at any given moment. ”
Stevens acquired significant real-world experience before enrolling in college. He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing and management degree from the University of Washington Bothell in 2007 after earning an associate degree two years earlier.
In addition to spending more than a decade as a freelance writer and editor for Nintendo World Report, Stevens worked remotely for almost six years for Silicon Valley company Dynamic Signal.
The online MBA program made an appearance right when Stevens needed it.
“Serendipities have kept coming,” he said. “It is a huge blessing that this happened exactly when I was looking for it. I had the period of my life where I was willing to get it done, and it all came together.”
Stevens especially enjoys broadening his business acumen and horizons within the International Business concentration.
“I wanted to make sure that I’m picking up the things that I would need to learn for the way business is growing,” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s already global.
“There is no such thing as local companies anymore. Even local retail businesses are usually sourcing supplies from overseas. Finding out how all of these pieces fit together has been a key focus for me.”
So far, Stevens has enjoyed the finance courses the most. His favorite EWU faculty member is Dr. Christina Gehrke, his instructor for International Financial Management.
“Dr. Gehrke was very responsive to student feedback,” he said. “She was also willing to make changes to the course on the fly based on that feedback to make sure that we were getting what we felt we needed.”
Stevens has a strong support system in place for his return to higher education — especially from his wife, Rachel.
“I kind of sprung this on her,” he said. “She didn’t realize that I had been thinking about doing it or that I was going to do it. I told her the week that I was going to apply.
“She’s able to fill in and do daddy duties for me when those things have come up. She has been amazing. I don’t think anyone achieves anything solely on their own, and she was my rock throughout that year.”
Plus, Stevens enjoyed collaborating with his classmates in study groups and on discussion boards, including in the Data Driven Decision Making course.
“I was able to leverage some of my past experiences and help them understand not only how to use the software, but also how to actually do the analysis, how to make decisions based on what they’re seeing in the data,” he said.
“I take being a mentor very seriously. It was also students coming together and realizing, ‘We need more. What are we going to do to solve this?’ And then collaboratively coming up with solutions. That is really helping people succeed.”
Now that he has completed the online MBA in International Business program, Stevens looks forward to finding his next challenge.
“I’m looking for that next big goal,” he said. “What’s going to keep me moving forward? My wife and I have been talking about purchasing a vacation rental property for a while.”
Learn more about EWU’s online MBA program with an International Business Concentration.