MBA Curriculum Provides Career Returns for Food Industry Manager
How do you get a return on your investment in an MBA education before you’ve even graduated? Ask Jon Rhodes.
Rhodes, who is scheduled to complete the Jenkins MBA program in 2024, has already seen his career move forward, thanks to his classes. And that was his goal when he started looking for more business education.
Rhodes had worked at Harris Teeter since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business in 2005. He had risen through the ranks at the upscale grocery chain, eventually becoming responsible for the company’s deli departments, where he managed over $300 million in annual sales.
“When you work for a company, like I had, for 17 years, you learn the language, the terminology and the way that particular company does business for that industry,” he says. “But the more I started to engage in meetings outside the organization, with vendors, I realized how little I actually knew.”
It was time, he decided, to go back to school and earn an MBA.
Rhodes, who lives in Charlotte, wanted a program he could do at his own pace, which would allow him to continue to advance in his career and have time and energy for his family (he has two children). Otherwise, he knew, something — school, work or family — would pay the penalty.
I found that NC State offered the program that fit my chaotic life.
The flexibility the online MBA program offers allows him to be successful at school, at work and as a father. “I like knowing that I’m in control.”
The online program includes short residencies in Raleigh, but Rhodes was still worried that, as an online student and working professional in Charlotte, he would be “a ghost in the system.”
“Honestly, I was completely wrong,” he says. “Professors make themselves available for office hours and group chats, and friendships are formed through group projects. The engagement and the interaction are as real as sitting in an actual classroom.”
Even though he’s three hours from campus he says, “I’m very much a part of the community.”
But the MBA program was just one part of Rhodes’ career plan. He also needed experience outside Harris Teeter — to better understand how other companies operated, expand his skills and knowledge, and explore opportunities beyond food retailing.
Even before enrolling at NC State he had applied for a few jobs at other companies, but he’d had little success.
“I was ghosted or I would receive a typical email like, ‘Hey, we’re sorry, we found somebody more qualified,’” he says.
That changed when Rhodes took MBA 531 — Leading People I. He had a chance to recreating his résumé “from the ground up.” He also took what he had learned in class about creating a strong résumé and applied it to his LinkedIn profile.
After the class, I began getting noticed on LinkedIn. Recruiters were reaching out to me. “I was getting emails, callbacks, and engaged in the interviewing process and that ultimately led to Sodexo.
Sodexo, a giant food services and facilities management company based in Paris with a presence in 55 countries, offered him significant opportunities for career growth, Rhodes says. In spring 2022 he left Harris Teeter and joined Sodexo as director, retail categories.
Meanwhile, his MBA class work continues to yield dividends on the job.
Going into Prof. Donnie Hale’s MBA 506 and MBA 507 — Data Driven Managerial Decisions I and II — basically applying statistics to business decisions — Rhodes was scared. Statistics, he says, has never been a strength. The class surprised him.
“[Hale] did a fantastic job creating a realistic correlation of how data-driven statistics go hand in hand with everyday business,” Rhodes says.
Now I’m actually applying some of the knowledge I’ve learned to what I’m doing, where I analyze market data and internal scan data.
And Rhodes’ MBA journey is far from over.
One of the opportunities the Jenkins MBA gives him that he’s excited about is the chance to earn certifications in specialized areas, in addition to his degree. He’s pursuing an operations and supply chain management certification and a leadership certification.
Rhodes is structuring his electives to earn those certifications without adding coursework to his degree program, he says. “I hope to utilize this certification along with the MBA to accelerate my career growth.”
He’s already on the way. “Every class I’ve taken so far has been nothing less than a wealth of knowledge.”
This post was originally published in Jenkins MBA News.