MBA student Brad Knudsen, knows a thing or two about work life balance. For the past year, he has been balancing the PMBA program with entrepreneurial endeavors (he founded a t-shirt company!) and a full-time job at a fast-paced, Denver-area startup. It seems like a lot to manage but Knudsen doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seems downright energized by it all. Read on to learn why Knudsen chose the Daniels PMBA, what he likes most about the program and his dream job (hint: it involves tacos, surfing and the beach).
What made you choose Daniels for your graduate degree? Particularly, why did you choose the part-time, cohorted, on-campus PMBA instead of a full-time or online MBA program?
I love Colorado and was pretty adamant about going to grad school here. Daniels is a widely respected business school, and I had a great experience as an undergrad at DU so I knew that the PMBA program [at Daniels] would either meet or exceed my expectations. I didn’t really entertain the idea of an online program because I value the face-to-face learning environment and wanted the person-to-person interaction to build my network. I had heard from others that the in-person aspect of this program was one of its most valuable aspects, so it seemed like a no-brainer. Plus, I wasn’t in a position to leave my job, so the PMBA program was almost too good to be true. I work for a small, fast-growing, startup company, and being able to work and go back to school has been ideal for me.
What’s the best part of the program, in your opinion?
I’ve just completed the third quarter of the program and at this point, I would say the best part has been my cohort of classmates. Being part of a close-knit group of people has been great and I got pretty lucky with my cohort because there’s a lot of diversity in terms of background and professional experience. So ultimately, the people I’ve met have been the best part of the program so far.
In what ways is Daniels preparing you for success following graduation?
Daniels really challenges us and [the program] is preparing me to think more critically and strategically about solving business challenges. We’re also learning how to better execute under pressure. A lot of us are juggling full-time jobs with this program, and some of my classmates also have family obligations, so learning to balance all of these demands while still performing under pressure has been very useful. Also, since ethics are such an important value at Daniels, we focus a lot on identifying and articulating our personal core values and guiding principles so that we can stay true to them as we make personal and professional choices. This has elevated our thinking and I can see how it would benefit us in the real world.
Have you worked on any projects for real companies yet? If so, can you tell me a bit about those?
In our first marketing class, we worked with Horizon—a division of DanoneWave that sells organic milk products—to help build a new and improved marketing strategy for the company’s organic milk product line. They presented us with their challenges and we were tasked with analyzing the data and presenting our recommendations to the company. The Horizon team even came to campus to hear our presentations and vote on a winner. A classmate of mine, who was in the market for a new job, ended up securing a position with Horizon once the project was completed.
We’ve also worked with the City and County of Denver to help improve the PocketGov app, which allows users to get information on certain amenities and services that are available in the city. With this project, we followed a similar format [as the one with Horizon] and analyzed the data and presented our recommendations to the client. This project was pretty cool, especially for those of us who live and work in Denver because we were exposed to a variety of new resources that we didn’t know about before.
What networking opportunities has Daniels offered you so far?
In addition to leveraging the professional connections within our cohort, we’ve also had a number of speakers come to class to share their experience and business-related insights. For instance, in our Strategic Management class, Professor Lowell Valencia-Miller brought in a variety of business executives, including the CEO of Black Canyon Midstream who I’ve been able to network with because I work with companies like Black Canyon Midstream in my current role.
Overall, we’ve been exposed to a handful of professionals from big companies—a lot of whom have jobs that many of us would like to have one day. I like that we can connect with them in a more casual environment and leverage these relationships to build our network.
What might you tell someone considering the Daniels PMBA program?
This program won’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer but it will give you real-world, relevant business knowledge for your next step. It will encourage you to innovate and think critically about solving business challenges. Ultimately, I would tell prospective students to take advantage of every resource that is available [at Daniels]. Don’t coast and be sure to leverage your network and the connections you make in class because those relationships are so beneficial.
What’s your dream job/career?
Owning a surf/taco shack on the beach has always sounded appealing but frankly, I want to inspire others to be innovative in what they do. I’ve also always wanted to start my own company. In fact, I launched a small t-shirt company a few years ago, so I would love to do something with sustainable clothing or outerwear. Along the same lines, I pitched a new product idea—flat pack modular patio furniture made from recycled ocean waste and plastic—as part of a class at Daniels. Consumers seem to support companies that operate using sustainable business practices, so pursuing a business venture with a focus on sustainability seems like a good way to bring value and improve the planet along the way.
What are your plans following graduation?
I would love to travel a bit—preferably to some place with a beach. Traveling is a passion of mine and I want to take advantage of it. Working abroad is also something I want to do at some point.
For more information on the Daniels Professional MBA program, visit: https://daniels.du.edu/professional-mba/