Michael Ackerman grew up in a small town in northwestern Iowa. Currently an Engineering Supervisor at John Deere Dubuque Works, Michael reflects back on earning his MBA in Ottumwa and how it relates to his values, life experience and career.
When did you earn your MBA? What were you doing at the time?
I received my MBA in May 2005. At that time I was working for John Deere Ottumwa Works as an engineer on new product development. This was a great experience for me, developing a new machine and being in charge of more than 400 parts on the machine. During my MBA tenure I also worked with machines being manufactured down the assembly lines, addressing issues both in the factory and in the field. Rounding that out was work on cost reduction and warranty reduction projects, overall, some great work experiences that complimented my MBA experience.
What prompted you to pursue your MBA?
My father had earned his degree in business but I majored in agricultural engineering. When I started at John Deere full-time in May 2000, I started hearing my colleagues talk about the MBA degree. Also, as I started to feel out my place at Deere, management encouraged me to look into it. A fellow employee was just starting to pursue his as well, so we were able to start taking classes together. Finally, in terms of my family, it was a good time to go after it.
Who was your favorite professor, and why?
Dr. John Byrne was my favorite not only as a professor, but also because of his approach to life. He was always very helpful and accommodating. For example, he offered a banking class over the winter term that allowed me to graduate on time. Dr Byrne's also a great family man and I learned a lot from him, not only from his teaching but from how he lives his life. I chose Dr. Byrne to hood me during the graduation ceremony and that was very special and fitting.
Dr. Frank Borst is a strong second. Dr. Borst is one of those professors that just loves what he does and his students become affected by his passion, going above and beyond what they think they can do. He really brought it all together.
Were there any "ah-ha" moments during your education?
I think the biggest "ah-ha" moment was truly "teaming" with others in my class. Meeting people from different walks of life, from fire hydrant manufacturers to hospital management to those that work with amino acids from Cargill! This kind of diversity is what makes our world go around, and having this experience prepared me to embrace and appreciate diversity every day. At Deere we are always looking to improve how we work together in order to make us more efficient and effective. This is something that really stuck with me at a deep level.
How has earning your MBA informed your work?
With my agricultural engineering degree, I understood the product development side but didn't feel I had as good of a grasp on the business side. My MBA has helped me to gain this understanding. Our business is very cyclical and understanding the supply/demand, logistics, etc. and how they all work together, has given me a better appreciation for these important business facets.
What is your current position at Deere? Did that change as a result of earning your degree?
I am an Engineering Supervisor at John Deere Dubuque Works for our Four Wheel Drive Loader product line, in charge of structures and sheet metal. This opportunity came my way because of some of my accomplishments at Deere—and because I had earned my MBA.
What would you like others to know about the value of a St. Ambrose MBA?
I grew up in a small town in Northwest Iowa and graduated high school in a class of 17 students. I had the opportunity to play basketball, play Sherlock Holmes in a school play and travel to Minneapolis for a National Honor Society trip. I like to relate the St. Ambrose MBA to that. It has a "small town" feel, where all of the professors want to help you succeed. Realizing that SAU professors were making a six-hour round trip to help me attain my MBA, spoke volumes. Finally, the SAU MBA exposed me to many different facets of the business world, its size providing the flexibility to do so. I believe that having a well-rounded education helps you understand why your business does what it does and how you can make it better.