Shooting the Breeze: The Inaugural CSUF Mihaylo MBA Student Interview

My goal has always been to provide an insider’s perspective of the CSUF Mihaylo MBA program.  But I’m sure you are probably getting tired of just my perspective, and I thought it would be great for my classmates’ to share their opinions.  So in the spirit of the new spring semester, I present the inaugural Orange County MBA interview with Jeff Smith.

Before my first semester at CSUF’s MBA program, I met several fantastic people at Orientation Weekend.  One such person was Jeff Smith, whom I met early on the first day of the event, and we stayed in touch since then.  We were both entering our first semesters at CSUF, and I was fascinated about Jeff’s background in the defense industry.  So, with his first semester completed and crossed off his to-do list, I wanted to get his opinion on CSUF Mihaylo MBA program.

Jeff, thanks for taking the time to do this interview.  First off, can you tell us a little about your current career situation?

Currently, I work for The Boeing Company as an Industrial Security Professional.  In short, I manage and enforce security compliance requirements relating to government defense programs. I’ve been doing this for about seven years.
So you’ve been working in your current position for quite a while.  Why did you decide earning an MBA would be good for your career?

A MBA will allow me the opportunity to switch industries.  Defense is being cut, so I hope the MBA will expand my options.  My plan is to move into a career in finance or investing. Honestly, I haven’t fully determined that this is the best option for a career change, but it certainly won’t hurt.
Well, I applaud you for looking down the road and working to improve your future career opportunities.  What led you to choose CSUF’s MBA program?

CSUF was close to work and home, it is relatively cheap, and the business school is one of the best in the country.  Nobody can be taught.  We can only learn.  Well, why not learn from a top-notch faculty devoted to students and not research?
Those were some of the same factors I considered when researching schools.  What skills, knowledge and abilities do you hope to gain while at CSUF?

I mostly hope to gain a deeper understanding of the finance and investment industries.  There are so many complex variables to investing and the markets that it’s hard to learn on your own because you don’t know what you don’t know.  I don’t expect an MBA will give me everything I need, but it will at least show me the things I need to know.
What, for you, has been the most surprising part of the MBA program so far?

I have only been in the program for one semester, but the pace of the lectures, of the course load, and of the semester in general was not something I fully anticipated.  It makes sense now that I’ve experienced it, but I wasn’t prepared for it.  One can’t get far behind because trying to catch up is hell.  Time will not slow for you.  The courses are scheduled tightly to fit everything in.  If you can keep up, let alone get ahead, you will be very successful in this program, in your career, and in life.
Last year was my first semester too, and I was shocked at how easy it was to fall behind if you can’t stay on top of the material.  But, you made it through that first semester and spring semester started last week.  What’s one thing about the MBA program you are most looking forward to in your coming semesters?

Actually, this will happen this semester.  I’m taking Finance 444 [Options and Futures] as an elective.  I know the basics of each, but there’s always more to learn.  In fact, I trade options now, but I can’t wait to fully understand and apply some of the more complex strategies.

I also hope to meet some great people.  The program is at least as much about networking as it is about getting a degree.  My hope is that the people I meet through the program will one day be able to help me in my career, and vice versa.  Some may go to competing firms or get the job I was hoping for, but it’s important to remember that even your competitors can help you succeed.  Competitor doesn’t mean enemy.   Case in point, Bill Gates once gave Steve Jobs a loan to keep Apple afloat.
I think that’s great advice to keep in mind, especially while working side-by-side with fellow classmates to earn our MBA degrees.  So before we wrap up, what one piece of advice would you offer to prospective MBA students?

I actually may have just given this:  Network.  Honestly, I’m not as good at this as I should be, so I should take my own advice. However, the people we meet in this program are going to be the future business leaders of Orange County.  You never know where the next opportunity may come from, so it’s always important to keep an open mind.

Jeff, thank you for taking the time to do the inaugural MBA interview for the Orange County MBA blog.  Good luck with the spring semester, and I hope the Options and Futures course is a helpful and exciting class. 


If you are interested in contacting Jeff to ask him a question or simply to network with him, check out his LinkedIn profile.


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