Tiara Miles has a five-year plan to boost her career.
The Boston native and avid Seinfeld fan is on track to graduate from the online Master of Business Administration in Accounting program at Fitchburg State University in May 2020.
"I talked to other women at my former job," she said. "I was trying to figure out where I saw myself in five years and what my goals were. I had never thought about those types of things. I didn't know where I saw myself.
"There were many different scenarios they didn't want me to experience like getting passed up for a job because I didn't have a degree. We talked about the importance of furthering my education. They said, 'If you have an MBA, you're all set.' They were right."
After researching online MBA programs across the country, Miles found the one that best suited her needs less than 60 miles away.
"Fitchburg fell into all of the categories I wanted," she said. "It was 100% online, accredited and didn't require the GMAT or the GRE for admission. That was a good thing. I shouldn't have to pay to take another test.
"I also liked the flexible start dates. It was under $13,000. I said, 'This is great. This is more than affordable.' All of those things made the decision the right one for me."
Miles followed through on the good advice of her co-workers at Vinfen and enrolled before she accepted a position as a staff accountant at Simmons University.
"There was a lot going on, but it was my path and meant to be," she said. "It all worked out. It's imperative you don't overwhelm yourself in the program. I go the extra mile to make sure I have a great grade, but you have to balance it out. The professors are very vocal about what you need to do."
The Old Switcheroo
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration from Westfield State College in 2014, Miles landed a student financial services counselor position at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
"I wanted to try different areas and career paths to see what fit. I discovered I was good in the accounts receivable area and the revenue accounting area. I love accounting, numbers and figuring things out. This is the right field for me."
The online format helps Miles plan school around her busy work schedule, but she is also impressed with the flexibility of the faculty at Fitchburg State.
"When I had some medical issues, they were helpful," she said. "That was great and understanding because life happens."
So far, MGMT 9500: Strategic Management, taught by Dr. Michael Greenwood, is Miles' favorite course in the online MBA in Accounting curriculum.
"I liked that course because you learned about things you don't think of," she said. "The final exam was a strategic analysis for Harley-Davidson. It was imperative to have those skills to plan everything for that company.
"It was my favorite class as it opened my eyes to see other areas of business. Maybe in the future, I will have a focus on areas outside of accounting, too. Now, I'll know how to do them."
Miles said she has immediately applied a lot of the information she learned in the program during the first year at her current job.
"I didn't realize I was doing some things in the book," she said. "I said, 'I have to add this to my resume.' I didn't know I was implementing controls in auditing reviews. I let my boss know, 'You need to do it this way, not that way.' It's been eye-opening and great to see my skill set continuously diversify."
Since enrolling in the online MBA in Accounting program, Miles said she has had a great support system of family and friends encouraging her every step of the way. She is a first-generation college student in her immediate family to earn a college degree.
"Everybody is pretty excited for me," she said. "I found myself dispirited at times and said to them, 'I'm going to fail,' they say, 'You're smart. You're going to pass.' Everyone is proud of me.
"It's kind of surreal to me until I walk across that stage. It's not real yet. I have to go to graduation to get the pictures and experience the excitement."
Miles has already seen the benefits of working toward a master's degree.
"It created the outcome for endless possibilities," she said. "This degree equips me with a competitive edge needed in the job market, and to be set apart in a group of candidates selected for a promotion. I was able to see my intrinsic value increasing, providing me the confidence I needed to compete by diversifying my knowledge."
Although Miles loves her job, she is open to exploring the many paths a degree in accounting has to offer.
For now, Miles is focused on completing the program while working hard and enjoying her favorite syndicated television show for a good laugh. She is also happy to have a five-year plan instead of a wait-and-see approach.
"I outlined what I wanted and saw myself doing," she said. "It's important to plan it out and see what aligns with your goals. That's what I did. Also, see if you are financially capable of doing it. I knew I could afford it. Those are the two most important things."
That's no yadda, yadda, yadda.
Learn more about Fitchburg State's online MBA in Accounting program.
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