Michael Green is, by his own admission, never satisfied.
That says quite a bit about the Wyoming native who has voluntarily relocated four times across three states during his 11 years with South Dakota-based biofuel company POET.
“‘Never satisfied’ is actually the slogan of our company,” Green said.
In addition to keeping moving companies in the Midwest busy, Green carried over his eternal quest for more to the realm of higher education by graduating from Southeastern Oklahoma State University with an online Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship in 2017.
It was his second master’s degree.
Green earned a Master of Science in Chemical and Biological Engineering from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 2006. He has worked his way up from process engineer to plant manager at POET.
“In management, there’s the technical pathway and the business pathway,” Green said. “We have a lot of general managers and people above them who are not engineers — they’re more from the business side of things. The MBA was about trying to make that jump from a technical side over to the business management side for more opportunities. I’ve kind of peaked on my technical career path at this point.”
What about that emphasis in entrepreneurship?
“It wasn’t really something I had ever thought about before,” he said. “It just piqued my interest. I was aware of it only as something other people did. I don’t know if it’s something I would ever pursue outside of using the skills in an established company. Once I jumped into it, it was really interesting. It was kind of a whole new way to view business.”
Not only did Green gain new perspectives on business in the online MBA program, he also had to adapt to a new approach to learning. Not surprisingly, he did just that by graduating with a 4.0 GPA, exactly like he did in his first master’s degree program.
“I was pretty pleased,” he said. “It took some effort. Once you go through engineering school and figure out a problem-solving methodology, you can really apply it to anything. I never had to do that kind of intensive reading before — that was new to me. It was almost like taking a philosophy course. It was interesting, though.”
Green, 39, found the majority of the MBA curriculum to be immediately applicable to his career.
“The accounting and economic side of business is something I have never really done a whole lot with and knew I needed to learn about,” he said. “It was really good to get some skills and understand what the accounting people are saying to me. There were also a lot of ethics and management-type courses.”
Green found MNGT 5223: Behavioral Management, taught by Dr. C.W. Von Bergen, to be the most relevant to his position.
“It’s all about managing people, how people interact and those dynamics,” he said. “That was more the kind of stuff I studied prior to the MBA through leadership training with my company. It really fit in on much more of an academic level than anything I had seen before.”
The final course Green took in the program, MNGT 5773: Principle-Centered Leadership and Ethics, was another favorite.
“It had a text that was really the most applicable,” Green said. “It was obviously written by someone who had been out in the world; it wasn’t really academic. It was a lot more down-to-earth, which I thought was cool. They were very real-world examples of how you actually go out with a business and apply these things.”
The only experience Green had with online education prior to the MBA program was online training at work, so he had a few reservations when he enrolled.
“Online is obviously the way everything is going,” Green said. “Southeastern Oklahoma’s online education is so much better [than work training]. Their systems all work and it’s all laid out so well. I thought the professors there did a really nice job.”
The flexibility of the program allowed Green to maintain a full-time job and still have some time for family life with his wife, Erin, and two young sons, Silas (2) and Elon, who was born while Green was still enrolled in the program.
“For me, online is really the only viable option, and it worked out very well,” he said. “I looked at several schools. With Southeastern Oklahoma, the flexibility is really great and the price is really good. I never had to be somewhere at any certain time.
“The kids go to bed around seven at our house, so I’ve got two or three hours in the evenings. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, my wife would take the kids and do stuff, or at least watch the kids every weekend while I did schoolwork.”
The support of his friends and family was a big reason for Green’s success.
“At first, my wife had some questions, but this is something that I have been thinking about for years,” he said. “I brought it up to her about a year-and-a-half ago. She said, ‘Well, why would you want to do that?’ After we had the discussion, she understood. My family is big on college. My great-grandfather was a doctor. My brother and sister are both doctors. I can’t claim to have plowed any new ground on that one.”
On the Move
Now that he has completed the online MBA program, Green looks forward to being an even stronger manager and to future career opportunities he will have because of his well-rounded education.
“I have counterparts who have moved from my position to the next position, which would be the general manager job,” he said. “All of those people who have done so all have MBAs. It’s almost a standard thing. I piqued the interest of some of the other members of the management team at work who are in a similar situation. They want to boost themselves in a new direction.”
Green, who volunteers annually with United Way, said time management is the key element when earning an online degree.
“Setting aside the right amount of time is important,” he said. “You need strong time management and follow the way the course is laid out. The professors do a good job of laying out, ‘Here are these due dates, and you should have this stuff done by certain points in the week. If you do those things, you should be fine.’”
Of course, Green isn’t 100 percent satisfied, but he is happy to have his free time back to perhaps plot another relocation.
“I’ll be 40 next month,” he said. “I thought it was about time to do something [the MBA] I had thought about for 10 years. It was interesting and fun, but I’m glad it’s finished. It’s nice to have my weekends free.”
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA program with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship.