recent survey found that, among Americans who have lost jobs or hours during the pandemic, those with graduate or professional degrees are much more likely to have started a new job.

To understand how a St. Edward’s graduate degree can open doors even in a downturn, we sat down with Brian Poole MBA ’08, business systems manager at AMD. He earned his MBA in the midst of the Great Recession and graduated ready to embark on a new career.

Why did you decide to go back to school?

My undergraduate degree, and my career up to that point, had been focused on IT. But I really enjoyed learning about the other aspects of business, and I had found that learning more about the business side would make me more effective and valuable in my IT position. Getting an MBA would open up access to different opportunities.

How did you choose St. Edward’s?

I considered a lot of online programs and several local ones. I picked St. Edward’s because the MBA was set up to expose you to many aspects of business, instead of having you pick one area to specialize in. At St. Edward’s I focused on marketing, but I got to learn about other dimensions of business at the same time.

How did the degree transform your career/expand your professional options?

Before I earned my MBA, I was on a very IT-centric career path. I was supporting the different systems within the company, but I didn’t understand the role of those systems in the operation of the business. The MBA helped me understanding what finance, accounting and sales were actually doing and what the context was for my IT work. It helped me deliver IT results at a higher level, and I became the go-to person to communicate with these other departments because I understood them.

What happened next?

I actually shifted to a marketing-centric career. Because I enjoyed IT and understood all aspects of business, marketing in particular, I created a niche for myself. I melded those together as a business analyst and systems manager who understood both the business and IT sides.

You graduated in 2008, as a recession was underway. How did your MBA from St. Edward’s help you during the changing economy?

The degree helped with both career retention and career advancement. My MBA gave me the ability to understand multiple aspects of business and contribute on many different levels, which made me more valuable in my IT position. Because of that, I avoided a lot of the instability that other people experienced during the recession and recovery. But the recession was also when I started carving out my new niche. I could communicate, “This is why I’m valuable and why you need this new position of business analyst/systems manager.” The bottom line is that the degree not only opened up new opportunities but allowed me to switch careers and market myself on a different level than I had before.

What else did you get out of the program?

I use that secondary area of focus in both my current career as well as consulting with people regarding personal finance. As a result of being in the program, I met a classmate who established his own physical therapy company, and I serve on the board of directors for his startup today. I never would have expected to do that, but the MBA program introduced me both to my classmate and to my ability and interest in finance.