Trevor Williams went to the University of Tennessee intending to become an engineer. But midway through his undergraduate career, Williams realized that his interests and strengths were leading in a different direction. In particular, his experience as chapter president and two-time regional chair of the National Society of Black Engineers inspired Williams to find a way to develop his leadership and business skills.
“Having the opportunity to be a servant leader and make decisions affecting a group got me thinking about earning an MBA,” says Williams. “I wanted to mix the technical skills I was acquiring through my electrical engineering courses with more business-focused skills. Instead of building a career as an engineer, I started to see myself as someone who could run an organization or small company.”
Following graduation, Williams bolstered his hands-on business experience by working full-time as a manager-trainee for the Hertz Corporation. After work each day, Williams focused on studying for the GMAT exam and applying to MBA programs.
“The UT Full-Time MBA Program seemed like a good fit for me, so I was really excited when I was accepted into the program,” adds Williams. “My belief that this was the right path for me was confirmed during the week-long prep program prior to the beginning of classes. When I started learning business fundamentals like accounting, economics, and finance, every day felt like a professional seminar. I knew I was where I needed to be.”
Prior to his MBA, Williams hadn’t taken undergraduate courses in finance, economics or marketing. As MBA classes began, he says, he quickly realized that while his road to MBA school might have been different than many of his classmates, detouring through engineering helped build skills needed to succeed in the Full-Time Program.
He explains, “Engineering was the hardest experience I have ever had to go through. It challenged me in terms of my work ethic and my intellect. Being an engineering student taught me to work harder and smarter, which prepared me for the MBA Program. If anything, the MBA Program was a breath of fresh air. The classes and challenges came more naturally to me. That’s when I knew I had found what I was meant to do.”
Less than a month after earning his MBA, Williams received an offer from Belden, Inc. to join the organization as a marketing analyst. His newly minted MBA skills were tested the first day on the job when his supervisor asked him to quickly turnaround some spreadsheet models. It was past time to head home, and Williams was handed his first opportunity to demonstrate what he could do.
“I looked at my watch and it was 5:30 p.m., and I thought, ‘Here’s where the hard work and those spreadsheet classes that I took in the MBA Program starts to kick in,’” Williams recalls. “I completed the assignment, submitted it to him, and we went over it the next day. It was a pretty big jump, and it might have been a test. If it was, I passed it right then and there because I was able refer back to all the courses that I took at UT.”
Williams initially focused on business analytics at Belden, and then gradually was introduced to other aspects of the business. Each new challenge, he says, was a chance to use the diverse business skills he had acquired at UT. This ability to quickly adapt to new situations has helped Williams progress steadily in his career at Belden.
“I didn’t know exactly how I was going to use my MBA, but now that I am working, I am able to summon the knowledge and skills I developed in the Program to succeed in so many different ways. If I didn’t have this MBA, I definitely would not be able to do the things that I am doing now.” In less than two years, he made the transition from marketing analyst to production manager. In his current role, Williams is responsible for all operations at Belden’s Hirschmann brand facility in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
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