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A Jill of All Trades: Victoria Shackelford Pursues Her MBA While Being a Full-Time Mom and Employee

A Jack (or Jill) of all trades is someone who “can do many different types of work and has a wide range of knowledge and skills—allowing them to perform various tasks successfully.” While some may see this connotation as a euphemism for being a “master of none,” it’s better to see this type of ability as highly beneficial—especially in the evolving business world. Why? Because in today’s environment, knowing how to work only makes a person more valuable, enabling them to uphold their commitments to both their personal and professional lives without having to sacrifice much in between. 

Part-Time MBA student Victoria Shackelford perfectly emulates this type of person—one who can successfully pursue her MBA, commit to a full-time career as an executive assistant for a sales engagement software company (ringDNA), and remain dedicated to raising her children at home. 

Returning to the books after nearly 15 years, Victoria had initial reservations about school but found Pepperdine Graziadio’s Part-Time MBA program offered her the best of both worlds. This flexible school schedule fit her needs as a mother and full-time employee. Having the ability to complete her MBA on a timetable that fits her lifestyle is one of the most significant factors that drew her to Graziadio, allowing her to prioritize her studies with what matters most: family. She also credits Graziadio’s ample resources available to students, ensuring their success inside and outside the classroom. 

When it comes to the online classroom, Victoria finds it different from the norm. However, it’s still working to her advantage, making it possible to complete her MBA while adhering to her other responsibilities. Her familiarity with technology from her recent experience joining a tech-startup company aids her in successfully navigating both working and learning online. The flexibility allows her to switch between various roles without feeling overwhelmed or unable to commit to multiple responsibilities. “Earning this time back” is a significant benefit that most anyone can take advantage of, allowing people to capitalize on the opportunity to do more with less time and shift their priorities to whatever is most important. Victoria has a firm stance on technology, holding that it will continue to progress as time ensues and provide beneficial experiences for workers and students alike.

Flipping the other side of the coin, Victoria looks forward to eventually meeting her fellow cohorts face to face. While technology allows her to build rapport with her classmates, there are still organic components of being in-person that will most likely never be replaced by technology. For students looking to earn an education online, Victoria emphasizes the importance of having the proper mindset to optimize meeting your priorities. Additionally, to utilize the resources offered, as they are provided to help ensure student success. 

While learning online might not be for everyone, the future outlook for many is positive—creating a new wave of opportunities for many to become a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. 


Q&A with MBA student, Victoria Shackelford

1. What attracted you to Pepperdine Graziadio? What drew you to the Part-Time MBA program?

I appreciated the flexibility the program offered. As a full-time working mom, it’s hard to anticipate everything life is going to throw at you. Not many graduate schools offer seven years to complete their MBA program. I hope it doesn’t take me that long, but knowing I have the option to take a semester off if needed is comforting to me.

Also, I had some reservations about returning to school after 15 years. Everyone I spoke to during the recruitment process reassured me Pepperdine has numerous resources to not only help students succeed while in the program but assist in career development, job placement, and continued resources after graduation. I was looking into MBA programs in the first place because my career was at an impasse. Everything I heard about the Pepperdine FEMBA program offered the direction I was looking for to help me figure out the next steps in my career development. 

2. How has your transition been from being in-person to a virtual environment?

Honestly, it’s been so long since I graduated from undergrad, jumping back into academia was going to be an adjustment no matter what. For the past two years, I was fortunate enough to work for a startup tech company where I’ve learned tips and tricks that have proven to be incredibly helpful during the transition to working and learning in a virtual environment. An in-depth understanding of Google Drive and Zoom have been beneficial. 

Even though there is still a sense of missing out on in-person interacting and networking opportunities, I still feel I’ve been able to meet and connect with my classmates through group assignments and our class slack channel. It’s so easy to connect with people these days virtually. We are fortunate all of this is happening while we have access to such great technology. I’m still looking forward to running into the classmates I’ve met virtually on campus next year!

3. What are some adaptations you’ve made as a student during this time?

My priorities have grown since the last time I was a student. One of the key things I’ve come to terms with is I cannot be 100% in all the areas of my life at all times. I have to be able to shift focus. Blocking time off on the calendar has been key to managing the workload. 

Everyone told me management school would be a lot of work, but I think it’s still a shock once you see it all laid out in front of you. Add the responsibilities of working full-time and, in my case, family. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. What has helped me has been changing my mindset. Instead of focusing on the amount of work or the length of a paper, I try to think about the practical applications of what I’m learning. After one class, I’ve already improved my communication in both my personal and professional life. I’ve even improved how I speak with my three-year-old!

4. Do you enjoy learning virtually? Are there things that you see as more beneficial than in person?

Working and learning virtually has allowed me the opportunity to jump quickly from various roles in my life without wasting time. Since I’m a mom with two young girls, being virtual has been a tremendous help. I can put my baby to sleep, grab a bite to eat with my three-year-old, and be in class minutes later. Another benefit is juggling studying, work, and household needs while shifting priorities throughout the day, all from a single location.

5. What advice or suggestions do you have for being successful as a student when learning entirely online? 

Take advantage of the resources Pepperdine offers and the faculty and staff at your disposal. Keep in mind the program is designed to help you succeed. Ask for help, guidance, and advice whenever you need it!

Try not to think of the program as a means to an end. At the end of this, the diploma you hold in your hand is only as valuable as the information you have gained along the way.