In progressing as a manager over the last decade, Cristen English saw the need to boost her business acumen.

“I started to identify knowledge gaps in conversations, so I was missing that confidence of sitting at a table with executives to have strategic discussions, money discussions and also negotiations,” she said. “That’s where I was the most uncomfortable and having the hardest time finding direct training.

“You can have communications training and basic skills and technology training and understand tools and platforms, but I was lacking that skill of being able to walk in the room and have that larger conversation.”

The solution? English enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration program at Longwood University. She is on track to complete the program in August 2022.

“I loved the way Longwood presented the MBA program and the carousel,” she said. “The timing of it was great. It wasn’t measured in semesters, so if I committed to this, I could do it in two years.”

English recently earned a promotion to senior manager at CapTech Consulting in Richmond, Virginia. She lives in historic Church Hill with her 3-year-old daughter, Finley, and rescue dog, Rusty.

“The MBA program checked a lot of boxes,” she said. “It’s flexible. I could manage my own time. I am still working full time and have a family at home.

“I need to be able to do things at night and on the weekends. When I read about people who have gone through the MBA program, they seemed very similar to me.”

Change of Direction

English grew up in Manassas, Virginia, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Hollins University in 1999.

“I focused a lot on communications and public relations in my undergrad,” she said. “I went into marketing and advertising and slowly evolved that into technology and strategic account management.

“I had an interest in the platforms, like fundraising tools, and being able to help customers make data-driven decisions. I was drawn to that over the creative aspect of marketing, so I ended up going into agency work that focused on technology platform solutions for clients.”

In addition to becoming a marketing manager for the Texas Restaurant Association while she lived in Austin, English ran her own event marketing business, Electric Monkey, for four years. She returned to Virginia and enrolled at Longwood in Fall 2020.

“I knew of the school and was familiar with its reputation,” she said. “Even though it is remote, if I ever have to go to campus, it’s close enough. My nephew is also an undergrad there.”

So far, MANG 664: Negotiation is English’s favorite course in the online MBA curriculum, but she looks forward to MANG 687: Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management.

“I kept all of my books,” she said. “The material I am learning is relevant and makes me more confident in my day-to-day work.”

The interactive element of being an online student also appeals to English, who enjoys traveling, reading and going to local breweries with her friends and family in her free time.

“It’s working well,” she said. “I have ample access to professors, even on the weekends. If I reach out to a professor, they usually get back to me on the same day.

“They also hold office hours and group discussions. It doesn’t feel like I’m learning in a vacuum. I am connected to the professors and my classmates. We have discussion threads, so it’s not like I’m doing it by myself at home. I’m part of a community.”

Home, Sweet Home

Since starting the online MBA program, English has had a strong support system with her family and friends.

“They’re super excited,” she said. “Everybody thought it was very relevant to what I do. My friends are impressed I am able to balance it with having a 3-year-old and working full time.”

After English graduates from the online MBA program, she hopes to climb the CapTech ladder and enjoy family life.

“I’d like to go internal and take some of the knowledge I gain to make more strategic business decisions for the company aside from just my clients,” she said. “I am where I want to be, but there is a lot of growth opportunity to move into leadership.”

When she has the education to go with the experience, English believes she will be ready to take that next step in her career.

“The program is as flexible and doable as it seems,” she said. “You are getting a top-notch education that’s relevant to what you’re doing today. Plus, the return on investment has already happened, and I haven’t even graduated from the program yet.”

Learn more about Longwood’s online MBA program.