Climbing higher: How one Athabasca U student fast-tracked his path to an MBA
Ranjeet Koonar has always enjoyed reaching for his own high water mark.
He’s been a database developer and a naval combat system engineering officer with the Canadian Armed Forces, and held senior engineering positions at Lockheed Martin, MDA, Honeywell Aerospace, and Flex.
Over the past year, Koonar has also been ramping up his educational ambitions, from completing a supply chain certificate to an aggressive pursuit of an MBA online at Athabasca University.
“I was inspired to enrol by my wife Parminder,” says Koonar, who lives with her in the Ottawa area. “She works a busy job in the medical field and launched her pursuit of a Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies degree at Athabasca in 2008. I saw her as a real hero, pursuing that goal credit after credit in six-month courses until she recently graduated with her degree.”
Koonar enrolled in a single course on governance at Athabasca to get a feel for the university. He says he had thought about earning an MBA beginning with his service in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Completing that program while serving in the military seemed impossible. By the time I joined Lockheed, I was involved in projects that kept me so busy I was putting in 70-hour weeks and additional education commitments seemed impossible.”
As an engineer responsible for the execution of complex projects from the ground up, supply chain management skills are critical. To test his capacity for distance education and to hone those skills, he enrolled in Athabasca’s Online Supply Chain Management Certificate in August 2017. The certificate requires the completion of eight intensive courses, each a month long.
“My work schedule was still crazy,” he says. “But I found I could complete the course work. I was enjoying myself and doing so well that in October I decided I wanted to transition to the full Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Leadership and Management (PBDLM).”
It was an easy transition. The PBDLM program offers three specialties: leadership, manufacturing management, and supply chain management. Students have the option of pursuing certificates in those individual areas, or transferring all their credits to PBDLM at any time.
“I applied to PBDLM online,” Koonar says. “I provided a resume, my original university degree transcripts from Lakehead University, and a professional reference letter indicating my suitability for the program. Once I was accepted, the three credits I had earned in supply chain management were transferred to the PBDLM. The university offered the services of an enrolment advisor in case I had any questions.”
Koonar began the PBDLM in January 2018, still concentrating on completing the supply chain management courses that had first inspired his interest. During the fifth course, Green Supply Chain, he received a shout-out from internationally recognized supply chain expert and course coach Larry Berglund.
“Because of my performance in the program, Larry encouraged me to consider the MBA program at Athabasca,” Koonar says. “Being encouraged to enter the MBA program helped me muster up the courage to finally commit to it.”
Koonar applied to the Athabasca MBA program in May 2018, following completion of his sixth PBDLM course.
“It only took two weeks to move from the PBDLM to the MBA,” he says. “Athabasca took care of all the administration behind the scenes. They de-rostered me from the PBDLM courses and filled my roster with MBA courses, which are completed in a pre-set sequence.”
Three applicable course credits were transferred to the MBA program.
Koonar says the PBDLM’s intensive one-month courses gave him the confidence to take on the MBA’s intensive two-month courses. But he’s not scheduled to begin the MBA program until August, following completion of the final courses that will earn him a supply chain management certificate of completion. If all goes according to plan, he will earn his MBA by the end of 2021.
“Pursuing these programs has really changed the way I think about myself. I believe the MBA will open a lot of doors for me at the management level. I’ve always been the type of person who keep on climbing until someone tells me I can’t climb any more. At that point, I tend to disagree and climb some more. ”