Jay Janzen: Almost an MBA grad and always a life-long learner
Jay Janzen is on track to complete his Athabasca University (AU) MBA very soon, and has high expectations for where it can take him. As a father, a manager, and now, a life-long learner, his story is one of overcoming obstacles, working hard, and setting an incredible example for his children.
He has worked for Crestline Coach for over seven years now. Starting out as a Quality Assurance Coordinator, he wanted to advance his career and grow within the company.
“You do a really good job at work, but you need a formal education if you want to get anywhere,” Janzen said. “It was scary as an adult learner.”
Before he even enrolled in classes, he had some things in his life he had to get in order. He had become a single father of three kids and took a bit of time to do some serious self-reflection. It was in this time of soul-searching that he noticed role alcohol was playing in his life and took action.
In July 2014, he began his journey to sobriety. Through the support of a local Alcoholics Anonymous group, he took back his life and by September, he began taking a night math class to upgrade his academics. He set himself on a new path and was working towards the ambitious goals he set for himself and his kids.
A new opportunity
By the end of that December, Janzen’s company had approached him about an incredible opportunity. Through a partnership between the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, AU Faculty of Business, and provincially administered Canada Job Grant, he could begin AU’s Online Leadership and Management Development (LMD) courses.
He jumped at the chance. Not only was this a university-level program, but it allowed him to acclimatize to the post-secondary learning environment. The courses gave him immediately applicable knowledge and skills he could implement in his workplace.
He enjoyed the program, and really enjoyed interacting with other manufacturing professionals. What’s more is he excelled in his work.
“Like others taking the manufacturing management certificate, Jay was at first uncertain about his ability to work at a university level as he had been out of school for many years,” said Dr. Deborah Hurst, Dean of the Faculty of Business. “Yet from my perspective, all the individuals in that program were hard-working, capable, intelligent, and had earned the trust of their employers. I thought most certainly he could handle the MBA program.”
An MBA next?
Crestline Coach was chosen to host an industry event to celebrate and promote the partnership. It was at this event that Janzen had the opportunity to meet Hurst and AU’s LMD Program Director at the time, Dr. Tim Nerenz. They discussed what Janzen’s next steps were going to be.
“They said to me, ‘Well, what are you going to do after this program?’ and they recommended I apply for the MBA program,” Janzen said. “I was really doubting myself. Here I was, a single father of three kids and working full-time… I had concerns.”
He mulled it over and had an opportunity to discuss his concerns with Hurst one-on-one.
“I remember she said, ‘Here’s why you should do this: it’s designed for people like you, you’re able to keep working and keep being a father, while working towards your educational goals,” Janzen said. “They both believed in me.”
“If I can do it—anybody can do it. I’m doing it for my kids.”– Jay Janzen
"It was the right thing to do."
As finances were also one of his concerns, Nerenz wrote him a reference letter and Janzen wrote an essay on the benefits of taking advanced education, how it would serve the company, and how he wanted to implement it at work. His Human Resources manager at work also vouched for him. After submitting his documents to the company, the CEO called him to his office.
“We sat down and he told me they were going to pay for it,” Janzen said. “He said that it was (because of) my dedication and that the company wanted to invest in me. He said it was the right thing to do.”
With the support and encouragement from Crestline, Janzen applied, was accepted, and then began his MBA courses.
“It was definitely out of my comfort zone,” he said. “It was eye-opening for me on the approach of theory and practice, but I was lucky to be supported by company executives. Throughout they were asking me how it was going, and I could discuss concept and practice within the context of our company.”
Janzen is now finishing up his last class and will be convocating in 2020. As the youngest of four boys in his family, he will be the first one with a university education.
“If I can do it—anybody can do it,” he said. “I’m doing it for my kids.”
His advice for those who also may have concerns like he did or are doubting whether or not they could do AU’s MBA is straightforward.
“Give it a try. It seems daunting, but if you put a few hours aside every day, you can do it. It’s worth it,” Janzen said. “The diversity of educators and fellow students in the program brings theory and practice together with people from all over the world.”
“Jay attended my leadership class as his final program requirement, and I noticed a huge change in him from the man I met at the beginning–so confident and sure-footed,” said Dean Hurst of Janzen. “He’s a clear leader and he joined in with all the other students fully knowing that he was one of them and that they all accomplished something great. I felt really proud of what he had accomplished both educationally and personally and when he mentioned that he wouldn’t be there without having that short conversation with me encouraging him to take the next step, well, I felt really proud.”
On completing AU’s MBA program, he is looking forward to some well-earned time off, and getting some downtime back. And then?
“I’ve looked at the DBA program,” said Janzen. “I’m looking forward to continuing to grow with the company. It’s a great organization and culture—family oriented, their people come first. Every employee has an opportunity to contribute.”
Janzen is looking forward to his future and is now leaving an incredible legacy of lifelong learning within his company and ultimately for his kids.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to grow with the company. It’s a great organization and culture—family oriented, their people come first. Every employee has an opportunity to contribute.”– Jay Janzen