With three business degrees in hand, AIU alumnus William Jackson has learned that taking the time to assess what you want out of life can lead you right to where you want to be.
He always knew he wanted to get his degree, but as so often happens, life, work and family delayed his plans. After serving in the military and once his children had completed college, he decided to not delay any further. “[Getting my degree was] something I always wanted to do. Needed to do. Once I was out of the military, I wanted to get on a career path, and I had heard about AIU from other military members.”
William was able to start school online while he was working full-time at Walmart’s corporate office. “I started out as a cashier in the electronics area, then moved to the home office to become a programmer analyst, and quickly moved up the ranks to project specialist.” Soon, he was flying all over the world. “I traveled a lot both nationally and internationally. Going to AIU Online really allowed me to continue to take classes online and do what I needed to do.”
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Year by year, he added another business degree to his resume. Specializing in Project Management, William attained his Associate of Arts in Business Administration in 2009, his Bachelor of Business Administration in 2011, and his Master of Business Administration in 2012. “As I progressed along my path to higher education, serious thought was given for each [degree]. Deciding to continue on became a necessary step, proving to myself that I had the skill and ability to go above and beyond my previous conceived notions.”
Today, William is putting his degrees to work at North Memorial Health Care in Minnesota as an IT Project Manager II. “My degrees positioned me to be more marketable. I have a better understanding of what’s needed in the industry.” In his current role, he serves as a liaison for both the business customers and the project teams. He upgrades systems, budgets, gathers resources, and internally and externally manages projects. His favorite part is working with the teams to get them what they need to move forward.
Before William even knew what project management was, he says, “[Project management tasks] came very easy to me. Project management is basically looking at the bigger picture and drawing a roadmap to where things need to take place.” Once he discovered he could expand upon his already established skillset with a specialization in project management at AIU Online, William says, “I dug in to get a better understanding of what I didn’t know.”
A self-proclaimed “knowledge junkie,” William conducted his own research to decide what degrees were right for him. In addition to talking to company executives to gain their advice, he spent a lot of time reviewing job boards. He advises students to “visit job boards like Monster, look at the positions you want, and then look at the qualifications.” This will help determine an appropriate degree path.
Having conquered his educational goals, William can look back and say, “I really do believe attaining these degrees has helped position me for my career goals and the success that follows.” He’s already focusing in on his next aspiration—starting a project management business. “I want to take my skills and abilities and go to 500-employee organizations and help them development their organization’s project management process and templates. Having those processes in today’s day and age is crucial. Big companies like Walmart have that ability in-house; the smaller companies don’t necessarily have the ability or time to do this in-house.”
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In his spare time, William uses the skills he’s learned to inspire others. He volunteers as an instructor and mentor at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge and teaches resume writing and computer skills. He has even served as a role model for his family. With seven brothers and sisters, William was the first to get a degree. “It was something I felt would inspire them.” Today, one of his brothers is the Trauma Program Coordinator & EMS Liaison and the Executive Director of Critical Mass, another brother owns his own barber shop, and one of his sisters is a Certified Public Accountant.
To students who are struggling, William says, “Realize that what you’re undertaking is tough, but it’s only for a moment. The reward is so far greater than the pain you’re experiencing now.”
See more AIU alumni success stories on our AIU alumni blog.