Karolin Marakool knew right away she was interested in the online Master of Business Administration program at Boise State University, although the school's home state was a mystery.
"I'm from Australia, and I have been living in America for 10 years," she said. "I didn't even know where Boise was. That was a learning experience. I wondered, 'Where is Idaho?' What does Boise signify as a university?'"
Marakool soon found the answers to both of those questions. She graduated, in person, from the online MBA program in December 2017 with two family members and a friend there to help her celebrate the accomplishment.
"That was really nice and unexpected," she said. "It made the graduation all the more precious. Plus, I got to meet some of the students and a number of the staff members. I finally met Brian O'Morrow, the MBA online program director. I had been in conversations with him throughout the entire two years, getting guidance, giving him my feedback and getting his feedback, as well. It was really nice to connect with him at the end."
Her introduction to the city of Boise also went very well.
"It is a cute little town," Marakool said. "I grew up in Sydney, which is a big city. I live in Los Angeles, also a big city. It was quite nice to get away from that, but the weather was so cold. That took a little adjustment."
Australia to America
Marakool developed a love of computers and digital design at an early age. She contemplated a career in environmental science because she loves geography, but she settled on computing science.
"I knew that was where the world was going," Marakool said. "I knew that eventually everything would be very technology-driven. I'm glad I did, because I was able to not only learn the development side of things, but then use my passion for human-centered design and creative design and add onto that.
"How I moved into my profession was simply choosing a career path I could enjoy and thought would be solid, and then identifying a path within that I was passionate about it."
She graduated with a bachelor's degree in computing science from the University of Wollongong in 2000 followed by a master's degree in multimedia design from the University of Sydney in 2005.
Marakool moved to the United States in 2007 to work as a senior consultant for the user experience and innovation practice for Capgemini, an integrated technology consulting company where she is still employed.
"A few of my family members were living in Los Angeles, including my sister," she said. "It's always difficult to move somewhere when you don't know anyone. My family made it a much easier transition for me, but it was the job that predominantly got me to move to the United States.
"The customer experience and design field was very small in Australia when I moved here. It was starting to pick up, and companies, especially corporations, were realizing, 'We need to spend more time focusing on our customers rather than technology.' In America, it was something that had really started to spark. A lot of companies were realizing, 'Oh, this is the way we need to go.' So, it was just a better career move for me."
Becoming a Bronco
In 2015 Marakool became assistant director and the head of Capgemini's global partner curriculum. She earned another promotion to associate director and the director of Learning Experience less than two years later.
"My entire career has always been focused on the design and development side of technology," she said. "My roles have never really dealt with finance or accounting as a primary responsibility. I did quite a lot of project management, but very little accounting until my last promotion.
"That was the primary driver for looking into MBA programs -- getting some more experience in how to do contract management -- especially global contracts -- so I could be more confident in signing and understanding these million-dollar contracts I was putting together."
She initially looked at local on-campus MBA programs in the Los Angeles area. However, they were too expensive, conflicted with her work schedule and did not have what she wanted most in the curriculum.
"Boise State came up and caught my attention purely because of the design thinking aspect," Marakool said. "It was the only program I found anywhere that even remotely talked about the concept of design thinking, let alone had a course dedicated to it.
"Boise's online MBA program started with this course, and its learnings were leveraged across all of the courses from then on. That was fascinating to me since I use design thinking and other design methodologies in my work. To me, that was a winner."
In addition to the applicability to her career, the online MBA program at Boise State met all of the other needs for Marakool.
"The two-year course requirement was exactly in line with what I wanted to do and how much time I wanted to dedicate to the program," she said. "The cost was more affordable than the $250,000 programs I was looking at locally. It really was the perfect solution for me. It came out of nowhere."
Marakool benefited tremendously from the flexibility of the online format. She often works odd hours with clients all across the globe. She is also an associate pastor at Pasadena City Church.
"I intentionally took one course at a time per semester," Marakool said. "Dedicating the amount of time and effort to one course per semester was spot on. Sometimes there was more work than I had time for, but it's expected and you make do since it's a master's program."
Marakool's friends and family were amazed she was able to work college into her hectic schedule. She was the first person in her family to earn a master's degree -- and now she has two of them.
"They knew my workload and the number of hours I had to put in for my work as well as the ministry, so they thought I was crazy or were extremely worried I was overworking myself," she said. "Toward the end, they were also very excited I was finishing and I was able to achieve this accomplishment for myself."
Her two favorite courses were the aforementioned BUSMBA 501: Design Thinking and Strategic Management and BUSMBA 555: Business Plan Development.
"Design Thinking and Strategic Management was one of the heaviest workloads, but because it was what I specialize in and because there's more creativeness to it, I enjoyed that. My project team members were really good to work with. The teacher, Christy Suciu, was also very helpful and engaging.
"She was always readily available to get on the phone with you. She had a passion about the topic. When somebody is passionate about something, it just kind of flows out of them in such a way where it influences you positively."
In Business Plan Development, Marakool used Capgemini for her capstone project, which worked out extremely well.
"I enjoyed the breakdown we did week by week of the overall business development," she said. "You end up researching and gaining quite a lot of insight into the company you have selected. That approach helps solidify some hypothesis or assumptions you have in the beginning, and makes you more analytical and strategic in your decision-making."
Designing an MBA
Even with a vast amount of work experience, Marakool gained a broader business insight from her experience in the online MBA program.
"I learned how to have the vocabulary to speak within the business and how to identify other colleagues who can take on the role that I don't have the experience for, rather than becoming a jack-of-all-trades," she said. "The MBA program helps you have a conversation with other experts. That's what I took from the program. I now know how to communicate better with others in the business and use the terms they are more familiar with."
The keys to success for Marakool were finding an area of specialty that she was passionate about, using her company in the capstone course and taking one course at a time.
"You should look for a program that has elements of something you are passionate about or you already specialize in," she said. "That will make it enjoyable. If it doesn't have that, it just ends up being work. No one wants to have five or six additional tasks with courses and exams added to their week for two years straight."
Marakool, who likes camping and plans to take up oil painting with the help of Bob Ross on Netflix, believes the MBA not only grew her business acumen, but that it will also help open even more career opportunities.
"I definitely expect it to," she said. "If I don't see job prospects internally and externally come from this, I will be very surprised."
No matter what the future holds, Marakool now knows exactly where Boise, Idaho is located.
Learn more about the Boise State University online MBA program.
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