Melanie McCullough Dillman is a senior project manager for Apple, and she spends about 50% of her time traveling throughout the country for work. Her reasons for pursuing her MBA at Saint Rose are exactly why the Flex MBA option was born – allowing students to take courses in-person, via livestream, or online on their own time.
We talked with her about her experiences.
Anticipated graduation year: 2024
Where are you from originally?
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Where are you living and working now?
I live in Queensbury, New York, my office is based in Austin, Texas, but I travel about 50% of my time to various locations throughout the U.S. to customer sites.
What is your undergraduate degree in and where did you earn it?
My undergraduate degree is from the University of Central Oklahoma, my Paralegal degree is from the University of Oklahoma School of Law
Can you tell me a little bit about your current career?
I’ve been with the National Education Delivery team at Apple for 6 years. We are a team of seven project managers across the U.S., who all hold PMP certifications (Project Management Professional). A simplified description of my job is that I lead a team of educators, engineers, and configuration specialists that work with school districts across the country to successfully bring Apple devices into their environment.
We work with districts on all aspects of device implementation from network and teacher preparedness to student deployments which is a challenge in this COVID-19 world. We coach the customer on how to do low-density deployments, and how to plan for return to operations in an environment, which frankly right now, is uncertain with onsite and at-home learners. We’re working hand in hand with districts to get devices into the hands of students and staff as this pandemic continues so there is minimal loss of instructional time. My job is very collaborative with other Apple teams and customer teams.
What drew you to the MBA program at Saint Rose?
The flexibility of the program was critical. I have minimal notice when I have to travel to a customer’s site so the ability to attend via Zoom or vary my schedule according to my “busy season” which is always Summer. I can focus on my studies during slower periods and overall I’ve been able to tailor my education to my schedule which was not possible at other institutions. I’ve been able to attend classes from my hotel room, airport gates or even in flight. The program couldn’t get more flexible which I appreciate.
What have you found most helpful about the courses or the structure of the program?
It’s no secret that Apple has a unique corporate culture and mindset. Thanks to my courses, I’ve found that looking at Organizational Management through a different lens to be very helpful. Going back to the roots of Organizational Management theory has helped me remember that my customers don’t look at things the same way my company does. It’s helped me empathize with their cultures and organizational parameters. The courses have helped me better understand another perspectives on projects and situations. Overall, it’s helped me be a better, more well-rounded Project Manager.
Have there been situations where you have been able to directly apply what you learned to your work?
There have been multiple instances where looking at project challenges from a different angle has helped. Last semester, Professor Gordon’s Organizational Leadership class studied different leadership types and it is was so applicable for me to recognize how the entire culture of a school district can be influenced by leadership styles (for better or worse). Sometimes it’s as important to understand WHY decisions are made in a district as it is to understand WHAT those decisions are.
Are there times when you’ve been able to bring your knowledge from your work into the classroom?
I believe there has been. One of the ‘gifts’ my company culture gives is the ability to think outside the box. We’re are encouraged to distill problems down to their core elements and not be constrained by traditional thinking or problem solving. I think I’ve brought this simplicity of thought to classroom challenges and assignments. Sometimes all you need to is break things down to the basics instead to resolve instead of looking at just the task in front of you in the moment.
What are your career goals?
I used to think I wanted to transition into a higher management role within the company but that would limit my customer interaction, and honestly, that is what feeds me professionally. Being in direct communication with the customer is so rewarding! You’re able to share your expertise and knowledge and learn about their challenges and obstacles. This role is very much a two-way street of learning. At this time my goals are to continue expanding my technical knowledge and experience in Education and Enterprise so that I’m a more valuable subject matter expert for my customers.