The Alumni Blog Series: My MBA Toolkit

As Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability program nears its 10th anniversary, its Alumni Council wanted to find a way to document their experiences since their time on The Bluff. The Alumni Blog Series  gives a chance for MBA Sustainability graduates to  provide their expertise, speak about sustainability, or simply reflect on their own experiences.

In the inaugural TABS post, class of 2012 graduate Michael Holovak reflects on how MBA Sustainability provided growth of his own professional and personal “MBA Toolkit.”


aaeaaqaaaaaaaadnaaaajdk3mtu5mddkltm5zgytndfhzi1hzdiylte3m2fizwu5mjzkoqDuring my time at Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability, I would often hear a prominent faculty member stress adding key lessons to one’s “MBA Toolkit” — that is, the frameworks and processes you utilize during key project milestones to set you up for consistent success. When I recently set upon a new opportunity as a project manager in a different industry, I had a small window to reflect on how my professional career had evolved my MBA toolkit – and myself along with it.

In addition to tools learned during coursework (some in use daily and others mothballed in my “MBA storage shed”), I wanted to share how my time at Duquesne afforded growth on my own personal toolkit — the more qualitative attitudes and attributes I rely on on a day-to-day basis that are, to me, as important as a lesson in any textbook.


In my experience, the road to a smooth, successful project is paved by confidence in one’s process from the start, as that confidence is then spread to team members and clients. The foundation of my process stems from strategic planning concepts used during MBA consulting engagements, bolstered by learned quantitative skills. Even directly after graduation, my learning experiences instilled confidence from the start, which propelled me to where I am now.


Establishing communication lines and keeping all parties appropriately informed is the essence of project management, and MBA Sustainability provided me that keystone to build upon my own communication skills. We were given the opportunity to develop them daily, through reports, emails, and presentations. Personally, my public speaking went from a weakness to a strength during my time at Duquesne, as I learned to focus on controlling the room, my pace, my eye contact, and my speech. I now make presentations that follow the same framework to great effect.


Adaptability has been a key part of my success as a project manager. There were times when a project’s goal or solution, or the path to it, changed so drastically that I simply had to adjust tactics. Though coursework was admittedly very structured, the variety of subjects encountered at MBA Sustainability provided me an ability to see when to pivot on a project, when to make a change, and, importantly, how to manage that change effectively across parties.


Finally, an ability to persevere and make decisions under duress is something that has been crucial to my career successes. Encountering new challenges in the workplace can be daunting, but my time at Duquesne developed an ability to persevere and excel in difficult situations. I have made mistakes and will undoubtedly make more in the future, but an ability to process and grow from them kept me moving on the path I want to be.

Looking back on my experiences from then to now, I can say my learning has never truly stopped and is constantly evolving. Similarly, in talking with alumni, I’ve found their methods and skills vary, change, and grow. However, one consistent theme remained — for many, Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability program was a valuable experience to build their own personal toolkit for success in both work and in life.