After building a nearly 20-year career in reliability and maintenance engineering without a college degree, a return to higher education was inevitable for Gavin Linderman. In August 2022, Linderman graduated from the online Master of Business Administration program at Bowling Green State University with a 4.0 GPA.
“Once I went back and got my bachelor’s degree in 2014, I was being pushed hard by the leadership where I worked to get a reliability engineering master’s degree,” he said. “I was also engaged in conferences and consulting in the industry.
“I almost pulled the trigger. Then, I stepped back and said, ‘I don’t want to paint myself into a corner.’ Earning a general business master’s degree is about getting me out of that corner and expanding my horizons.”
A manager for the Global Center for Performance Monitoring and Analytics at the AES Corporation, he started an MBA program at another university while working for a different company that covered his tuition costs.
“The firm was Saudi-based,” he said. “I decided to leave because the management wanted me to move to Saudi Arabia. The next company I worked for didn’t have tuition reimbursement, so I took two years off from school.
“Even though it was going to be online, I started looking at Ohio-based universities. Looking at the program at BGSU, it was the same curriculum, same textbooks and same platform as my previous MBA program, but it was a fraction of the price.”
The asynchronous nature of the online format was essential for Linderman, a divorced dad with three daughters, Elyssa (25), Olivia (21) and Delilah (13).
“I also work for a large global company,” he said. “On an average day, I could be talking to sites in Bulgaria, Chile or Panama. With some of those time differences — especially in Bulgaria and Vietnam, where we have some of our plants — I need that flexibility.
“At the time, my mother, Jeanne, was very ill. She passed away in 2020. My father, Fred, also passed away the next year. I was juggling family and work. There was no way I could drive and sit in a chair on campus for an hour.”
Linderman is from Cleveland. He started college at Wright State University to study city planning after graduating high school but left when he became a father.
“That had to come first,” he said. “I worked for a number of years and fell into an engineering role. I began a position with a large chemical company, which made me Leader of Reliability Engineering for its plastics business unit.
“I was traveling globally, and they told me they wanted to make me a director because I was already in a leadership role. So, they needed me to wrap up my bachelor’s degree.”
Linderman graduated with an online bachelor’s degree from DePaul University after a long hiatus from college. That experience helped him transition into the MBA program at BGSU.
“I keep getting pushed into higher-level roles when I switch companies,” he said. “I am constantly told they want me in director roles, if not higher. From a career standpoint, the MBA helps me seal the deal.”
“We had sort of live classes for the first few sessions,” he said. “In a lot of my leadership courses, we did teamwork and projects. This course was cool because the professor was good about getting people engaged and keeping the class lively by throwing out topics that drove discussions.
“Sometimes when you do online discussions, the professor doesn’t comment. For an MBA, it was spot-on and broke the mold for the other classes.”
Even though Linderman has 25 years of business experience, his education in the program was valuable and relevant. Linderman’s favorite course, Leading for Organizational Success, was exceptionally informative.
“It brought some perspective on how to look at things,” he said. “Things that I knew, or thought I knew, came out in that class through other perspectives and how the world has changed.
“There’s a lot more inclusiveness we see in business. It gave me different perspectives on how you engage with people. It was cool to hone those skills.”
Linderman got a lot of love and support from his family and friends as he returned to school to finish what he started with the MBA.
“They are excited,” he said. “My mom and dad were super stoked that I was going back. I graduated with a 4.0. They’re smiling up there.
“When my mom was passing, I went to see her and took my first online test at BGSU. I hunkered down in the kitchen, and she watched me take the test live. I got done and got 100%.
“My daughter, Olivia, is also doing her bachelor’s degree at Wright State. It’s cool that we were in college at the same time. We bonded a bit over it.”
Although Linderman does not have a specific career goal in mind, he believes the decision to earn an MBA, rather than an advanced degree focused on a single topic, will pay off.
“I wanted to have the opportunity to try new things, to not get stuck in a rut,” he said. “It’s an exciting time in my company. We are growing quickly.
“We are building solar and wind farms. I lead a group that manages the performance and reliability of all those assets. As we grow, a lot of capital is being pushed into the company.
“A whole bunch of new jobs are popping up. It goes beyond my comfort zone, so having the MBA has helped with that, too.”
Linderman, who enjoys cooking in his free time, is glad fate led him to enroll at BGSU. He is now a proud alumnus who recommends the online MBA program.
“Tuition cost wasn’t my main driver, but it sealed the deal for me,” he said. “I also got good support from BGSU. The counseling services were spot-on. Any time I needed help scheduling or finding a class, they were there to help. The faculty was awesome. Everybody was hands-on and helpful.
“The biggest thing as an online student is managing your time. When you’re self-directed, you have to be on top of the requirements of each class. Anybody can do it if they have the drive.”
Learn more about BGSU’s online MBA program.