When Michael Slykas shows up for class at 6 pm, he's already had a full day. As executive producer of the morning show at the Chicago radio station 103.5 KISS FM, he's up at 3:30 am, selecting discussion topics for the hosts and broadcasting news, traffic, and weather.
The job - and his upside-down schedule-- is a sharp contrast to the workstyles of his colleagues in Booth's Evening MBA Program who come from careers in consulting, finance, and marketing. Yet though he's a nontraditional student at Booth, Slykas has thrived.
"At first I felt like I jumped into the deep end," recalled Slykas, who began the program in fall 2015. He devoted an extra study hour or two to each of his courses and developed his own dictionary of key business terms.
More than nine months in, he's co-chair of the Marketing Club and his strong GPA landed him on the Dean's List. "It's very possible to not only catch up, but to excel in some quant-heavy courses," he said. "I feel comfortable and that I belong."
A native of Naperville, Illinois, Slykas initially planned to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. During college one of his friends worked at the dorm's radio station. "I followed him to his shift, got to be behind the mic and just loved it," he recalled. He started at KISS as an intern, worked the Saturday overnight shift, and created commercials.
A few years in, he realized that what he enjoyed most about broadcasting was absorbing information quickly, gaining expertise and then conveying the message concisely so that members of a diverse audience can understand. He also enjoyed working with talent consultants and using data to analyze programming-what topics, for example, were resonating with listeners.
That evolving interest in analytics convinced him to pivot to a business career. He determined that a Booth MBA would be the best way to land a job in consulting.
Now that he's adjusted to the pace and demands of school, he finds he's not so different after all. Students bring their own strengths and support each other, he noted. Slykas recently participated in a business case competition and "there were four of us from four different countries and four different industries," he said. "I could embrace that someone else knew more about something than me but I knew more about some things than the others." Each member, he said, "brought something different to the table."
Slykas said he would encourage prospective students from outside traditional business disciplines to consider applying to one of the MBA programs. "Don't be intimidated, know your own strength," he said. "You add value at Booth."