Airleah Sivila

Ready for Future Career Pivot after Completing MBA from SJSU

Airleah SivilaSan Jose native Airleah Sivila moved to Davis for college but returned to join the staff at SJSU after graduation. She is currently an Admissions Evaluator for Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach.

Where are you currently employed and what are your job responsibilities?
I'm an admissions evaluator for Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at SJSU. I evaluate academic transcripts for CSU and major program admission requirements to SJSU. Our team evaluates around 10,000 files each fall and posts transfer credit and test scores for admitted students as well. The best part of my job is interacting with students, hearing about their journey to SJSU, and learning why they chose to be a Spartan. 

What factors in career or life prompted you to seek a graduate degree?
Quite honestly, I did not have plans for graduate school as an undergraduate. I began working at SJSU a few months after graduation and enjoyed being on a college campus again. I worked in various offices in Enrollment Services for about 3 years before considering the MBA. There is so much positive energy at our university, and by connecting with the students we serve, I was excited to be a student again. The staff fee waiver made pursuing a master's degree financially easier and I knew that the Early Career MBA would offer more options in a future career. 

Why did you choose this as your area of study?
I studied economics and politics for my bachelor's degree, so I initially considered an MA in economics. Given my position at a state university, I also considered the Masters in Public Administration before choosing the Early Career MBA. For the career development and the opportunity to explore various areas of business for a future career shift, the Early Career MBA was the best choice for me. 

What do you plan to do with this degree?
My work experience has primarily been in higher education, but I am excited to make a career pivot. Because I've worked in public administration a few years now, I'm looking for an opportunity to grow my skill set in the business world. I love the idea of working for a startup and the opportunity to experiment. I'm also open to positions in a more corporate environment where I'd have the support of established departments to build experience.

What skills or knowledge have you acquired through the Early Career MBA program at SJSU that will help you achieve your goals?
Working full-time while pursuing my MBA has challenged me to work with a wide variety of people and helped me manage time and prioritize more effectively. I also have a greater curiosity and interest in different industries from reading case studies, researching for projects, and simply from having conversations with classmates who work or have an interest in these areas. Being interested in other industries and knowledgeable about customer pain points often result in more creativity and innovation.

If you could turn back time and return to the first day you set foot the MBA program, what would you tell your "younger" self to do? 
I would be more confident in my contributions to class. Because my bachelor's degree was not in business, learning so much new material, like accounting and finance, seemed overwhelming at first. A great part of this program though has been working with classmates who have helped me through challenging classes. We all have strengths and weaknesses and take turns teaching and learning from each other. 

I also wish I'd taken advantage of office hours more frequently or participated in the “Coffee with a Professor” program. There is a lot networking between classmates and there are many organized company visits or invited speakers to classes, but many of the professors or lecturers in the college have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share outside of class time.

What was the most valuable thing you gained from SJSU?
SJSU provides an incredible exposure to Silicon Valley through speakers, panels, and visits -- all of which have been great networking opportunities. More than that, it's inspiring to have successful alumni return as guest speakers and to have as instructors. I think it speaks to the community and support of the LCOB and the entire university to supply the area with talent and have so many of them come back to share their experiences with current students. In my time as an employee and student here, I have certainly developed a sense of Spartan Pride and am proud to be an MBA student at SJSU and be a part of the LCOB.

What are your longer-term future career goals?
I took New Venture Finance as an elective last summer and have been inspired to start a small business for myself someday. At this point, I'm not certain exactly what that will entail, but I hope to have the time and financial freedom to evolve a passion project into a career. 

What advice would you give to individuals working full-time and considering returning to SJSU for a graduate degree?
Returning to school to pursue a graduate degree can be an enriching experience both personally and professionally. But, it is challenging to balance work, school, and personal/family commitments so expect to make sacrifices. School will come before work or family in some instances, and the reverse also holds true. Having the support of family, friends, my supervisor, and colleagues has been key to finding this balance.