For Jeff Day, process matters.
The CEO of Bluewater was part of the inaugural graduating class for Michigan State University's online Master of Science in Management, Strategy and Leadership program. Lessons imparted during his coursework at The Eli Broad College of Business are helping inform how he applies strategic thinking in his professional life.
"I've found that success comes as much from the rigor of strategic thinking as it does from making a good strategic decision itself," Day said.
"Also, I've gained even more appreciation for the insight and thoughts of my peers [in the program]. Reading and interacting with the perspectives of others has given me insight that I did not already have."
Since graduating, Day has led a cultural transition at Bluewater, complete with a corporate rebranding. That initiative has brought double-digit revenue growth and a robust jump in profits for the Southfield, Mich.-based company, which designs and implements technology solutions for video conferences, interactive displays and live events.
The Michigan native began his career as an Italian translator and editor with WordPerfect. Despite the monotony of that work, it proved to be the gateway to the fascinating world of advanced technology. He would go on to work for tech companies such as USRobotics, Palm Computing and Cisco before moving to Bluewater.
Day said his exposure to leading thinkers in the high-tech industry was the catalyst for his personal quest to become a great leader. When he decided to return to school for a graduate degree 25 years after completing his bachelor's, he sought out a Management, Strategy and Leadership program that aligned with his passions and interests.
"Michigan State University has the credibility of industry experience and thought leadership in this category," he said.
"Online gave me the ability to do the program whenever, wherever," said the father of four. "As professionals mostly find, time is a precious commodity."
Day, an Eagle Scout who has run multiple marathons, describes himself as "forever on a track of learning and improvement." He said the MSL program exposed him to ideas and ways of thinking he could immediately apply at Bluewater.
For example, the Strategic Decision Making course helped validate "some of the mission and vision that we were laying out for our organization," Day said. "The professor made himself personally available to talk through it a little better and that's better than any consultant you could ever hire."
Along his path to graduation, he learned to be patient and let the process of understanding his role and methods as a leader be an ongoing journey – one that never really ends as long his desire for continuous improvement persists.
"Strategic thinkers and leaders aren't created overnight," he said. "The best leaders take time to learn and commit to a personal improvement journey. Every course [in the program] and interaction has been a journey. As I've concluded that journey, I feel even more inspired to continue my self-discovery as a leader.
"The best leaders find joy in the journey and don't see success as a destination."
As Day prepares to take on new challenges with Bluewater, he looks back on his time at the Broad College as a period of personal and professional growth.
"Getting to know the professors and high-caliber students was extremely interesting to me," Day said. "The great thing about the Spartan family is that it extends way beyond the campus environment. It goes into our professional worlds and into our personal lives.
"There's great social responsibility that I think is kind of born not only from what this university stands for, but what this program instills. Leadership development is almost glossed over a lot of times when you're looking at other programs. That's what drew me to this program and to this university; that people need to be leaders."
Are you a student or graduate of Michigan State University's online master's degree or certificate programs? We would love to share your success story in our Student Spotlight series. Contact us at testimonial@MSUonline.com for additional details. And for more stories like this be sure to check out our Success Stories.