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Mariana Vona: Certificate Leads to Career Goal of Corporate-Level Position


Her new position puts her in charge of U.S. and Canadian promotions for three resorts in her native Mexico.

Mariana - Testimonial Headshot

For Mariana Vona working as an assistant branch manager at Citibank had its rewards and a certain sense of fulfillment, but wasn’t the career path she wanted to pursue. Vona knew she wanted to move from retail banking and into a corporate environment.

“I decided I wanted to go back to corporate but I have been in a retail branch for a while and knew it was going to take some time and effort to climb the ladder again,” she said.

After four years at Citibank, Vona found herself putting in 60-hour weeks and covering Saturdays.

That kind of schedule left little time for options as Vona began searching for ways to obtain the credentials that could help her move into a corporate job. With the packed schedule, online was the only option.

Her research settled on Michigan State University where she enrolled in the online Master Certificate in Business Leadership and Management program.

In addition to the online program’s length and structure, the university’s reputation also impressed Vona. “Michigan State has one of the best Business Schools and is publicly recognized,” she said.

Returning to school took some adjustment, especially since it was 15 years since Vona last was in a classroom. She dedicated one to two hours a day to the coursework.

“My education is a priority, and I truly believe it is what is going to open more doors in the future. It is a great investment, one of the best decisions somebody can make,” she said.

The work and dedication paid off in a big way, allowing Vona to not only move into a corporate job, but also one at a company where she worked 10 years earlier when she started as an executive assistant.

Now, she has returned as a sales and marketing manager at Steadfast Companies, a real estate investment, management and investment firm in Irvine, California, near Vona’s home that manages a $3 billion real estate portfolio in the U.S. and Mexico where Vona was born.

“They own three resorts in Mexico and I will be in charge of all the promotion within the U.S. and Canada for the resorts,” she said. “So going back with them, and as a sales and marketing manager is a big step up for me.”

Ultimately, Vona wants to put her knowledge and experience to use as a consultant.

“If I cannot have my own company, I will love to be working with a consulting firm and being able to help other companies identify their strengths and weaknesses in order to achieve effective strategies,” she said.

“Working in banking gave me the exposure to groom my leadership and management skills and I wanted to continue polishing them. So combining sales, leadership and management can be a great tool to accomplish any activity within any industry,” Vona said.

We asked her about her MSU master certificate and what it means to her career.

Q. What made you choose to enroll in Michigan State University’s certificate program over other schools?

I was working as an assistant branch manager at Citibank and my work schedule was extremely busy. I was working over 60 hours a week and had to cover Saturdays as well. I didn´t have the flexibility of going to a classroom after work or on Saturdays, so I decided to look for online options.

I contacted several universities that offer similar plans but what I really liked about Michigan State University´s program was the reputability, length and structure. Michigan State has one of the best business schools and is publicly recognized.

Q. What interests you about leadership, sales and management?

Working in banking gave me the exposure to groom my leadership and management skills and I wanted to continue polishing them. Bank sales is in fact "The" area that they focus on the most and I got to get good at it. So combining sales, leadership and management can be a great tool to accomplish any activity within any industry.

Q. How did you feel when you learned you got the job at Steadfast Companies?

I was so excited! It has been a while since I decided I wanted to go back to corporate but I have been in a retail banking branch for a while and knew it was going to take some time and effort to climb the ladder again. That is why I started taking this program, to gain the credentials that could help me land a job opportunity in corporate again.

I worked at Steadfast Companies 10 years ago, I started as an executive assistant and I have been working my way up to continue furthering my career during all this time. So going back with them, and as a sales and marketing manager is a big step up for me!

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to become a consultant. If I cannot have my own company, I would love to be working with a consulting firm and be able to help other companies identify their strengths and weaknesses in order to achieve effective strategies.

Definitely, it has not been easy to combine work with school. It was hard to adjust for me as I graduated from school 15 years ago, so organizing myself and dedicating time to combine everyday activity was quite challenging actually, but I came up with a plan for it and it seems to be working.

I dedicate 1-2 hours a day to the program. My education is a priority, and I truly believe it is what is going to open more doors in the future. It is a great investment, one of the best decisions somebody can make.

Are you a student or graduate of Michigan State University online degree or certificate program? 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 Mariana’s be sure to view more Success Stories

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