Prior to enrolling in Michigan State University's online Master of Science in Management, Strategy and Leadership program, Ryan Farage was already making business happen as a U.S. Sales Operations manager for Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
Following the completion of his graduate degree, the Michigan native turned Milwaukee resident has further advanced his career by taking on a new position with the motorcycle giant as manager of Global Dealer Development Strategy.
He's looking to meld his experience in finance, manufacturing and sales with a polished repertoire of skills in strategic leadership to continue an ascent into the iconic company's hierarchy.
"I've had the opportunity at work to dive deep into finance and marketing, but where I had a gap was strategy development," Farage said. "With my education, combined with experience, I'm looking to potentially run a foreign country's operations and ultimately find myself back here in Milwaukee leading an area of the business where I have the opportunity to improve the product [and] company, and grow the talents and strengths of the team."
From strategy development to problem solving and negotiating techniques to motivational skills, Farage is employing what he learned every day as part of the inaugural class of students in MSU's online Management, Strategy and Leadership program.
Recently, he was tasked with hiring a new team member and needed to implement the knowledge he acquired while enrolled at the Eli Broad College of Business to find the best candidate.
"I leveraged tools in this program to develop a system to filter out résumés quickly and efficiently based on job description qualifications," Farage said. "This process insured that only the best candidates were chosen for an interview. Then I applied a similar methodology to the interview where answers were scored based on a pre-set criteria.
"I was able to narrow a large field down to two candidates due to the data-driven approach."
Farage had long wanted to continue his education. But with a demanding professional life and a wife and two kids at home, he felt like he never had time. Eventually, he knew he had to put aside any reservations about returning to school and simply go for it.
The Management, Strategy and Leadership program at Michigan State proved to be the catalyst, providing an opportunity to dive into the science surrounding strategy development and personnel.
"The people on our teams hold the keys to our professional success and the company's success, so it is critical to efficiently structure human resources and motivate your direct and indirect organization," Farage said. "To continue to advance [professionally], I need to be an outstanding leader. So going to a business school which is focused on honing those skills was exactly what I was looking for."
For any aspiring students, he has some advice: Be prepared.
"The workload is balanced enough that, if you plan, it can be managed. But it is part of you almost every day. If you have a family, make sure they are prepared as they have to deal with your schedule as much as, if not more than, you.
"I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Farage said. "But be sure all your stakeholders are prepared for the change."
Along the way, Farage has leaned on the support of his family, who were the inspiration for his return to school.
"My family encouraged me to take the plunge when I was on the fence and they have gone out of their way to help me along the way, from rescheduling vacations to simply being accommodating of the fact that I have to go study on Sundays."
As Farage revs up his career at Harley-Davidson, he can look back on the dues he paid working in operations, as well as his seven years of experience in consumer packaged goods prior to joining the motorcycle company, as motivation to develop his own philosophy about leadership.
"I've heard great leaders attribute their success to having good people around them and asking a lot of questions," Farage said. "To me, what they should have said is that the secret to success is motivating and inspiring great people and asking great questions.
"This program has built a foundation for me to lead and inspire others and has influenced the depth of the questions that I am asking now and will ask in the future."
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.