‘Quick’ degree, long road

Dan McManigal’s journey for his MBA took perseverance to get to starting block

Dan McManigal, who completed the University of Tennessee Professional MBA program in December, 2009, is a production team leader at Denso Manufacturing Tennessee. Enrollment is beginning now for classes that begin in August, 2011.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Dan McManigal, who completed the University of Tennessee Professional MBA program in December, 2009, is a production team leader at Denso Manufacturing Tennessee. Enrollment is beginning now for classes that begin in August, 2011.

Dan McManigal, right, enjoys dinner at Aubrey’s with, from left, his father, Jim McManigal; friend Haley Chapman; and aunt, not pictured, Jill McManigal.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Dan McManigal, right, enjoys dinner at Aubrey’s with, from left, his father, Jim McManigal; friend Haley Chapman; and aunt, not pictured, Jill McManigal.

For Dan McManigal, getting to the point where he could pursue a graduate degree took far longer than it did to get through his classes, but now that he has completed the Professional MBA program at the University of Tennessee, the wait was worth it.

“The knowledge that you receive in 16 months is absolutely amazing,” says McManigal, a production team leader at Denso Manufacturing Tennessee in Maryville.

An information session for the Professional MBA program will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, in Room 402 of the Haslam Business Building on the UT campus in Knoxville. Classes begin Aug. 11.

McManigal, who lives in Maryville, ended up pursuing a career as a production supervisor almost by accident. Once he got into it, however, he knew he needed to get an advanced degree.

“I would like to eventually be plant manager/VP of operations before I retire,” says McManigal. “What I’m competing with out there in the working world is (that) a lot of manufacturing industries are looking to those who have a background in engineering or an engineering degree. Because my background was in cost analysis and production supervision, I felt like I was going to have to level the playing field to compete with engineers.”

He also had another reason for wanting to earn a graduate degree: his older sister, Carrie Canales. She earned her Ph.D and now teaches in the Los Angeles City College network and at Pepperdine University.

“She’s been a huge influence on me through my entire life,” says McManigal. “So it’s kind of like, I want to be like big sis.”

McManigal grew up in the small town of Palestine, Texas. He went to the University of Texas at Tyler for his bachelor’s degree, switching from engineering to physical therapy before finally settling on accounting as his major.

Most people think of accounting as a practical profession, but McManigal was attracted to it because it had exotic, even dangerous potential.

“We had a field supervisor from the local FBI office come visit one of my sophomore-level classes, and that got me intrigued with going into the FBI with an accounting degree,” he says.

Shortly before graduation, McManigal learned that the FBI had instituted a hiring freeze.

“Things happen for a reason,” he says. “I’m still alive and breathing, so maybe that was part of my path, to not go that way.”

He ended up getting a job as a cost analyst at the Campbell Soup Co. plant in Paris, Texas, but a series of events led to him becoming a production supervisor.

“I was excited about that - to get away from my desk job,” he says.

It was while he was at Campbell’s that he started thinking about going to graduate school. His closest option was more than an hour away - not a feasible option for a working man. So he started looking farther afield, both in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in East Tennessee.

McManigal had never lived in Tennessee, but his paternal grandfather started working for Alcoa Aluminum as a teenager in his native Pennsylvania and had worked for Alcoa in Tennessee and eventually retired here. By the time McManigal was ready to leave Campbell’s, his father, aunt and grandmother were living here.

McManigal got a job with the Newell Rubbermaid Co., spending three years as a production supervisor and one year as a shipping supervisor. He wasn’t able to start his studies at UT because he had to work every other weekend, and the Pro MBA program requires students to take Saturday courses.

So he went to work for Hubbell Power Systems in Lenoir City but again was stymied in his academic ambition. Because he was working second shift, he was unable to participate in the program’s biweekly Tuesday night online sessions.

“It had been a long road to get to this MBA, almost exhausting, and I hadn’t even started yet,” he says.

McManigal had passed the GMAT and been accepted into the program, and Dr. Michael McIntyre, director of the program, had agreed to hold his space for a year, so McManigal started looking for a job that would accommodate his school plans. He applied for a production control associate job at Denso, but when the internal recruiter saw his resume, she had him interview for the production team leader position that was open.

McManigal joined the company in July 2007. The timing, however, didn’t allow him to start at UT that fall.

“Unfortunately for me, I had already postponed my seat, so I would not be able to begin the Professional MBA program until August 2008,” he says. “But that worked out OK, because this new department start-up included a month in Japan, and it included a lot of prep work and coordination with Japanese associates coming over and helping us implement this brand-new department and brand-new production line.

“So even if I had gone to school, I probably would not have survived anyway. It was crazy upon crazy without having school thrown on top of it.”

When he did start the program, the experience was grueling.

“Not only was I working 50 hours a week, I would spend 10 hours a day on Saturdays with the program, normally three out of four Saturdays a month,” says McManigal, who notes that Denso was very supportive. “We would spend three hours every other Tuesday evening online, and then, on average, I would spend two to three hours an evening working through assignments that I had to work on or research my project paper.”

McManigal graduated in December 2009, and it still amazes him how quickly he completed his degree.

“You hop into it, you trudge through it for 16 months, and you’ve got it behind you before you know it,” he says. “It’s a whirlwind of knowledge and experience along the way.”

McManigal says all the coursework was helpful and to the point.

“We reviewed every functional class that would be related to a business degree - anything from microeconomics, macroeconomics, accounting, finance, business development, marketing to sales,” he says.

The most surprising thing he learned wasn’t academic but social.

“We all realized after about two months that probably 90 percent of our class was Type A or severe Type A personalities,” he says. “And this program forced us into group projects, and it forced us to collaborate. Most of us learned from that experience maybe more than anything else how to overcome a dynamic such as that.

“What I learned about myself … was my personal ability to go back to my supervisory skills and help organize the group, find each person’s talents within the subject matter and help delegate who could do what so that we worked most efficiently.

“I guess I just went back to my instincts. I wasn’t an engineer like some of these guys. I wasn’t a business professional. I had an accounting degree, but by no means was I an accounting guru like some of them.

“I didn’t have a niche with any one specific area, so my input was to help us efficiently work through this stuff together without killing each other.”

For more information on the UT Professional MBA program and on the information session scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, call 865-974-1660 or visit www.ProMBA.utk.edu.

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