Dr. Benjamin Cook looked across the room, studying each face as he passed them by. He told the students to look at each other, to their left and their right. Typically, this is the point where the instructor would callously warn his class that half of them will have quit by the end of the semester. But that was not the point Dr. Cook was trying to make. Instead, he told his students to look at their peers. This group, he said, was going to be each other's network. The students in the MBA program, as well as their instructors and guest business executives, will help each other find jobs.
"This is your network," Cook told the class. "Use this network to build your career and help propel it forward."
Many students took this seriously. Brayton Sanders, especially, took this lecture to heart. He knew how important it was to have a network of people to rely on, and that is exactly what he was intent on building.
Sanders grew up in Evanston, Wyoming. He was a four-sport athlete in high school, competing in football, baseball, wrestling, and track. In essence, he was used to working hard and putting in long hours. When he graduated high school, he enrolled in the Colorado School of Mines and received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering.
"My dad was an engineer," Sanders shared. "I think that was probably a big reason why I got a degree in engineering. He always pushed me to be good and math and science, and I was good at it. They were my favorite subjects growing up, so it just seemed natural to go into engineering. At first, I chose civil engineering because my dad was a civil engineer, so it just seemed natural to go that way. But then I switched to mechanical because I thought it was the broadest engineering, and I could get a mechanical engineering degree and do all sorts of things with it."
Sanders received his undergrad in 2017, but it wouldn’t be long before he found himself back in a classroom, pursuing his MBA.
"One summer, I had an internship at Chevron, one of the refineries in Salt Lake City, Utah," he started. "Towards the end of the internship, I had done everything that they planned for me to do, so it got a little slow. So, I would just scroll their company website and see what information I could gather and learn from. Eventually, I found a cool, old document that had the hierarchy of all the high-level people at the company, from the CEO down. This document had all of the education of the higher-level managers, and I noticed that every one of them was an engineer with an MBA. So that was the summer that inspired me to get my own MBA, because I hope to one day be at those high-level positions in my own career, and I realized that if I wanted to do that, I would need an MBA."
After Sanders decided he wanted to pursue his MBA, the next question became where he would get it? It wasn't a question he would spend much time thinking about, however, because Wyoming was never too far out of his heart and mind. Brayton applied to the University of Wyoming and was accepted; this was a relief because, after spending some time away from his home, he was eager to be back. This is true of many people who leave Wyoming for a while. You broaden your horizons, but it's not long before you realize just how incredible the Cowboy State is.
Once Sanders figured out where we wanted to get his MBA, the next decision was what actually to get his MBA in. The University of Wyoming offers a multitude of program tracks, including Energy Management, Engineering, Finance, Pharmaceuticals, and more. With his background already in energy, it seemed like a no-brainer would continue on that path. But, at first, Sanders wasn't sure.
"Historically, I had always worked in energy, so an energy MBA would have paired really nicely with what I did, but I wasn't completely sure if that's what I wanted to do with my future," he said. "I was a little scared that if I chose the energy MBA, it would pigeonhole me into only being able to work in energy. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that wouldn't likely be the case. I'd still have an MBA overall, and getting an energy MBA would help me potentially find a job within Wyoming, which is where I wanted to stay."
The decision to pursue his energy MBA would end up being a good one, as it led to his current job as a machine learning engineer for Flowstate.
"My company is trying to build an artificial intelligence software solution that will detect leaks in oil pipelines," Sanders offered. "So, coming in as a machine learning engineer, I will help them build their machine learning models that will actually detect the leaks. We're in a pretty early stage, so right now they just need data. We're artificially creating the data because oil leaks don't happen very often, but it's an awesome opportunity, and I'm lucky to have it."
Luck may not be the only thing that has to do with it, as Sanders said that his job offer was a direct result of his time spent in the UW MBA program.
"What's unique about my job is that it's the only job I was offered because of the network I developed through the MBA program. The company came to me based on a recommendation they got from somebody I had met through the program. I applied to over a hundred positions, had a handful of interviews, and got to the second or third stages of some of them. But out of everything I applied for, the actual job I got was because of the connections I made through the program."
The University of Wyoming MBA program has a very successful placement rate for students, and Sanders is just one example. But it's not only the job opportunities that make the UW MBA program a worthwhile venture. It's also the knowledge one acquires, the connections one makes, and the friendships one develops. Sanders said that's one of his most cherished aspects of the time he spent at UW.
“One of the most important things to me with this program has been the friendships I’ve built during this time. I’ve been lucky enough to make friends wherever I go, whether it was high school or my undergrad or whatever else. But I can definitely say the friendships I’ve built during the MBA program are some of the best friendships I’ve ever had.”
Sanders has had quite the journey, from a star athlete in high school to the engineer that he is today. He has made many connections, has shared many experiences, and has gained a lot of knowledge, insight, and wisdom throughout the past few years. But it was his experience in the MBA program that he feels shaped him into the man that he is today.
"The MBA program here at Wyoming provided me the opportunity to dramatically shift my career path," Sanders said. "It was through the program that I was able to build an amazing network that led to me securing an amazing job. A job that two years ago, I would not have dreamed was a possibility this soon in my career. Paired with the amazing friendships I have built over these two years, earning an MBA at UW has been one of the best decisions I have made."
To start building your future with the University of Wyoming MBA program, click here for application deadlines and a step-by-step walkthrough of the application requirements. If you have any questions, email Benjamin R. Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 307-766-2449.