Madison Cole is a logical person. She thinks logically, and she chooses her education logically.
That is why, when Information Systems and Analysis Department Chair Dr. Kakoli Bandyopadhyay posted in an alumni LinkedIn group that Lamar University was going to start a Master of Science in Management Information Systems online, Cole was all in.
Getting in on the program’s ground floor in January of 2019, Cole, an ERP Analyst for Cloeren Incorporated in Orange, Texas, decided to pursue her master’s degree.
“I didn’t think it was in the cards because of my options before,” Cole said. “Previously Lamar University had only offered an MBA or MBA with a focus in ERP for my field, and I would have done all that for about four courses in ERP systems specifically, as well as had to go through upper-level accounting courses and upper-level economic courses.”
With sights laser-focused on her career, Cole was not ready to take on such an investment without a guarantee that every bit of her coursework would have a real-world application, and the new program offered just that.
“MS in MIS means every single course is relevant or related to MIS,” Cole said. “I immediately signed up because I would basically be taking a list of courses that directly apply to me and be able to finish in a year without missing any work doing so.”
A logical choice, indeed, and Cole would soon find that the practical application of the coursework was just as it was advertised.
From Softball to Systems
Going to school online wasn’t always a part of Cole’s career plan, but when she saw how broad the career opportunities were in the field of information systems, she knew just where she wanted to go.
“My first two years I went to a junior college because I had a softball scholarship and got an associate’s degree,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do from there and so I took some time off to think about it, and that’s when I found the MIS bachelor’s program at Lamar University.”
Lamar University’s online MS in MIS program was the logical choice for Cole who understood that the field was broad enough to accommodate just about any career goal she could set for herself.
“I am very logical, and I do enjoy the work,” she said. “You’re not trapped into one field or one industry. There are people I graduated with, who like me work in a claim environment or public or ERP and the people in the same class as me, they also work at hospitals and do healthcare information systems.”
Cole graduated with her BBA in MIS in December 2017. Following her graduation, she started her career in Orange, Texas at Cloeren Incorporated, a supplier of extrusion dies, feedblocks and process-related equipment. After one year of employment, Cole decided to take advantage of Cloeren’s tuition reimbursement program to pursue her master’s degree while continuing her role as their ERP Analyst.
“These new courses being offered through the master’s program are going to allow me to do so much more,” she said. “Now I don’t have to try to wing my way through what I know and what I don’t.”
In her current job monitoring and maintaining the systems that regulate her company’s sales, engineering, manufacturing and accounting processes, Cole is excited to be learning the software bases that will offer value to the company.
Getting With the Programs
SAP, a corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations, has partnered with universities across the world to equip students with the technological skill set they will need in the jobs of the future.
As part of the SAP University Alliance, Lamar University’s MS in MIS program offers courses designed to prepare students for SAP’s highest certification — the TS410 certification.
“If just anybody else tries to take this course, it would be thousands of dollars,” Cole said. “Lamar University offers a two week class for us at the end of the program at a severely discounted rate with extensive materials available for you to review through this alliance. If you pass the certification test, you are certified at SAP’s highest level for a fraction of the cost.”
Cole has also received exposure to a variety of programs whose value she has already seen in her current vocation.
“We have a lot of classes that go into SAP, we are learning to do Salesforce, we’ve learned Tableau, and we’ve done SAP S/4HANA, and we did a little bit of Primavera P6 — those are the big ones,” she said. “I’m not even halfway through — which is as far as anybody is right now — but there is supposed to be some visual basics coming.”
While she has yet to use all of the software she has learned about in the MS in MIS program, she looks beyond the program specifics and sees the real-world potential for all she is learning.
“I have learned how to navigate in that environment a little better and how to solve some things from the back end,” she said. “I am able to apply this knowledge to my reports and really interpret that data at a larger level thanks to the exposure provided by the MS program.”
But it is more than just software that Cole is learning.
From Software to Soft Skills
It’s one thing to take a course on how to use a piece of software, but Cole understands that success in her field means more than just knowing the software — it’s knowing how to use that software to better interact with people.
“I would say that I have definitely become more analytical,” she said. “I’ve become more of a problem-solver — not only through the coursework — but through the nature of the program.”
Cole elaborates by adding that potential employers are looking for more than just a list of certifications. They want to know how you act when things seem like they are out of control.
“It’s so easy to come to a roadblock and immediately send off smoke signals that you don’t know how to do something and that you need help, but this has definitely taught me to look around, try to figure out things for myself and come to a conclusion of my own accord,” she said. “I definitely, definitely carry that over to my work at my current job.
“Employers don’t want somebody who’ll go to their supervisor for every step. They want somebody who is going to be able to solve that problem themselves. That’s definitely something this program has taught me.”