Alexandra Foster knew she was ready for the next step in her career.
Since graduating from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in psychology, she has been in professional positions that integrate retail and human resources—starting out at Whirlpool, then Target, Taco Bell, and, for the past four years, Pet Supplies Plus.
Now, as the Director of Human Resources for Pet Supplies Plus, Foster—who works with more than 3,800 field employees across 220 stores nationally—wants to broaden her impact organizationally. “I want to stay in HR, but I want to be a partner who can influence the business strategically,” she says.
Foster knows that a Ross Executive MBA is the best way to do just that.
“I thought I would go to another to another university since I completed my undergrad at Michigan,” Foster says. “But when I looked at other programs, I realized you can’t top Ross. It’s just a different experience. It’s the caliber of talent, the professors. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
As a member of the Executive MBA class of 2020, Foster started the program this fall. She has met her classmates—who include a brain surgeon, a director at Disney, and a portfolio director at Kellogg—and settled into work.
“The material is rigorous,” she admits, but adds that I.Q. isn’t everything. “It’s not enough to be smart, it’s important to balance the skills and leadership attributes we bring to the table. We know how to work well in a group. We know how to innovate and be creative.”
Executive MBA students convene in-person once per month and are responsible for managing workload and meetings outside of class. “While the class schedule minimizes our time from work, Ross is a fast-paced environment,” Foster says. “So you have to devote yourself to connecting with your team, doing the reading.” In Foster’s case, one of her team members is in New York, another is in Illinois. “We leverage video conferencing and social apps to stay connected,” she says.
Foster says that Pet Supplies Plus creates a culture of trying new things and working cross-functionally, which makes what she’s learning all the more valuable. “I don’t have to be so siloed in my HR functions. I may be able to contribute on a project that has nothing to do with HR. They let you try new things, and it certainly helps to have experience and knowledge.”
It’s hard work, but Foster says that it’s also “really fun.” Everyone here, she says, “has different perspectives, and is from different walks of life. I’ve met great people. You think you don’t have time for a program like this, but the truth is, you want to spend time with your classmates, because everyone is so phenomenal.”