By Emily Reyst
After building a career in finance and accounting, Holly Miller (Full-Time MBA ‘15) realized she was missing the one requirement for the roles she really wanted: an MBA. Luckily, Miller never shied from a challenge. In 2013, 17 years after earning her bachelor’s degree in Management and Economics from Albion College, Miller decided to chase her dream and pursue a Master’s of Business Administration at Michigan State University.
Only this time around, heading back to school would prove a greater challenge for Miller: now married and with a family, she became a full-time commuting student.
Her decision to go back to school stemmed from a mindset that focused on continuous learning and growth. She loved her previous job at PricewaterhouseCoopers, but knew that her specialized role wouldn’t allow her to move around easily. “I learned a lot from the position,” said Miller. “But the longer I was there, the more I wanted to try new things. As I was looking for job opportunities, I realized I was missing the MBA criteria, so it pushed me to pursue furthering my education.”
When searching for the right program, Miller’s finance mindset kicked in and guided her decision. “Broad College’s program was low cost and high value,” said Miller. “The culture at MSU is warm, friendly, collaborative, and team-oriented. They have a reputation for rolling up your work sleeves, getting your work done, and being community-minded.”
Miller knew that during her program, that she wanted to intern at a place she felt interested in working full-time. Her internship with General Motors proved a great fit—she started a full-time position as a corporate finance analyst right after completing her MBA. At GM, she was given the opportunity to work in three areas of the company. One of those rotational roles found her supporting the OnStar function of GM, where she evaluated whether or not the GM’s projects from cross-functional teams would make the business money.
There was no such thing as a “typical” day for Miller, except that she kept busy; if she wasn’t in a meeting with one of the many teams she was assigned to, she would work alone to see a project to its completion. “Each team had a different focus, and any one of those teams could be working on a brand new idea, or developing their ideas to bring it to market,” said Miller. “As we approached different benchmarks throughout the process, I’d provide a financial assessment show where we are in the business case, whether we’re on track to our original estimates, or if there was benefit in putting more or less in than we originally forecasted.”
Now with an MBA, and years of experience excelling in a career track not traditionally filled by women, Miller took on another challenge to co-found, Quantum Opus, LLC, a startup that provides researchers with the high-speed photon detectors to allow next-generation experiments in quantum optics, optical quantum computation, single-photon communication, low-flux biophotonics, and remote sensing. Miller’s unrelenting drive and thirst to continue learning guided her in a new path than she ever thought possible, yet continuously proving herself to be a powerful woman in business.