“Human resources as a function is still evolving, as we continue to figure out who we are and find our seat at the table. As an HR leader, I have to be able to speak my numbers, understand the overall business context and then apply a filter of people focus to it.”
Those skills are exactly what Mark Mansdoerfer was able to gain and master as an MBA student at Michigan State University.
Growing up in a family of small-business owners, Mansdoerfer knew he wanted to be in business when it came time to chart his own career. Of the many lessons he learned alongside his family, one — from his father — was a focus on three things: knowing your numbers, knowing your people and knowing the law. This guidance ultimately ended up informing Mansdoerfer’s pathway through higher education.
He came to MSU to pursue a law degree and quickly learned about the JD/MBA dual-degree program, a collaboration between MSU’s College of Law and the Broad College of Business’ Full-Time MBA program. This was the perfect training ground for Mansdoerfer to learn about legal topics, such as employment and labor law and union negotiations, and the business domain, including finance, accounting, human resources and manufacturing.
“During my first year of law school, I did a strictly legal internship to check the box and make sure that I didn’t want to be a lawyer after law school, which I was able to confirm,” he said. “During my MBA, I was fortunate enough to have two internships where I fell in love with the manufacturing world, dealing with unions and the hourly workforce. It was a blend of operating in a white-collar environment and still engaging with a blue-collar workforce.”
Today, at Raytheon Technologies, Mansdoerfer is an associate director of human resources, leading 2,200 employees at one of the aerospace and defense company’s largest facilities. Every day, he gets to continue building upon the foundation started at MSU to apply that blend of law and business knowledge and make an impact for people.
“I’m a proud Spartan. I owe a lot of what I’ve been fortunate enough to experience in my five years post-program to Broad,” he said. “I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to everyone that’s there, and I think they played a pretty big role in where I’m at today.”
Mansdoerfer says that although the JD and MBA programs provide different skillsets, he’s seen them come together in harmony in his career. The MBA program helped him master strategic thinking skills, and the JD helped him challenge assumptions and question decisions — both of which he uses to have strong conversations with leaders. He describes himself as an HR partner, helping to champion how HR leaders can be strategic business partners at companies.
“The HR function is still growing and developing as a strategic partnership, but there is a deficiency of people still building that and fully understanding that,” he explained. “In that shift, I think that’s where the MBA is a differentiator and is helping push things forward. I’ve been able to lean into that HR partner model as an MBA that I may not have been able to do without it.”
For current and future MBA students, Mansdoerfer’s advice is to try and be in the moment to absorb and appreciate everything that the Broad program is providing — both in and beyond the classroom.
“It’s easy to get tied up with everything that’s happening, with assignments and getting burned out,” he said. “But there is so much value in lifting your head up and seeing the other stuff that’s there because it’s truly a comprehensive experience. You’re only there for a short period of time, so extract as much value as you can, and I think you can do a lot of that while having fun.”