From the skies to writing a BlackBoard discussion board post. Pat Monfiston-Desir, MBA'19, is taking over our Instagram account to reflect on his Online MBA experience. Monfiston-Desir will give us an inside look at his path toward an MBA, travels abroad, and time in the air as a pilot. Be sure to follow his takeover on @damoremckim!
Q: Why did you decide to get an MBA at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business?
My first career was in capital markets as a stockbroker, then as a financial advisor at different firms. I discontinued that journey after nearly a decade on Wall Street to pursue my lifelong dream – to be a pilot. And in the process, I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics.
In addition to being an airline pilot, I aim to become more involved and contribute to airline management. I also wanted to enhance my skills and competitiveness since a B.S. in Aeronautics is a rather specialized discipline.
In my search for a reputable MBA program, I hoped to gain differentiation as a job candidate, strategic thinking, a sound network of colleagues, and, of course, a higher income. Some of the top attributes I looked for in addition to flexibility were a well-structured, competitive, and well-respected curriculum. I therefore focused solely on evaluating among the top 100, then top 25 online MBA programs in the country.
Additionally, I wanted a program that provided a robust qualitative analysis backbone in addition to quants. Other critical factors that led to me enrolling were not only the program being ranked 8th by Financial Times but also the flexibility the program provided me as an airline pilot. And yes, there is no denying that not having to take the GMAT thanks to my previous experience facilitated the selection process.
Q: What was the online MBA experience like? Why did you choose the online program?
It was a very positive experience. The Online MBA program, was not my first online learning experience, as I took classes online as an undergraduate. The collaborative culture the institution fosters amongst the student body is great. There are also amazingly great online academic advisors, like Nisha Khan, who tirelessly work so that the student experience may be a rewarding one.
Flexibility in my case was vital; and given the way the program is structured, it worked really well for me. I don't have a typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and no two days are alike. Breakfast in Atlanta, lunch in the Bahamas and dinner in Toronto is not an unusual workday for me. The online program not only guaranteed that I could obtain the premiere education I wanted, but also provided me with tremendous flexibility to do so.
Q: What did you do before you came to Northeastern?
Prior to joining Northeastern as an MBA candidate, I received a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle University. I was also a charter pilot at Tradewind Aviation at the time, and a flight instructor and aircraft dispatcher prior. As mentioned previously, I worked in equities for nearly a decade before transitioning to aviation.
I also volunteered for Unspoken Smiles Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that provides early oral health outreach/treatment and education for children in impoverished countries.
Q: Tell us about your current profession. What made you choose it, and how do you think your online MBA degree will enhance it?
I am currently a New York City-based airline pilot for Delta Connection (9E) (JFK & LGA). As a child, flying to my grandparents in the Caribbean was always the highlight of my year. To this day, the feeling of flight is indescribable and something I hope to be doing professionally for decades to come. During one of those trips when I was seven years old, I entered the cockpit, and that further fueled my interest in aviation. I decided then that I wanted to be a pilot when ‘I grew up.' Being on a plane has always felt like home.
Back when I was working in the financial district, I would often see airplanes fly by on their way to LaGuardia Airport. And i would say to myself “One day!” With time, working in financial advisory proved to be a chore and increasingly unfulfilling. Eventually, I found the courage to leave Wall Street. The then economic downturn certainly made my choice an easier one, as the industry's culture had drastically changed from the time I entered it. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Though my MBA will not directly impact my job as a pilot, it has nonetheless provided me with several critical hard and soft skills that will transfer well when an opportunity within aviation administration or consulting arises. These skills include analysis and critical thinking, corporate communication, cross-cultural awareness, intellectual creativity, and leadership.
Q: What was your experience like on the International Field Study? Where did you go, and what was your favorite aspect of it?
The International Field Study (IFS) in Morocco and Portugal was an experience from which I have learned a great deal. As classmates, we were a great group with various backgrounds, and we all clicked from the start, which further enhanced the journey. One of the highlights was, to me, visiting the Hassan II Mosque as it is an experience I will remember for many years. I will remember it not only for its architecture, which is simply awe-inspiring, but also the impact such a venture had on the Moroccan people/culture as a whole. We learned that most Moroccan households contributed to the construction of such a marvelous building, and to this day seems to be a source of tremendous and utter pride for the nation. We embraced the cultural aspects just as much as we focused on the corporate ones.
I must undoubtedly also include the excellent Moroccan food thanks to the various influences such as French, Middle Eastern, and Sub-Saharan. Oh, the nightlife in Lisbon was epic — we experienced the latter as part of cultural immersion, and excelled of course!
Q: What was it like being in the online program and coming to the Boston campus for residency week?
There is no substitute for in-person engagement. I highly recommend both the Boston residency and IFS experience to all candidates. Seeing another student's name in various classes on Blackboard is in no way as rewarding as physically meeting them. I was able to foster more meaningful friendships. I can quickly think of at least two dozen classmates from various industries that I can personally call for professional help, as they are part of a reliable support system and network we have developed. They are all either from the corporate residency or the IFS.
Plus, visiting firms such as Hasbro was terrific for the little kid in me. But it also enabled me to learn about the many facets of such a company. Consequently, I grasped a sound understanding of their strategic decision-making. It is also often understated how beautiful Northeastern's Boston campus is!
Q: What has defined your D'Amore-McKim experience?
Simple: The corporate residency, the IFS, and Nisha Khan. The support system is simply golden.
Q: What will you be doing after graduation?
Post-graduation, I will take a much-needed vacation without worrying if I will be able to submit the needed assignments in time! Although I am a pilot at heart, I do see myself transitioning into management. My immediate goal is to pursue aviation administration. I would also welcome the opportunity to be an adjunct professor, as I believe as a Northeastern MBA graduate, I have much to offer.
Next year, I hope to upgrade to captain. Relatively soon after I want to attain my ultimate dream, flying medium to long haul flights (all international) for either Delta (mainline) or a legacy carrier such as United or American. And in time, become the Assistant Chief Pilot or Chief Pilot in New York City for the company, among other endeavors.
Q: What advice would you give students just starting the program?
Remain focused on today's task. Class one, day one, I remembered thinking: when on earth will I finish this program? The bigger picture seemed so daunting and the timeline so long. But always remember to take it one day at a time and importantly, remember to have fun!
Also, manage your time wisely. I cannot stress that enough. If you properly manage the seconds, the minutes will take care of themselves. This may, to some, seem obvious but pursue something you are passionate about. It will make the journey much more palatable during difficult days, as they will still be enjoyable and learning opportunities.
Furthermore, you may never get all your ducks in a perfect row, and life always throws us curveballs. It is how one reacts that is the most important. So my advice is: jump in! If you give yourself no other option, but to succeed, provided that you have a sound plan and execute well (with a small dash of luck), you will simply succeed. This is not to say it will be easy, but the reward will be utterly fulfilling. And besides, time lost can never be regained so just do it, as they say.
Q: What will you be showing us this week during your takeover?
I am genuinely excited to share with you some snippets of my journey as an MBA candidate. Some days will pertain to the program's structure, while others will touch on the International Field Study. And of course, GRADUATION!!! It has been such a pleasure being part of this project, and I am utterly thankful to all involved in the process, especially Liz Merino, for her guidance. And for more regarding my aviation journey, please follow me on @PatTheAirlinePilot on Instagram.