Q: As a military veteran, what sparked your interest in the MS in Innovation?

A:  I spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then got my undergraduate degree in industrial design so that I could create and design my own fishing lures—I’ve had a passion for fishing since I was five years old. But I needed a master’s program that would help me be disruptive and innovate.

That led me to Northeastern, which is very supportive of students transitioning from the military to the business world. My experience with the MS in Innovation was online, it was rigorous, and it was fast. I’m a military guy: I wanted to be on the front lines, kick down the door, do my job, and come back out.

I was able to use my military benefits to fund my degree, and that was huge. Getting my degree helped me honor those who didn’t have the chance to go back to school because they were killed or wounded in action. That motivated me to get through my classes.

Q: What kind of support did you find in the program?

A: The faculty were wonderful. I relocated, worked full time, and traveled for work while I earned my degree, and at times I questioned whether I could keep my grades up and finish. One of my professors reached out to me and helped keep my motivation up—she was essentially like a parent to me.

Q: How did the MS in Innovation boost your career?

A: The program gave me a different outlook on innovation. For example, I learned new skills in finance and accounting and how revenue affects innovation, and I learned about organizational structure and the impact that creates.

I entered the program as an entrepreneur, but while I was there, I was offered an amazing opportunity to work for a global fishing brand. My MS in Innovation gave me the courage to keep growing and pursue that opportunity—and then grow that position even further so that now I’m part of a company-wide conversation about innovation. With what I’ve learned, I feel I could work anywhere I wanted to.

Q: What advice would you give prospective students?

A: The business world is moving towards innovation, but very few people have a specific innovation degree. If you get your MS in Innovation from Northeastern, you can write your own job description. Be a rare breed, take a calculated risk, go to school—there are jobs out there waiting for you.

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“Day in and day out, I use what I learned every day. I learned the language of business that I wasn’t necessarily competent in before.” says, O’Neill