Monika Murugesan (’15 EMBA) will be the first to tell you she didn’t know what product management was when she was starting her career as an engineer. She often wondered why particular products were being made and who the decision-makers were behind their development. She couldn’t escape the feeling there was something greater to be explored in the industry.
As her desire to gain a broader understanding of business functions grew, she began preparing for the next step in her career by considering MBA programs.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, a master’s in computer engineering, and a great career in engineering and engineering management, Murugesan already had leadership skills and extensive management experience.
“I was looking for something more than a traditional MBA program to get me to that next level,” she says.
The WSU Executive MBA proved to be the best choice for Murugesan’s goal to transition from research to product management. “The curriculum helped me confidently make the first change in my career,” she says.
Today, she leads multimillion-dollar product portfolios at global organizations within the energy sector and coaches others on product management.
An affinity for Washington State University
Having lived in Pullman for more than 17 years when she began researching graduate programs, Murugesan was already aware of the WSU Executive MBA’s reputation for quality.
“The WSU Carson College Executive MBA was one of the top-ranked programs when I was searching for an advanced degree,” she says. “Plus, I was looking forward to the opportunity to visit the campus, or meet the professors as needed. This helped me network with the faculty and feel more connected to WSU, which I know can be a challenge for some in an online program.”
Murugesan says she also liked the flexibility of online evening classes so any work-related travel obligations would not interrupt her education. All the other institutions she considered had weekend residencies or in-person requirements that wouldn’t have allowed her the ability to continue her work while studying.
“Since I had young children at the time, it was important to me to spend my weekends with them, so the WSU Executive MBA worked out to be my best option,” she says. “As a global campus program, I learned along with students from around the world and from many different industries, which I believe added greater value to my degree.”
The executive edge in an advanced degree
Murugesan says there were many interesting classroom experiences in her program, but being part of a cohort and forming a network with fellow students was something she appreciated in her program experience.
“I have remained in touch with a few of them through the years,” Murugesan says. “Being someone who was transitioning from a technical management role to a business role, I greatly benefited from the innovation management, international business, and marketing classes.”
Two key incidents really stood out to her.
One was in a leadership class where the professor creatively tied ancient literature and movies with leadership lessons. One of the assignments was discovering lessons from the Wizard of Oz relating to leading with the head, heart, and courage.
The other was learning about corporate social responsibility and sustainability in a business ethics class.
“Today, I have a key role in supporting commercial and industrial customers with their sustainability goals,” she says.
A champion for women in leadership
A strong advocate for supporting women, Murugesan has a passion for coaching and mentoring. She joined the Carson College’s Marketing Board of Advisors. “Being a member of the advisory board helps me support curriculum planning and participate in events that allow students professional exposure,” she says.
Recently, she served on a panel for the 2023 Women’s Leadership Summit, hosted by the WSU Alumni Association, where she discussed lessons learned from her career and the role WSU played in her professional journey.
“Women are commonly taught to be humble. We are wired to be up-front and fight for others but sometimes not for ourselves,” she says. “But fighting for my teams over the years helped me overcome a natural tendency to be too humble.”
Murugesan also acknowledges the challenges women in business may face and encourages others to break out of societal expectations and make their own mark in their careers.
“Challenges make us stronger,” Murugesan says. “I thank people who have said no to me because I learned more and was more motivated to accomplish what I was denied, especially being the first working woman in my family and the first to leave India.”
For any graduate of the Carson College, but especially women, Murugesan shares this advice: “The power is within you to get what you want. Become part of a community that supports and uplifts others toward a collective mission.”