When it comes to deciding what’s next in their career path, many students at the University of South Carolina from all walks of life and from all across campus are opting for the Strategic Innovation Certificate (SIC) offered through the Darla Moore School of Business. This certificate challenges students’ way of thinking and opens their minds to strategic processes for industry solutions. You might be asking yourself, so what does that mean exactly? What makes SIC unique? We interviewed a few students from our graduating class to provide their biggest takeaways from their experiences. So don’t take our word for it. Hear what our SIC graduates had to say:
Financial Services Consultant
Professional MBA Student
Q: How did you hear about the SIC and what about it appealed to you?
A: I was already enrolled in the PMBA program when I learned about a new certificate available for strategic innovation. I was trying to find my area of focus, and nothing seemed to fit. When I learned more about Professor Cardinal’s certificate, I was enticed by the opportunity to be exposed to material that challenged me to think about business differently. I also liked the idea of gaining exposure to other students’ backgrounds, which made for a more dynamic experience.
Q: Congrats on graduating from SIC! Now that this experience is under your belt, what is your biggest takeaway from it?
A: My biggest takeaway from this certificate was the high-level understanding it gives you to navigate just about any industry. It was thought-provoking and made me more strategic-minded.
Q: You said the certificate made you more strategic-minded. What’s an example of that?
A: The certificate provided me with an innovative toolbox, so-to-speak. I have the skills to solve problems in a way that I didn’t consider before taking these courses. I feel as though I’m able to take my thought process of challenges to the next level with more strategic solutions for my clients.
Chemical Engineering Doctoral Student
Q: What stood out to you about your fellow students who participated with you in the certificate program?
A: Even though people came to class with a wealth of experience in their own field, they were willing to listen to other people’s perspective and build on ideas mentioned by others. It opened my world up to other viewpoints outside those of a typical engineer. It was like being submerged into an ocean of capable strategists! I felt like any company would want to tap into the wealth of knowledge that was in that classroom.
Q: What did you take away from the certificate experience that you weren’t expecting?
A: That my opinion matters! And not only that it matters, but that it is an important part of a bigger conversation with others. I learned that each person’s unique perspective is an integral part of allowing us to see things and consider problems in a different light. It allows us to step away from the rigidity of our own thought processes and strategize with others for better decision making.
As it relates to products and the market, I learned that we must look beyond innovating better products and instead we must be timely, thoughtful and strategic about the entry of products into market, finding the right market, and consistently be alert for upcoming disruptors.
Incoming Professional MBA Student
Q: You’ve been with your company for 15 years! Wow, that’s a long time. You started as a machinist and worked your way up the ladder. What made you want to get this certificate?
A: I have been with my company for 15 years! But I’ve always had a drive to build my value and worth. In 2021, at my yearly review with our V.P., we discussed the benefits of building my business acumen to accompany my engineering background. Professor Cardinal encouraged me to take the certificate even though I was not in the PMBA program at the time. I loved her unique style of teaching and her mission to build future innovative thinkers for the business world.
Q: You said Professor Cardinal had a unique style of teaching. What was it about her courses that you enjoyed the most?
A: Professor Cardinal made this experience for me. I feel like she is a focal point of data acquisition that brings together a melting pot of people from different industries with different ideas. The Strategic Innovation Certificate exposes you to perspectives that you would never be able to experience anywhere else. It’s within this melting pot where innovation thrives and growth and evolution to future planning becomes thoughtful and successful. I feel like I came out on the other side as a strategic-minded individual who is ready to take on the next chapter of my career.
R&D Product Developer
Mechanical Engineering Master’s Student
Q: You’ve worked as a new product developer for quite some time. What are some of your own personal/professional goals that you wanted to achieve with the help of this certificate?
A: When COVID hit, I thought the downtime would be the perfect opportunity to work on my education to make me more valuable in my career. This certificate is incredibly well-rounded with the perfect mix of business and strategy to accompany my technical background. It opened the door to a new way of approaching problems that will help me in my profession as I develop products for my company. More than anything, it challenged me to get outside of my comfort zone, take part in difficult conversations, and exposed me to new aspects of problem-solving.
Q: How did the certificate relate to your industry specifically?
A: It’s funny, I think learning about other industries is what helped me develop my skillsets for my own industry. I really enjoyed the different case studies and strategies that Prof. C exposed us to. Learning about other industries and backgrounds challenged me to consider new perspectives when thinking through my own area of expertise. I was fascinated to learn how failures in particular allow us to seek adaptation as a result of those failures, if we are wise enough to do so.
Professional MBA Student
Q: You travel a lot to customers to troubleshoot their inventions and ideas to test their success in the market. What was it about this certificate that related to your experiences?
A: I have so much exposure to many different markets in my line of work. I wanted this certificate to help me be able to better adapt to each industry that I visit in my line of work.
Q: What would you tell someone who is considering SIC? Specifically, how did the core courses’ Saturday in-person format impact your experience?
A: This certificate is not your typical run-of-the-mill selection of classes where information is memorized and then regurgitated into a written test. Prof. C challenges her students to think critically and constantly challenges your way of thinking like I’ve never experienced with any other course in my educational career. The courses are demanding and fast-paced, which makes that in-person format a critical component to its success. It is a time commitment, especially for me traveling from York to Columbia for class on those Saturdays—but it was well worth it. The entire experience has prepared me for real world experiences I would have never considered before. It truly widens your perspective to approach problems differently.