Being Successful
In A Job That You Love

Written by Marissa Poulson

Who Doesn’t Love Music?

As infants, we snoozed to the soothing melodies of our mothers’ lullabies. Now as adults, no matter how your taste in music evolved over the years, it seems there is a musical genre for everyone (how about some Indian classical music or a little avant-garde metal?). Despite this universal love of music, only a small number of us actually get to build a career in music. One of these lucky few is NCU M.B.A. (2011) graduate and current D.B.A. student, Michael Wachala.

Michael Wachala, (M.B.A., 2011)

“I have always loved music so being able to develop musical instruments at one of the largest musical instrument manufacturers in the world definitely makes my job more meaningful to me,” he reveals.

That’s right; Wachala is the vice president of research and development at Fender Musical Instruments, a job that perfectly combines his two passions—engineering and music.

“My undergraduate degree is in engineering and my jobs have always focused on technology,” explains Wachala. “I’ve now been managing technology groups for over 12 years, which is why I got my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification through the Project Management Institute a few years ago.”

It was his project management experience that led to his employment at Fender, where he was hired as a project manager in 2007. At that point, he decided to earn his M.B.A. to further expand his growing list of credentials.

“I was looking for a school where I could complete my M.B.A. and move right into a doctoral program,” he explains. “Northcentral was ideal for what I needed.”

Wachala was able to complete his M.B.A. with a specialization in Project Management in less than two years before transitioning to NCU’s Doctor of Business Administration degree with a specialization in Management of Engineering and Technology in 2011.

“Although the doctorate is relevant to my work, I am really pursuing the degree more for a personal goal,” he adds. “I have always wanted a doctoral level degree and Northcentral has allowed me to pursue my goal. I chose the D.B.A. over a Ph.D. because the applied nature of the D.B.A. was more in line with my goals and what I do for my job. I wanted to be able to apply my knowledge from my job to my degree and vice versa.”

“Although the doctorate is relevant to my work, I am really pursuing the degree more for a personal goals. I have always wanted a doctoral-level degree and Northcentral has allowed me to pursue my goal.”

— Michael Wachala

A musician in his own right (guitar, of course!), one of the ways that Wachala’s job has prepared him for the D.B.A. program is by providing him with topics that are relevant to his research.

“Every day I am trying to improve what we do at work and that philosophy has extended into my research,” notes Wachala. “Most people at Fender have a passion for the product that just doesn’t exist in most other companies.”

In fact, Wachala has had research on the brain for quite some time now, especially his dissertation.

“I have been thinking about my dissertation since I was in my M.B.A .program,” he laughs. “Since the dissertation is such a large part of a doctoral program, I wanted to have an idea of what my topic would be before I even entered the program. In fact, I wasn’t going to start a doctoral program unless I had a topic in mind.”

With just one content course left before his Doctoral Comprehensive Exam, Wachala is glad he was prepared.

“I think having a topic idea at the beginning of the program has helped me to focus my coursework on topics relevant to my dissertation topic,” he notes. “I’ve been able to build a large database of sources for my dissertation and narrow and focus my topic.”

His preparation also extends to how he’s managed being a working professional, a husband and father, plus a doctoral student.

“One of my primary requirements when I was looking for a school was flexibility,” he explains. “I needed a school that would work with my schedule, which includes a lot of travel at times.”

NCU’s flexibility has allowed Wachala to plan ahead and complete his weekly assignments when he has the time.

“I have found that by looking ahead at what is required for each activity, I was able to plan what I needed to do and when. Planning allows me to get a head start on assignments during weeks that I have minimal other commitments so that I don’t fall behind during the busier weeks.”

Wachala believes that solid time management and organizational skills are paramount for any busy working professional who is looking into an advanced degree program.

“My experience has been great, but if you can’t effectively balance school with everything else, then things are going to be a lot more difficult for you."