Joe Barsoian: Balancing Work, Life and Learning

Graduate Certificate, Management Science and Engineering

By day, he’s raising a family and managing a career. By night, he’s a dedicated student studying and taking online classes. But he’s not your average Joe.

"The Stanford spirit of optimism, comradery and 'no limits' is contagious. I will forever cherish my time in the MS&E graduate certificate program."

What initially interested you in pursuing the Management Science & Engineering (MS&E) graduate certificate?

With my busy schedule, I was looking for a part-time program and was thrilled to learn that Stanford offered MS&E graduate courses online via SCPD.  My manager fully supported the idea of ongoing education and let me know our employer, Dolby Laboratories, Inc., was an SCPD Member Company. I enrolled through the Non-Degree option to get started and found the material immediately applicable to my role as a full-time program manager. I was able to make greater contributions at work and now have more responsibility to focus on entrepreneurial and strategic activities.  The experience proved so successful and valuable that I studied for the GRE, applied to the MS&E master’s program, and am now enrolled through the Honors Cooperative Program to earn my next degree.

How has the certificate program helped you in your job?

Putting the knowledge I gained from the MS&E graduate certificate into action has led to more on-time, on-budget and in-scope deliveries. After being inspired by the teaching of Professors Bob Sutton and Hayagreeva (Huggy) Rao, I shared their book, Scaling Up Excellence, throughout my organization. My teams embraced the ideas and implemented the practices: breaking larger teams into smaller teams, leaving teams intact over longer periods of time, and deciding which processes are non-negotiable vs. those that are negotiable during a program kick-off. Not only did the results positively impact our operations, our program sponsors have greater confidence and trust in our performance.

What was your favorite course?

MS&E280 - Organizational Behavior: Evidence in Action. As a program manager, I’m often facilitating cross functional team meetings for the purpose of delivering new software products to market. Organizational Behavior helped me understand principles of influence. I use these principles (reciprocation, social proof, liking and scarcity) daily to inspire and motivate teammates without direct managerial authority. Learning what the best bosses do and striving to embody wisdom and integrity helped me earn greater respect from my colleagues.

What was the most valuable part of the program for you?

The people. Interacting with professors, PhDs and peers who are the top in the nation and world at researching, authoring and teaching is both a privilege and inspiration. The Stanford spirit of optimism, comradery and 'no limits' is contagious; I will forever cherish my time in the MS&E graduate certificate program.

What advice can you give current students to help them succeed in the program?

Talk with your TAs, peers and professors. It can take extra effort online but find time to make calls and have discussions. Discover what motivates others and what courses they have found rewarding. Find those whose interests and passions align with yours, make the effort, and enjoy the journey.