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Thursday, June 02, 2011 - MBA helps alumnus discover career passion

Tamara Davidson, MBA '84, made the common mistake of many college students -- she chose the wrong major for her undergraduate degree. This became evident to her shortly after she graduated from Albion College with her degree in chemistry.


"I found myself working as a chemist, alone in a laboratory," she says. "That's when I realized my chemistry major didn't fit my personality -- the job simply wasn't a good fit for me.


"Once I started working in the lab and realized it wasn't a good fit, I started thinking about getting an MBA," she says. "I remembered enjoying the few businesses classes I took while working on my undergraduate degree."


While continuing to work full time at Enthone, Davidson turned to Oakland University's School of Business Administration for her MBA.


From there, she leveraged her advanced degree and technical experience to forge a successful career in purchasing. She's now Director of Supply Chain Management for MacDermid Inc., a specialty chemical company, where she is responsible for purchasing, quality control, logistics, and distribution.


The right combination


Earning her MBA made it possible for Davidson to transition from her technical career path at Enthone to its management ranks.


With her technical background and expertise combined with her newly acquired business skills, Davidson first moved into marketing where she used her unique experience to explain new technologies to electroplating companies.  A promotion placed her in charge of several product lines.


Drawing further on the skills she gained in the SBA's MBA program and her management experience, she transferred into purchasing.


"Without the MBA from OU it would have been very difficult to move into -- and succeed at -- management," she explains.


Before accepting a leadership position at MacDermid, Davidson also worked at Asahi Kasei Plastics, directing its purchasing department.


The right program at the right time


When Davidson enrolled at OU, the MBA program was structured as a cohort, which she found very beneficial.


"Everyone took the same classes, so I really got to know the other students," she recalls. "We were all working full-time, and going to OU in the evening. We had lots of group projects, and I developed solid relationships."   


Davidson recalls one of her first classes in SBA's MBA program as a favorite. "Statistics with David Doane. It made sense and I could tie back to my chemistry degree.


"Oakland was a great place for me," she says. "It was the right program at the right time."


Not only does her educational background serve as a foundation for her business success, it also stimulates conversation around the dinner table at home. Her husband has a PhD in Chemistry, and one of her sons is working on his PhD at University of Washington, and the other is working on his chemistry degree at Wayne State University.


This strong connection to business and education brings Davidson back to Oakland University's SBA to mentor business students.


Helping others find the right path


As a mentor, Davidson is involved in the SBA's ACHIEVE program, a professional and career development program for SBA undergraduate students that provides critical career support starting with the freshmen year helping them discover the right career for their interest and polishing their professional skills. Areas Davidson feels strongly about.


Davidson frequently shares her story about how she selected the wrong major for her with SBA students.


"To help them delve into the reason why they are choosing their major, I talk about my mistake of going into the lab," she says. "I share my story, and suggest ways they can make sure their choice of major supports their interest and personality."


Davidson encourages students to complete internships so they can get a first-hand feel for the career they are pursuing. "This should help them identify the right path," she says. "If they pay attention, it starts them thinking either 'yes, I'm going in the right direction' or 'maybe I should rethink this.'"


A part of ACHIEVE since 2008, Davidson enjoys meeting students, networking and coaching them on the details that can make or break a young business person -- right down to the handshake.


"Sometimes I have to say to them, 'Work on that handshake, don't be wimpy,'" she says. "In business it really matters."


Her mentoring extends beyond campus.


Davidson encourages the students she meets to follow up with her, and invites them to contact her if they have follow-up questions.


"The students are very curious," Davidson says. "It's fun to see them get excited about their education and their future."


She is glad to offer advice -- and share her own story -- to help set SBA students on the path to success.  

Learn more about the SBA's MBA program here.
Learn about ACHIEVE here.

By Dawn Pauli