What if you had your life to live over again? A career counselor asked Paige O’Reilly this question in her senior year at Ave Maria University. O’Reilly, a biology major, reflecting on work with budgets and event planning in student government, answered she would have majored in business and minored in biology. The counselor responded by telling O’Reilly about the Master of Science in Business Analysis (M.S.B.A.) at Catholic University.
One doesn’t always get the chance to reinvent themselves, but O’Reilly did. “The M.S.B.A. program really changed the trajectory of my life and opened new possibilities to me, ”she says. In one academic year, she earned a master’s — successfully completing a core curriculum and internship — and got a new job. Professors like the late Michael Novak, Program Director Stewart McHie, and then-Dean of the Business School Andrew Abela reached out to O’Reilly, making the transition from Biology to Business smooth.
“The professors are one of the true gems of the program. They have achieved success in the business world and they are there to give back to the students.” Abela’s A Catechism for Business was “very formative,” though the professors themselves may have been the best books. “They were role models for me. Their guidance and coaching clearly had the good of the student in mind.” Another one of the “great benefits of the M.S.B.A. curriculum is their mentorship program,” O’Reilly says. Through the program she was connected with Nick Sanna, CEO at RiskLens, the premier provider of cyber risk management software, located in Northern Virginia.“He was my mentor during business school. We had a number of insightful discussions. He is very good at helping people discover their true skills and where they may fit in a business context.” Sanna noticed O’Reilly’s passion for evangelizing things she believed in and helped show her the connection to sales. They started to look at opportunities for O’Reilly. Meanwhile, RiskLens was looking to revamp its sales team. Sanna challenged the former biology major to try one more experiment: become an enterprise salesperson in cyber risk software. O’Reilly started at RiskLens on June 1, 2015, right after graduation. She was awarded Salesperson of the Year for 2016, and in 2017 was promoted to Team Lead. O’Reilly says the M.S.B.A. program helped her prepare for her career at a software start-up in many ways.
“It’s fascinating because in the M.S.B.A. program, we had to learn a lot through business case studies...Now I feel like I’m in a real life case study.” Time management was another skill she learned by undertaking an internship and full course load. Networking was emphasized. “They encourage you to go outside of your box and develop relationships with people, which helps when selling to C-level executives.” The oldest of seven children, O’Reilly was homeschooled in a small historic village called Romeo, Michigan. She had not initially envisioned herself “taking on a new challenge in a new city and becoming established there” — yet she did, and she even met her husband in Virginia. Attending the M.S.B.A. program changed her life. “A lot of credit goes to my parents for providing an educational foundation and encouragement to help me pursue the M.S.B.A. program” and to Sanna “for believing in an experiment.”