Alumni Council member Emily Batista (MSBA ’18) talks with Justin Ferguson (MSBA ’20), an alumnus from the first online cohort of the MSBA program. Learn more about Justin, his experiences at Wake Forest, and what matters most to him.
Q: Describe your current role and how you got there.
A: “I am currently a software consultant for a supply chain software company in Atlanta, GA. To date I have worked with clients of all sizes to implement Manhattan solutions that focus on process improvement, increasing productivity and confirming data quality.
While connecting with a former classmate, I mentioned that I wanted to round out my skill set by gaining some consulting experience, and he introduced this opportunity. Because I already had a significant amount of experience interacting with customers and internal stakeholders, and had recently completed a data management class, my transition into this new role was very smooth.”
Q: How has your Wake Forest degree shaped your career?
A: “At Wake Forest, I found a more intimate classroom setting; professors had significant industry experience and were able to develop one-on-one relationships with students. Being a part of the first online MSBA cohort, professors were also very receptive to feedback and ideas for program development. Having this opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the MSBA was one of the main reasons I decided to attend Wake Forest. I was an active member of the Student Engagement Council where I worked with program leadership to improve the overall experience of the program, as well as strategize ways to improve student engagement. In my current role, I make decisions with and for my clients every day, further developing the skills I learned in the program. The biggest impact the MSBA program has had is giving me experience in making strong business decisions.”
Q: What advice do you have for other students in the School of Business?
A: “Have a strong understanding of your end goal in all of your endeavors. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be in a communication-centric role, where I could translate business problems into solutions, and develop insights my clients would understand.” Justin emphasized how important it is to communicate to any future employers what role you want to play in the company’s vision, and how you can be an asset. “In any new role, it’s hard to know exactly what your day-to-day responsibilities will look like; be open to opportunities you didn’t initially think you wanted. You will likely be surprised at your ability for growth and new skill development.”
Q: Who are some of your mentors, and how have they influenced you?
A: When Justin was in college. he had an IT internship with a start-up company. Due to the company’s size, he was able to spend a lot of time with Sales VP’s and had a desk down the hall from the CEO’s office. “I took this as an opportunity to ask the CEO questions whenever I could. One day, I asked him how I could someday have his job.” The CEO said, “When you play certain video games, you often collect gold coins to earn points that allow you to win the game. Think about equity in companies as those gold coins. If you gain equity in a company, whether by starting your own business or investing in others, your net worth will grow exponentially.” Because of his mentor’s advice, Justin is always looking for opportunities to get involved in other companies, find new mentors, and grow his network.
Q: What’s your five-year plan?
A: “In the next five years, I would like to be a leading an organization that provides resources to assist in the resurrection of generational wealth in the Black community. I would like to remain an advocate for the education and elimination of social inequities by way of academic professorship and educational program development.”
Q: Do you have any tips or advice on being effective while working from home?
A: Prior to COVID-19, Justin’s role involved traveling to his clients across the country. Now, in lieu of travel, Justin has been leveraging whichever virtual meeting software works best for his clients. He’s using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and more to stay in touch with clients he’s used to seeing in person. His advice for working from home? “Ensure you are maintaining work-life balance. With many employees at home, it can be easy to log on early or work late; set your expectations early with clients and stay consistent on your priorities and deadlines to avoid blurred boundaries.” Since consulting is such a competitive industry, Justin mentioned the importance of being very organized to succeed in setting realistic expectations with clients, ensuring both parties abide by agreed upon expectations.
Q: Share something about yourself that no one would know about you by looking at your resume.
A: Throughout his undergraduate career, Justin worked between three and four different jobs at a time to support himself and pay for his education. At one point, Justin began working remotely for a West Coast based company so that he could extend his working day and work past 5:00 p.m. Juggling this many responsibilities at one time is hard to portray on a resume!
“Additionally, my passion is around identifying ways to not only create generational wealth, but to also identify the solutions that will remove the obstacles that impede its creation. My practicum project helped to provide clarity on this in a different light. The problem was that the city of Los Angeles was having a hard time filling jobs because of the verbiage that was being used in the job bulletins. I identified some key factors, such as gender bias (through the use of more masculine language), as well as the average reading level required for a particular job bulletin not matching up with the education required. These factors may seem small, but these small factors are largely part of biased algorithms and AI methodologies that create large scale inequities in areas like affordable housing, financial security, and access to health providers.”
Q: What accomplishment (personal or professional) are you most proud of?
A: “My coaching experience. It allowed me to build relationships with young Black men who grew up similarly to me. Sharing my story, advice, and experiences with these young men meant sharing options for colleges, career paths, and networking opportunities. The transition from high school to college or career for young people is formative and will shape the next several years of their lives.” Until meeting Justin, many of his mentees had never been exposed to some of the experiences that have led to his success. He wants to continue to serve as a mentor to young Black men to make them aware of all the options available to them, sharing the lessons he’s learned along his journey to success.
Q: What does Pro Humanitate mean to you?
A: “By definition, Pro Humanitate is a calling to use our knowledge, talents and compassion to better the lives of others. Unfortunately, given the recent events, the world is getting a vivid glimpse into what it is like for a Black person in America. For me Pro Humanitate is ensuring that Black America is included.” In trying to assist with his view of Pro Humanitate at Wake Forest, Justin has gotten involved with the presidential search. He wants to use his voice to ensure the next president of Wake Forest will represent the interests of African Americans. Justin has shared with School of Business leaders what his experience was like as an African American student in the MSBA program, and he’s working with the program to help support students as they navigate through career nuances.
Q: Last but certainly not least, what is your favorite Wake Forest experience to date?
A: “As an online student, one of the best opportunities to experience the Wake Forest campus was Deacon Weekend. As part of that weekend, I stayed at the Graylyn Estate, tried several Winston Salem restaurants, and conducted a case study with the Dean of the Business School.”