Sticking to Your Goals: Meet Oscar Tapia

Oscar Tapia has two degrees from NJIT and a job he loves. For him, it’s all about working hard to overcome obstacles and “sticking to your goals.”

After he graduated from NJIT in 2008, Oscar Tapia happily took a job as an infrastructure engineer at Ernst & Young LLP. 

He works in the company's global Information Technology Services unit, providing technology support to Ernst & Young employees. He sometimes also leaves his office in Secaucus, N.J., to service the technology needs of E&Y clients. It’s an international company of 150,000 employees that offers accounting and financial services to international clients.

Oscar, who has his bachelor’s in computer technology, recently completed the Executive MBA program, graduating with a 3.906 GPA. He was also inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, an international honor society.

The Executive MBA program at NJIT gave him the flexibility to study while raising two boys and helping his wife finish her medical residency. In this interview, Oscar talks about his job, his graduate studies at NJIT and his undying desire to learn.

How did you like the E-MBA program at NJIT?
It is an excellent program and pursuing it was definitely the best decision I could have made. The program complemented my technology experience well and gave me an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of business administration.

What in particular did you like about the master's program?
Some areas of the program that I found particularly valuable included Finance, Marketing and Strategic Management.  In addition, the hands-on management knowledge we acquired by running virtual public companies in a competitive real-time environment and the business cases we analyzed in all our classes were very productive and definitely augmented my learning experience.

As part of the master's program you travelled to Brazil. How was that?
The trip to Brazil was part of the Global Competitiveness course, which provided us with a valuable global cultural and business perspective.  We met with various innovative Brazilian business leaders from companies such as Odebrecht, Petrobras, General Motors Brazil, Alcoa Brazil, Magnifica Distillery and SuperBac.  We received a wonderful reception from everyone there.  It was a lot of fun, and one of the nicest parts of a great program.

You have two boys and a wife doing her medical residency.  How were you able to work and care for your family and still earn a master's degree?
The E-MBA program was flexible. Classes were all day Saturday, usually from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some classes were hybrids, meaning I spent some time in class and some time studying online. The program was accelerated and intense; I usually had two classes a semester. But I studied after our two boys went to bed at night and I took my books with me everywhere.  I didn't have to come to campus during the week for evening classes. That would have interfered with my family time. So the way the E-MBA is set up was perfect for me.

Do you use what you learned in your classes in your job?
In terms of applying my MBA knowledge at work, I use what I learned on a daily basis to identify and develop the most effective solution to an array of business problems and to interact with all levels of management.  In general, I am confident the degree has better prepared me to grow professionally.

While an undergraduate at NJIT you won a scholarship from Google. What was that for?
Google gave me a $5,000 Hispanic College Fund scholarship, which I am very grateful for.  As part of this award, in the spring of 2008, Google also hosted a retreat for us – all the scholarship winners from across the country. The retreat consisted of a range of social activities, seminars and speaker events.  We visited the Googleplex complex, the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, and had the chance to explore the San Francisco Bay area.   Every day we were treated to a mix of fun activities. It was a memorable experience!

When you graduated from NJIT in 2008, you did so with a perfect 4.0 GPA.  What motivates you to excel academically? 
I came to the U.S. from Mexico when I was 13. I didn't know English, so everywhere I went I carried a dictionary around with me.  I was eager to learn English and go to college.  No one in my extended family had ever attended college. They toiled as laborers, worked two or three jobs yet faced many obstacles. I saw that education was the avenue to a better mind and a better life. That's why I tried to excel.

Do you expect your two sons to be equally motivated to succeed?
My wife and I are fortunate to have two healthy, intelligent boys who are 7 and 8 years old. I think it’s important as a parent to foster curiosity and a love of learning in your children. I've always emphasized to them the importance of education and following your dreams.  I’ve learned over the years that if you study hard and work hard and most importantly stick to your goals -- anything is possible.  That’s what I’ll tell my boys.

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)