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MBA for Professionals program helps Kyle Hopkins MBA’21 launch his new international role at IKEA

by Melanie Moyer,

Kyle Hopkins MBA’21 spent nearly two decades working for Nike in several roles before he decided to attend Willamette’s MBA for Professionals program. After hearing about positive experiences in the program from other Nike executives, Hopkins decided was ready for a change and a challenge.

“I started to feel like I needed to expand and get my brain working again on new topics,” Hopkins shares. “I wanted to rediscover material I didn't have a passion for before that would now make me think differently.”

Kyle Hopkins
Kyle Hopkins MBA'21 moved to Amsterdam to work for IKEA.

Attending the program’s evening classes, Hopkins discovered demanding material such as a Data Analysis, Modeling and Decision Making course taught by Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods Robert Walker. “He was great at getting us excited but also kind of terrified — in the right way — about what we didn't know in thinking about ourselves as professionals,” says Hopkins. “There was a lot of data science that I had worked adjacent to in my career, but I never had to be hands-on, and it was really positive to learn in the safe space of a classroom.”

The program’s cohort model — in which students take classes as a tight-knit group throughout the program — was also integral to Hopkins’ experience. “I liked the idea that I would be in the same forum as like-minded, career-focused folks and consider myself lucky to have navigated this program with such a great group,” he says. “Our different backgrounds, industries, career focuses, and skill sets created an environment where I could gain insights and guidance around topics less familiar in my career experience.”

Little did he know that choosing to pursue his MBA at Willamette would unlock an opportunity to live out his dream of living in Europe. A colleague who heard he was earning his MBA contacted him about an opportunity to relocate to Amsterdam and put his new degree to work. He knew he wanted to return to Europe after living there in the ’90s and early 2000s and applied for the job.

Now working as Head of Digital Product-Retail Coworker Tools at IKEA in Amsterdam, Hopkins utilizes lessons learned from his MBA for this next big adventure. He leads the team developing and implementing digital tools for IKEA’s online platforms with the goal of maintaining the unique retail shopping experience characteristic of the Swedish furniture company.

“The MBA made me more willing to take big leaps and actually try for what I wanted, not only in my career but also what I want my life to look like and what I want my experiences to be,” Hopkins says. “What I learned in the program helps me feel that I could have an uncomfortable challenge put in front of me and know I could figure it out based on what I know and what I don't. It helped reset my perspective of what I could do and what others could expect of me.”

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