Brandon Taylor

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Brandon Taylor

Place of Residence

Cleveland, Ohio

Program

Master of Liberal Arts in the field of Finance | Accounting Certificate | Corporate Finance Certificate

Professional Field

Financial Analyst, Nestle USA

Prior Education

Bachelor's degree in sociology, University of Toledo; Master's of business administration, University of Phoenix
Going to school here was such a positive experience that I will take it with me for the rest of my life. 

Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?

Working in finance had been a dream of mine since I was a kid. Upon finishing my undergraduate degree, I proceeded to work in financial services for roughly a decade. I worked in retail banking, insurance, and investment sales—all on the retail end. Eager to pivot my career into corporate finance and accounting, I knew that I needed guidance to do so. 

Upon researching the programs at Harvard Extension School, I discovered that I could not only earn a master’s degree in finance, but I could also earn multiple graduate certificates and meet requirements that would make me eligible to sit for the CPA exam. This was exactly what I needed to break into the corporate finance world.

How has this experience helped you in your career or personal development?

It has helped in every way imaginable. The courses were extremely rigorous, and I learned more than I ever could have expected. In my time on campus I made a lot of connections and got to network with some amazing faculty and students. The career advising was phenomenal, and the academic counselors were always heavily engaged with my academic process. 

Bottom line? The networking, course load, credentials earned, and career advising helped me to pivot my career into corporate finance. The results have been a dream come true. 

What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding? 

The most challenging aspect of my time was the travel back and forth from Cleveland to Boston—and balancing the course load with everyday life. This was not an easy feat, being married with young children who are heavily involved in extracurricular activities. 

It was rigorous and tiring—but I gave everything I had to remain engaged and focused. And it paid off. 

The most rewarding part of the process was the connections I made with faculty and students, as well as the knowledge I was able to obtain during my time there. 

How did you manage fulfilling the on-campus requirement? What was the online experience like for you? How did you ensure success?

Being a distance student, I had to choose my course load wisely and make sure that I planned thoroughly to meet the on-campus requirement. The on-campus weekends were demanding, but worth it. The experience and the students in those classes were amazing. 

In taking the slight majority of my classes online, I elected to always take webinar classes where live attendance was mandatory. I found this to be more engaging for me, and I enjoyed being able to connect with classmates. 

I ensured my success by planning ahead, paying close attention to my course load, and staying closely engaged with my academic advisors (who were wonderful). 

How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities? 

Balancing the studies with everyday life was extremely difficult because life doesn’t stop for anyone. 

The commitment to my studies took me away from my family a lot and required many nights and weekends of studies. I studied on lunch breaks at work, I studied in the morning before everybody was awake in the house, and I studied when everybody went to sleep at night. 

What types of student resources and special options did you take advantage of as a student at Harvard? How did they help?

I mainly took advantage of the career advising. It was second to none, and I still utilize to this very day. They were instrumental in not only helping me break into my field, but also obtain the position(s) I desired. 

In which ways did you connect with the Harvard community?

The time that I spent campus was unbelievable and surpassed every expectation. The people were friendly, and it is the most energetic college campus I’ve ever stepped foot on. There’s nothing like it. The time I spent on Harvard campus was priceless and I will cherish every memory I had on campus and the many friendships I made in Cambridge. 

It was amazing being surrounded by lots of people who were, like myself, seeking the next level and trying to elevate their lives academically, career wise, and mentally.

Do you have a favorite class or faculty member? Why?

My favorite class was Principles of Real Estate with Teo Nicolais. He taught the class with so much energy and passion but most of all he made the class fun and entertaining. He made you want to learn as much about real estate as possible. 

My favorite faculty member was Linda Spencer. She played a major part in my career success, and she was always available when needed. 

Do you have any advice for new students?

My advice for new students is to stay dedicated to your studies and give your classes everything you got, and to also have fun with the Harvard experience. 

If one fully embraces the experience, they will not only excel academically, but also reap the many benefits of the most amazing collegiate atmosphere in the world.

Describe your Extension School experience in one word.

Amazing!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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