As a director of operations for a telecommunications company and an independent insurance brokerage owner, Justin Peek believes in having more than one iron in the fire.
"You can never stop improving yourself," he said. "I love making business decisions. I like hearing from my people and deciding where the ship is going to go. I have built a good war chest for myself. You have to be able to pivot anywhere, anytime."
That mentality led Peek to enroll in the online Master of Business Administration program with a Specialization in Finance at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is on track to graduate in December 2020.
"I always told myself that I wanted to go back for an MBA," he said. "I enjoyed getting the project management professional certification and CISCO certifications. Somebody said, 'Why don't you just go ahead and go back to school?' So, I did."
Peek has worked full time for TROSP Solutions in the Greensboro, North Carolina, area for nearly nine years. He started Model Insurance Group, in Archdale, in October 2017.
"After a decent amount of searching, I wanted an MBA program that was AACSB-accredited, which the Cameron School of Business fits," he said. "UNCW was also the most affordable of the all-online options, so that's the program that I went with."
The online format was the only way that Peek could return to college and earn a master's degree without missing a beat in his two careers.
"I had been doing classes at a double pace, but I am glad that I slowed down a bit," he said. "I was pensive about the process of doing an MBA online. I did one class and then another, and I felt much more confident and decided to do two at a time. The flexibility is important to me."
Peek is an only child who grew up in the Atlanta area. After working his way through college at Georgia State University, he graduated with his bachelor's degree in business administration in risk management and insurance in 2012.
"I was in business when I started college, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it," he said. "GSU's risk management school was ranked incredibly high, so I thought that would be good to go into. It was rigorous. I finished and did independent insurance in Atlanta for a while."
After moving to North Carolina, Peek went to work for his father as a sales engineer at TROSP Solutions in 2009. He is now in his second stint with the company and has been the director of operations for almost five years.
"We got the business started in a single-wide trailer," he said. "Now, we're in a 6,000-square foot temperature-controlled testing facility. It's been great. Plus, I can do the insurance in conjunction with my other job."
The first semester that Peek took two courses at a time, he enrolled in MBA 558: Strategic Management and MBA 534: Investment Management.
"Those were, by far, the two best classes that I have had so far in the program," he said. "The Strategic Management course was about how to think more like an upper-level CEO and provided the understanding of what vision is, what core ideology is and what core purpose is. That's not something you're always exposed to. It was good to see that laid out and to think about how to think in that way."
In the Investment Management course, Peek took over his portfolio and competed with two of his classmates in the Southeastern Hedge Fund competition, hosted by GSU.
"We were finalists, but we couldn't go there because of COVID-19," he said. "We were on the board to win $20,000 and competed against MIT, the University of Texas at Austin, Honk Kong Polytechnic and schools from Switzerland and France. It was a great competition."
Peek is making the most of the information he has learned in the program by applying his newfound knowledge to both of his careers.
"I put everything that I get from the teachers and everything that we do in each class in one big PDF file," he said. "I can go back and search through that on the cloud drive any time I want. If there's something I know I remember, I can go back and find it and gather that info quickly."
For example, Peek can find what he learned in MBA 515: Business Analytics when he needs the information at TROSP Solutions.
"In the engineering work that we do, we are fixing problems in customers' data fields," he said. "What I learned in that course has been a good way of visualizing the information. Every piece of it has been applicable."
Since enrolling in the online MBA in Finance program in August 2019, Peek has had plenty of support from his wife, Ashley.
"She was hesitant about it when I started, but she has been a saint," he said. "We got married in 2016. We have a young puppy and another dog and want to start a family.
"The program has taken some time to do, but I have been able to participate in the Rotary Club and other activities. It wasn't so much of a challenge that you had to give up everything else in your life."
Now that Peek is in the home stretch of the program, he looks forward to seeing what the future holds for him as an MBA graduate. He will be the first person in his immediate family to earn a master's degree.
"I am of the opinion of hiring based on competency rather than certification, but it's easier to have those three MBA letters," he said. "This program is the best way to do it."
Learn more about UNCW's online MBA with a Specialization in Finance program.
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