The golden arches led to a golden opportunity for Lucas Talada.
While he was general manager at McDonald’s in Lake Placid, Florida, Talada enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with a concentration in Management – Leadership at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in March 2020.
“I was at a good spot at work and had built up my team,” he said. “Things were running smoothly. I had an assistant manager who did schedules and a department manager who did inventory.
“I felt like I had free time. I was reading books and finding other ways to learn on my own. Since I had time, I thought I might as well get a degree.”
McDonald’s offered Talada $3,000 per year in tuition reimbursement through its Archways to Opportunity program, supporting his efforts to earn an MBA and further sweetening the deal for him.
“It made the already affordable program even more affordable,” he said.
Talada is following in the footsteps of his father, Richard, who attended graduate school at FGCU, but he almost withdrew a few days into the online MBA program.
“I started the week that COVID-19 hit,” he said. “The first Friday of class was when the world shut down. I contemplated dropping it because I did not know what the future was going to hold.”
Instead, Talada stuck with it. Although he had never taken an online college course, he enjoys learning via the format.
“I adjusted to it quickly and it’s been pretty manageable,” he said. “I am not afraid to send [my professors] an email anytime. I know they will get back to me. I have also had Zoom calls with them.”
Talada started out as a crew member at McDonald’s in LaBelle before graduating with an associate degree from Tallahassee Community College (2013) and a bachelor’s degree (B.S.) in accounting from Florida State University (2015).
He worked as an algebra teacher and varsity tennis coach at his alma mater, LaBelle High School, for one year and as a merchant at Interline Brands for more than two years before he returned to the fast-food industry.
“I am a lifelong learner, but I also love coaching people and teaching people. That’s how I got to be so comfortable at McDonald’s and built up my team,” said Talada who lives in his hometown of LaBelle.
So far, TRA 6726: Global Supply Chains is Talada’s favorite course in the MBA with a concentration in Management – Leadership online program curriculum.
“Being in that class during COVID-19 was interesting,” he said. “Everything supply chain-related was very relevant, like switching from going out to eat to eating at home or grocery stores running out of toilet paper and pasta. There were things you never imagined, so it was memorable to me.”
The information that Talada has learned in the program is relevant to his role as a McDonald’s general manager — especially MAN 6266: Strategic Leadership and MAN 6305: Human Resource Management.
“I have definitely been able to apply what I have learned, but those two courses have been the most applicable information to my setting,” he said. “It also helped me during the first classes. There weren’t any distractions outside of work because of COVID-19.”
Experience, Education Combo
With an expected graduation date of April 2021, Talada is in the home stretch. He has plenty of encouragement from his wife, Kieri, and his family and friends.
“They are all supportive,” he said. “My uncle, grandpa and dad all believe in the value of education. They have been pushing me to get a master’s degree.”
FGCU is within driving distance for Talada who would like to attend his graduation ceremony.
“Hopefully, that will happen later this year,” he said.
Talada, who enjoys playing tennis, golfing and taking weekend trips across Florida with his wife, has some advice for potential MBA online students at FGCU.
“I would tell people to not be afraid to communicate with their professors early and often about assignments,” he said. “It’s a very fast-paced program with fast-paced courses.
“I learned after my first term that just because there is a project due at the end of the term doesn’t mean you can’t email your professor in the first week asking for lots of detail and get yourself set up for success,” he said.
Talada is glad that he stuck with the program after the first week of the pandemic. Soon, he will have a master’s degree to show for his effort. Though he views himself as contented in his career, he expects to feel more prepared with an MBA.
“You never know what the future holds,” he said. “I know this degree will open up opportunities for me.”
Learn more about FGCU’s online MBA in Management – Leadership program