Texas Tech University

Hybrid Texas Tech MBA Program Snags Alumnus His Dream Job

April 4, 2024

Hybrid Texas Tech MBA Program Snags Alumnus His Dream Job

Kyle Ruth pursued a professional MBA through Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business and Texas Tech DFW, giving him flexibility to learn both on-site and online.

Being raised on a farm in southeast Iowa, Kyle Ruth knew his whole life that he wanted to pursue agriculture. He grew up showing Simmental cattle and had some show hogs as well. Kyle loved being outside around livestock, farm equipment and really, all things “ag.”

When it came time for college, and having an agricultural focus, he knew his hometown school, the University of Iowa, was not an option because it didn't offer what Kyle was looking for from that perspective. The combination of his upbringing and his aspirations led him to Iowa State to study agricultural business.

“While I was there, I really thought I might go to law school after and do something in ag law. I quickly realized later that I had more fun in college than I probably should have,” he said with a telling grin and a chuckle. “I didn't know if law school was in my path after that. I didn't know, either, if I wanted to do more school at the time, to be honest.”

Kyle did five years of undergraduate study, an extra year, because he was a member of the livestock judging team. That's where he became familiar with Texas Tech University and its world-class livestock judging team.

“My coach at Iowa State helped coach at Texas Tech; his name was Jon DeClerck, and he worked under Ryan Rathman,” Kyle said. “I loved being on his team and competing; I ended up graduating from Iowa State in 2015.”

After graduation, Kyle found a role in livestock nutrition in northeast Iowa and says he “didn't mind it.” He enjoyed being in that sector, but it felt like it was an extracurricular activity. Kyle would go home and work on his family's operation and around show cattle.

He quickly realized he couldn't successfully sustain doing that much activity outside of his regular employment.

A Career with Deere

Kyle found an opening with John Deere and has been with the company seven years in April, an opportunity that eventually led him to Texas. He and his fiancée moved to New Braunfels, their first home together. He had never lived outside of Iowa. Sure, he'd been on trips for livestock shows and things, but moving to Central Texas, he said, was an awesome opportunity.

Kyle Ruth
Kyle Ruth

As a solution specialist, Kyle was the dealer-facing expert on everything technology-based that Deere offered, working with them on things like AutoTrac™ guidance and the John Deere Operations Center where data flows from their machines into a web-based platform. He enjoyed that experience and built many great relationships with dealers in that role. 

Then came 2020, with the perfectly imperfect storm, and not just the COVID-19 pandemic. John Deere reorganized when the company ushered in a new CEO around that same time.

“So COVID hit, we were reorganizing, it was just an interesting time,” Kyle recalled. “So, my role became that of a product system specialist. Instead of focusing on this big idea of technology, I became the product and system specialist for just the cotton production system.

“I was a southeast Iowa farm kid who had never really been around cotton, and I was like, ‘What am I doing?' But it was another incredible opportunity.”

At the time Kyle primarily only worked with dealers south of Interstate 20, large operations like United Ag & Turf, King Ranch and Shoppa's Farm Supply. However, in the reorganization, his territory grew. He also started working with what was then Hurst Farm Supply, now South Plains Implement, Western Equipment and others. Everything grew, so his territory became New Mexico and Mississippi.

“It was a big opportunity, a lot of learning, a lot of fun, but a lot of stress, because we welcomed our first child, Penelope, in New Braunfels also in 2020,” Kyle said, shaking his head and smiling. “It was the year of a newborn, the year of COVID and the year of a companywide reorg.”

Kyle and Kirsten
Kyle with his wife, Kirsten

Luckily for Kyle's wife Kirsten, it was also the perfect opportunity for her to stay home.

They had their baby and then COVID hit. She was working for Tecovas, the boot company, at the time, and as the pandemic wore on, the company talked of laying off a number of people. 

“But she's like, ‘Hey, no worries. I'm going to stay home,' and we relocated to Celina, Texas, just north of the Prosper-Frisco area – near Dallas-Fort Worth – which was kind of the perfect storm to start my MBA,” Kyle recollected.

Kyle had done a little homework previously in search of an MBA program and was looking at Texas A&M. He looked at the University of Texas only because of the proximity of the programs to where they were. Also, he just didn't know if it was really what he wanted to do at all… until the dream job came up.

The Job That Almost Got Away

To recap and fast-forward some, the Ruths had relocated to North Dallas to be more central in his division and he started looking for MBA opportunities. At the same time, his wife was ready to get back closer to home in Iowa, and in July of 2021, they welcomed their second child, Pippa. 

“Long story short, Kirsten was like, ‘Hey, it's our chance to get home if the right job comes open,' and so the job I'm in now, funny enough, comes open for Iowa,” Kyle said exhaling sharply. “It's a job I've always wanted. 

“It's a territory business manager role, and I didn't even get an interview. The hiring manager said, ‘I need you to get an MBA, and I need you to get job experience in product marketing with John Deere. That will make you more competitive for the role the next time this opportunity comes around.”

It was then Kyle decided to do those two things, so when the job might come back open, he would be ready.

Searching the internet for top MBA programs in the Dallas area, Kyle came across a few possibilities. He had always just known of Texas Tech because of the Big 12 Conference affiliation and the livestock judging powerhouse it was. He had never really considered it from an MBA perspective.

“I specifically remember getting an ad either on Facebook or Instagram for the professional MBA, and I filled that out,” Kyle said. “I was curious to learn more, and I remember someone reached out to me quickly, encouraging me to apply. She also put me in touch with the MBA programs information and admissions person. Very helpful.”

After a virtual meeting, Kyle enrolled in the hybrid opportunity. And Rockwall, where the hybrid program was based at the time, wasn't far from Celina. Everything started to make sense. It helped that Deere also offered a little bit of reimbursement for pursuing the degree, which was also beneficial in bringing down the cost.

He started that program in August 2021 in the Rockwall cohort, knowing he needed the experience and the financial acumen the MBA provided. Kyle says he loved what it provided from the fact that he could go in person and meet people. He didn't want something every weekend but knew he wanted touchpoints where he would have the opportunity to learn from what other people were doing. Knowing himself, he knew he was going to learn more effectively hands-on.

“I often say, ‘I love the work I do, and although we have a great product, I'm here because of the people,'” Kyle explained, “and that's what really motivated me.

“I liked the opportunity to be around other students of different industries, similar age, or different age and different experiences. All of that was a huge motivator because I knew I was going to learn better with the hybrid opportunity.”

For the Ruths, it was a whirlwind fall, starting the MBA in August followed by a new role back in Iowa in December of 2021, the product marketing job the hiring manager said he needed more experience to land.

Kyle got the territory business manager job in October after completing his MBA through the hybrid MBA program in Texas Tech's Jerry S. Rawls College of Business

Kindred Students

Kyle was not just thinking of himself when he enrolled in Texas Tech's hybrid MBA program. It was a goal he knew he had to share with longtime friend Ashleigh Fleming.

The two first met at a farm show in Ohio and realized they came from similar walks of life; they hit it off quickly as good friends.

Ashleigh describes Kyle as “vivacious, persistent, someone who truly loves to question the status quo, and someone to certainly never count out.” She explained that Kyle had a unique start in the company and has exceeded the norm for a career path. 

“He jumped from a day shift, call center role to a field position supporting dealers in a short amount of time,” Ashleigh said, “At the time that was unheard of! 

“It was in that transitional time when the need for learning more sparked. We became direct coworkers in 2020, and I relied on Kyle to keep me close to the team, as I was in a newly created position trying to figure out the new role.”

When Kyle found Texas Tech's PMBA program through the Dallas area site, he immediately got Ashleigh in contact with the administration staff to get her enrolled. 

Kyle with his longtime friend, Ashleigh Fleming
Kyle with his longtime friend, Ashleigh Fleming

The Case for Big Data

Another big motivator for Kyle to go to Texas Tech was the data science focus the MBA program offered. During what the company called the “Smart Industrial redesign,” he had seen a glimpse of where Deere was headed. 

Kyle felt like the company was going to make a lot of decisions based on data and how they could make more informed, smarter decisions in the future. Even the technology they were seeing in the Deere equipment was starting to do that with certain types of data points. He knew he wanted to do something with data, as long as it was not too in-depth.

“For me, it was important that they presented the program such that they were not going to make you an expert on how to code and gather all this data, but they wanted us to be informed enough as a manager to say, ‘Hey, this doesn't look right or have we thought about this?' So, it's really just giving you the tools to have an intelligent conversation with maybe the subject matter expert of certain data-type technology. I appreciated that approach. It was very much a skim of the top versus a deep dive into all things data or coding or anything like that.”

Although Kyle's MBA concentration was AI & Data Science, Ashleigh took the general track, and, they were about two semesters out of sync with each other. But that didn't stop them from learning together. Ashleigh said the biggest difference was the number of accounting classes required and a couple of other different topics, but otherwise, there was a lot of similarity.

“These courses brought empowerment to Kyle and me, especially around the topic of data and analytics,” Ashleigh said. “This program expanded our knowledge around how to utilize data one step further to build a stronger business case. Also, I had a lifelong goal to be a Red Raider, so this PMBA has helped me both personally and professionally. 

“The program has done the same for Kyle. He has been promoted twice and into one of the most coveted positions in the company, currently as a Territory Business Manager. He is directly linked to the success and strategy for several John Deere dealers. Again, never count him out; he will be the one to execute time and time again.”

Location, Location and Location

Even after Kyle moved back to Iowa, a primary benefit of the Dallas PMBA cohort remained its accessibility. The program requires in-person attendance three times each semester, so he would fly to and from Dallas according to that schedule. Luckily for him, Ashleigh was a gracious host, offering him lodging and carpooling to the classes. 

However, during this time, the Rockwall site closed, prompting the cohort to move around more than once. 

“We did two semesters in Rockwall, which were fall of 2021 and spring of 2022,” Kyle explained. “We were so many different places. That summer we ended up in a hotel by DFW. I remember the last few semesters we were in downtown Grapevine, like a convention center attached to a hotel. It still felt very cohesive because of the people.

“And honestly, the benefit of having it in Grapevine was they had a great food court downstairs. It was accessible. It kind of had everything you needed for an adult going to school on the weekends. It was a nice little trip for me throughout the year, especially in the colder months in Iowa, I could fly back down, go check out where we had lived before and just take in everything that I miss about Texas.”

As happy as he was to finish the program, Kyle admitted he regrets not getting the chance to experience the spacious, permanent new Texas Tech DFW site opened recently in Irving.  

Success Breeds Success

That Kyle and Ashleigh have both succeeded and exceeded expectations in their respective jobs is no surprise, as the Rawls College online MBAs and other Texas Tech online programs are highly ranked nationally.

In February,  U.S. News & World Report released its 2024 Best Online Programs rankings, placing Texas Tech as the No. 22 school in the U.S. for online MBA programs, an 11-spot leap from a year ago. More recently, Texas Tech University Online was ranked No. 2 on the 2024 BestColleges List for Best Online Colleges in Texas.

Ashleigh echoes Kyle's positive take on the Texas Tech hybrid program, encouraging anyone even thinking about it to move forward and apply, saying every early to mid-career professional needs to consider taking it. Just having the three letters of M-B-A on a resume are an immediate conversation starter and door opener. 

“This program was easily accessible when I was on the road with work and on weekends,” Ashleigh said. “That's not saying the program is easy, but with focus and time management, adding this program to your everyday is possible.

“I was once given advice from a colleague that if you are considering getting an MBA, do it. I will forever appreciate those words of advice because it was truly worth all of the nights and weekends over the last two years. This program provided an expansion to my undergraduate degree that was more based on the real world than on theory. I thoroughly enjoyed my two years in the program and am excited to see what the future holds.”

Kyle and Kirsten standing in front of a John Deere tractor
Kyle and and Kirsten attend a John Deere event.

Now with his territory covering most of Iowa, Kyle says the degree has helped him in his current job more than anything, as his dealers pursue their goals. He works with six different John Deere dealer organizations, from a single store location to a 28-store organization. Taking into consideration things like historical data, industry trends and commodity prices, all those data points drive conversation around goals with their dealers, and how they can best take care of customers. The new knowledge helps Kyle help his dealers achieve their goals, which, he says, is cool.

“The nice thing about the MBA is, it gives you more validity when you're meeting with people that run their own businesses,” Kyle said. “I think about John Deere dealers, they're extremely savvy entrepreneurs. Some of these organizations are multigenerational family organizations. Having an MBA — I think it gives them a little bit of confidence that you've at least experienced some other business-type cases and can use what you've learned to help make them more profitable and help them make good decisions. I think that always helps in any scenario.”

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