Pivot from team contributor to leader
Following Dustyn Curran’s career as a project manager with national real estate developer Ryan Companies shows how an MBA pays off.
Two years into his Iowa MBA, he pivoted from team contributor to leader—managing design, budgeting, construction, and negotiating with clients to get the deals off the ground. He now leads multi-disciplinary teams through all phases of a real estate development project, from initial project conception through building occupancy.
Since starting the program, not only has he been promoted and changed the way he approaches his job, but he’s also grown his family, welcoming two children into the world. Find out how Dustyn accelerated his career without losing sight of his personal goals.
“When you work for a real estate developer, understanding the components that make up the deal is really important. I wanted to fully grasp the overall approach of our business model.”
Two kids?! How have you been able to keep up?
It's a juggling act, but well worth it. Work is going to be as demanding as it always can be. It’s about making sure you get everything into your calendar and set aside time for family, school, and community.
I now have a 2-year-old and 6-month-old. My 2-year-old was born on the day that we had a final, so he got me out of the exam for a week! Life continues on.
How did Tippie help you maintain that work-life balance?
Some of the management and teaming classes have helped me to adjust my perspective on what balance really is. They force you to pause within the MBA program and within your busy, ambitious career and ask, ‘what am I really doing this for?’ and ‘how do I focus my energy to get the most impact out of the things that are important to me?’
The leadership and development course has had the most impact on me personally. It really helped me to refocus and reaffirm why I’m doing this, why I’m expending the efforts to be part of the program, to meet my work obligations and ultimately to refocus what I want out of my family life.
Why did you choose Tippie College of Business?
Tippie stood out to me for a couple of reasons. It is the highest rated program in the state of Iowa. That meant a lot to me. I liked the way it is structured. Many of the professors who teach in the Des Moines area are teaching at the university campus in Iowa City—we're getting exposure to the same professors and same high level of education.
The other thing that helped me select this program was the flexibility. You get to pick and choose your courses and tailor your path to your own schedule. Given the nature of my business, summers are very difficult times and we’re very busy, while winters tend to be more relaxed. The flexibility of the program—being able to work the courses around your own schedule—makes your workload manageable.
I also wanted to be around other ambitious people and really draw on their experiences to broaden my perspective.
“For my career growth, the finance courses have been really impactful. That was something I wasn’t exposed to with my engineering background. It’s a whole different language. Being able to speak that language and understand what’s being said from a financing perspective has been a real benefit to me.”
How did you make your course schedule work for you?
There are times where I've been able to take two courses at a time. There are times that I've had to drop it down to one. I've taken intersession courses. I've taken summer courses. Just the flexibility being able to fit in courses with my own schedule. It allows you to balance life with work and with school, more so, I think, than any of the other programs here in Iowa.
How will an MBA set you apart in the construction business?
Finance drives our business. You can’t build a project if it doesn’t get funded. Understanding the different levers and drivers of the project Proforma is a big component of real estate. It’s one of the areas I’ve grown the most in, because I better understand how to problem solve to positively impact the overall equation and get the deal off the ground.
Part of business is not knowing everything, but knowing the right questions to ask. In this regard, the MBA has set me apart from my peers. It’s helped to define a distinctive path for me moving forward that I’m pretty excited about.
Where do you go from here?
I’m looking forward to growing into a strategic leadership position within my company, taking what I’ve learned to make our approach better and helping to grow the organization.