The right fit for international business focus

By the time Robert Rutledge turned 17 years old, he had graduated high school, moved out, and started classes at his local community college. In the end, though, the decision had to be made to leave school in order to work full time.

“I chose work over going to school, and started my career in sales and marketing type roles,” Rutledge says.

In 2010, after getting married, Rutledge switched career paths when his father-in-law encouraged him to apply to a four-year apprenticeship program with Caterpillar, an international manufacturing company. It was through this experience that Rutledge got back into the mindset of returning to school.

“The apprenticeship program included working 40 hours a week in addition to instructional classes you are required to take. Having to go back to school in that type of setting made me start thinking about going back to finish college as well,” says Rutledge. “By that time, I knew I wanted to finish not just for myself, but to set that example for my children and make education a priority for them.”

Within two years, Rutledge had completed his apprenticeship requirements and earned his associate degree, and following his four-year program he enrolled in the W. P. Carey School of Business through ASU Online.

“With my experience at Caterpillar, I knew I wanted a program that focused on business at an international level, and found that at ASU and W. P. Carey,” he says.

Here, he answers questions about himself and his experience at ASU.

Qustion: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: I am already well established in my career. I work with solar turbines and have been with my current company for seven years. However, as I started looking at different career aspirations, I realized I was selling myself short without a degree. I knew I wanted to find a degree program that had a global reach and that allowed me to build upon what I was already doing at my company on an international level. I found what I was looking for at ASU through W. P. Carey’s bachelor's degree in business with a concentration in global leadership. Being able to find a program like this that caters to globalizing businesses, it was the perfect fit.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I think the big thing that comes to mind is personal discipline. Personally, I had to learn how to prioritize, regulate, and maintain that discipline. I work 50 to 60 hours a week and have a wife and three children at home ranging in age from 6 months to 5 years old. Going to ASU taught me how to balance successfully and helped me realize that next level of potential.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: When I started thinking about going back to college for my bachelor’s, I was looking at a lot of different schools with online programs including National University here in San Diego, as well as Western Governors University, and Penn State World Campus. What narrowed it down for me was the reputation of not only ASU but the W. P. Carey School of Business. They are second to none for business-related education online. After enrolling, I also learned that ASU was ranked No. 1 for innovation, which was another selling point. With ASU Online, I also liked the fact that I could take courses on the quarter system, rather than full semester courses. With work and a family at home, the smaller sessions allowed me to work through the program more quickly.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would tell them to just keep going. There were a couple of times that I was getting frustrated and challenged, and the thought crossed my mind to quit. I already had a good job, which allowed me to make good money, and no one would think less of me if I quit. But I knew if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to look at myself the same. So, just don’t quit would be my advice.

Q: What was your favorite spot to to study?

A: I have a home office with a desk that I would use. I work second shift, meaning I work from 3 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., so when I got home everyone was asleep and it was guaranteed to be quiet. I was able to use that space to focus on my work and tune out everything else. It was my getaway space.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: The first big plan for me is coming out to Arizona for graduation. I decided in the beginning that if I am going to go back to school as an example for my kids, then we are going to do this as a family. My 5-year-old is old will have a memory of this as she gets older. As for my career, I work as a master machinist in product development, and I am looking to move into the supply chain side or into a managerial role. As I moved closer to graduation, I have been talking about career development with my supervisor and look forward to keeping this momentum going with these next steps.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: This really isn’t a problem you can solve with $40 million, but a big one for me on a personal level would be fatherlessness. I grew up without a dad, and always felt I was missing something, felt I didn’t have a role model to help. So if I could solve something, that would be it.



This story was originally published on ASU Now as part of its series of profiles for the spring 2018 commencement.