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Laura McGinn invests in herself and surpasses her goals

As the senior director of Global Client Service for CSC Digital Brand Services, Laura McGinn deals with a lot of people. She works with leaders, for example, to ensure that they operate from a place of competence and confidence, that they’re hiring the right people and that they’re building good relationships with clients.

She also interfaces with colleagues and clients, and she manages a team of employees. But in the end, her customer-service mindset — honed over years of retail experience — came most in handy for McGinn herself. Because she prioritized her career ahead of everything else, she decided she needed to earn her bachelor’s degree (and then a master’s and a doctorate) in order to become the best leader she could be.

It was a decision that would take her on a long journey from an 18-year-old high school graduate who left college after one semester to a globetrotting senior director of a global company who never wants to stop learning.

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The school of life

Laura McGinn

Laura McGinn (BSB, 2013; MBA, 2016; DBA, 2023)

When she graduated high school in 1988, McGinn says she was an honors student who loved learning and planned to become a teacher or possibly a lawyer. But after one semester of college, she returned home to discover her divorced parents each decided to move out of state. Plus, she couldn’t really afford college, even with the partial scholarship she was awarded.

McGinn, ever the self-starter, went to work. “I started in retail,” she says, “and was quickly promoted to management, which turned into a 20-year career.”

McGinn is the oldest of her siblings and a straight talker with a slight New York accent. It’s easy to imagine her in a retail environment because she can think quickly while making you feel like you’re the only person in the room.

Her service-oriented mindset saw her climb the ranks in retail, eventually becoming the district sales manager for one organization. Then, in 2006, she and her husband moved to Delaware to be closer to family and to take a step back. She was experiencing some health issues, and she wanted to reevaluate her goals. Not finishing college gnawed at her, so much so that she’d enrolled at University of Phoenix in 2003 but stepped away after a year for family reasons.

“It always bothered me that I never finished college,” McGinn recalls. “I felt that I was missing out on being the best leader I could be, and [I] needed the education to help me be more successful.”

Finally, in 2009, her moment arrived.

From leader to scholar

In Delaware, McGinn found the opportunity that would define her career: She joined CSC in 2008 as a recruiter. She was quickly promoted to team leader before she joined the Digital Brand Services division in 2009.

“When I was first asked to lead a team at CSC DBS, I decided that was my moment to start back with [UOPX], and I enrolled shortly thereafter,” she says.

McGinn always had college in mind, but CSC’s tuition reimbursement benefits sealed the deal for her.

“Without the confidence that I would have help funding my education, I would not have pushed ahead,” McGinn says.

Find out if your employer is one of the more than 1,500 organizations University of Phoenix works with to offer education benefits. 

Balancing work and school: A practical guide

McGinn had other support too. Her husband cheered her on, as did McGinn’s close friends. McGinn and her husband also have large extended families that stick together and support one another. McGinn and her family started a nonprofit organization in memory of McGinn’s prematurely deceased niece, and she knew they were cheering her on in her educational aspirations.

McGinn needed it too. Having supported herself since she was 18, she was committed to her career. It came first. She liked UOPX for its flexibility, but she had to figure out how to fit even the flexible schedule around a job that had her working until 11 p.m. some nights and, before the pandemic at least, traveling around the world.

During her Bachelor of Science in Business program, McGinn finally found the approach that worked for her. She took a time-management framework taught by her employer and customized it for her needs and commitments.

“I learned that what worked best for me was to set my schedule to limit my workday hours [on] two early mornings to complete an hour or two of coursework, and two early mornings for reading,” McGinn explains. “Then I spent the majority of my weekends focused on research, assignments and writing. I also used airport downtime between flights to catch up on coursework.”

McGinn essentially determined which hours needed to be devoted to work and blocked that out accordingly. Then, she blocked out chunks of time for school.

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How to balance full-time work and school

An education for the real world

The system worked. McGinn not only completed her bachelor’s degree in 2013, but she went on to earn her Master of Business Administration in 2016 and her Doctor of Business Administration in 2023.

She loved the way she could apply what she was learning directly to her job “in real time,” so to speak.

School, she says, “made me so much more confident in what I was doing because I was like, ‘Yeah, this is the right thing to do.’ Like the ‘forming, storming, norming’ concept of building a team.” She was already hiring teams, figuring out who was good at what and determining goals, but she didn’t know the name for it or the philosophy behind it.

Her education came in handy as her organization grew to include four new global companies. “A lot of our teams were having friction because of different cultures and customs,” McGinn says. “I was in a global leadership class at the very same time I was going through this at work. I was able to learn about different cultural expectations and how I could adapt what I was doing … and be able to help build those bridges between our teams in different countries. … To be able to take those things I was learning and instantly apply them to problems I was facing at work was just awesome.”

Susie Hudson portrait

Susie Hudson

McGinn wasn’t the only one to notice either. 

“Laura is a leader of leaders and has multiple teams reporting to her, which in and of itself requires diligence, attention and organization,” says Susie Hudson, a learning leader at CSC who has known McGinn for 16 years. “The leadership team that reports to her all lead high-performing teams, and that is because Laura does the big things and the little things well.”

As further evidence of McGinn’s prowess, Hudson cites the award for organizational excellence that McGinn recently won.

“The old saying that you can do anything you put your mind to is completely true,” McGinn says. “I never in a million years thought that I would hold a doctorate, but here I am. I learned that when you take very big things and break them into small chunks, everything is possible.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Exline has been telling stories ever since she won a writing contest in third grade. She's covered design and architecture, travel, lifestyle content and a host of other topics for national, regional, local and brand publications. Additionally, she's worked in content development for Marriott International and manuscript development for a variety of authors.

 

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