Oct. 12, 2023Print | PDF
Well before Doug Suerich crossed the stage to receive his degree at Wilfrid Laurier University fall convocation in October, he was putting knowledge gained as part of his Master of Business Administration (MBA) studies to good use.
Suerich enjoys a successful career as director of marketing at Kitchener-based PEER Group, a supplier of software to the international semiconductor manufacturing industry. Suerich first joined PEER Group in 2011, but about four years ago decided to return to school and pursue an MBA at Laurier part-time while continuing his career.
“There were a lot of times when I would use something I learned in the MBA program at my job at PEER Group, or sometimes I was able to bring something from my job to class and have 60 consultants – my fellow classmates – work on a problem and provide advice,” says Suerich. “For some class projects, I also used problems I was having directly at work.”
Suerich, who also holds a bachelor of applied science in system design engineering from the University of Waterloo, first began with PEER Group as a senior software developer. He later joined the marketing team, rising to the position of director. By the time Suerich arrived at Laurier to begin his MBA, he had been out of school and in the workforce for 20 years.
“The first term was definitely an adjustment,” says Suerich. “It had been a long time since I sat down to read a textbook for two hours, or write an essay. I do a bunch of writing for work, but it’s different writing an academic-style essay, let alone cramming for a test or studying for a midterm or final. I was always a good student back in the day, but those skills atrophy.”
Suerich clearly didn’t have trouble regaining academic skills. As part of fall convocation, he was presented Laurier’s Medal for Academic Excellence, awarded to the top master’s students in research-intensive and professional programs.
“Doug’s performance was consistently excellent,” Associate Professor Brad Davis noted in a letter supporting Suerich for the award. “He consistently went beyond the basic instructions and preparations to add depth and often challenge conventional thinking.”
In what he says was a highlight of his time in the MBA program, Suerich took part in a two-week trip to France, where he participated in a course on international business and cross-cultural considerations at the Rennes School of Business. The course included students from around the world, including Russia, the U.S., Canada, South America and the United Kingdom. Suerich’s wife, Tracy, who supported him throughout his MBA studies, joined him for the second week of the trip.
“It was very cool having cross-cultural discussions with people from different cultures, so when we were comparing business in South America to business in Norway, we had someone from South America in the room and someone from Norway in the room talking about how we can do things differently.
“Two of my classmates came with me and said it was the best experience of their lives. I agree. It was a spectacular, amazing opportunity.”
In another highlight, Suerich was among six part-time Laurier MBA students who organized the 2023 KidsAbility PlasmaCar Races, which challenged corporate teams to raise at least $1,000 each for KidsAbility, a Kitchener-based charity that empowers children and youth to realize their full potential.
Suerich was familiar with KidsAbility through his work with PEER Group and approached some of his classmates about organizing the races as part of a requirement that MBA students undertake charitable work in their final year. The initiative proved an overwhelming success, raising $75,000.
“I asked my classmates if they would be interested in taking part in the fundraiser,” says Suerich. “Six hands jumped in the air immediately and we put together a team, using our MBA marketing and project management skills to make it a success. We raised more money than the event ever had and people had a lot of fun.”
Suerich's employer encouraged him to take the leap and return to school after 20 years to pursue his MBA.
“Mike Kropp, the CEO and founder of PEER Group, is intent on scaling the company and he wanted his leadership team to acquire more formal management skills to take the company to the next level,” says Suerich. “Five years ago, he said, ‘You should do this.’ So, he’s really the one who pushed me over the edge. I had it in my head that I wanted an MBA, but had never gotten around to it.”
Suerich chose Laurier due to the university's outstanding reputation, the MBA program’s flexible schedule and because it was close to home. He says he is grateful for his MBA program experience.
“It was a lot of work and a serious commitment,” says Suerich. “In some ways the three years flew by, in some ways it seemed to take a long time. When I handed in my last assignment, the initial feeling was relief. I put a lot of things on hold and I give full credit to my wife for all of the support she offered. Now, I'm hoping I can apply what I’ve learned and help the company grow.”
Suerich also offers advice for anyone considering attending university after considerable time away from school: don't hesitate to pursue your educational goals.
“I have no regrets about going back to school,” says Suerich. “For anyone else with a few extra years of wisdom, for anyone who left it a little bit longer like I did, go ahead and do it.”