Minds We Meet—Interviewing Gerard Baptist

Currently living with his wife and two kids in Calgary, Alberta, Gerard Baptist has completed one third of the Bachelor of Management program at AU and hopes to eventually advance in the company he is employed at.  This is his story.

Can you give us a little bit of background information about yourself? Who are you? Where do you live, where do you come from? What program are you in? Do you like your program?

My name is Gerard Baptist.  I’m 38 years old.  I’m originally from Edmonton, Alberta but live with my wife and two kids in Calgary, Alberta.  I currently work in the oil and gas industry for a global distributor of products and services called DistributionNOW (DNOW).  I’m enrolled in the Bachelor of Management program and am about one third of the way through my program.  At times I find it to be a bit demanding with some of the course load but overall, it’s been very interesting and enjoyable.

Describe the path that led you to AU.  What was it that made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and what pushed you into the Bachelor of Management program?

I originally graduated back in 2002 with a Civil Engineering Tech. diploma from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) but always had a desire to continue and finish off with a civil engineering degree at some point.  However, in 2011 I switched industries and started working with the company I’m currently employed with, in a sales/technical services role and not really using my previous education.  As the years went on, I saw other various coworkers and friends go on to complete various business and master’s degrees which got me thinking about whether I could do it.

While I had always thought I wanted to go back and finish off my engineering degree, or, at this point, possibly a business degree, it began looking more and more that that wouldn’t be an option.  I assumed that with a full-time job coupled with a young family, I didn’t believe university was realistic.  However, with the continuing education options presented to me by my current employer and with the freedom of the online platform AU provides, I was able to consider the realistic possibility of pursuing my degree.  Ultimately, after I decided I wanted to see if I could do it, it was my wife being more than supportive and encouraging that ultimately convinced me into registering and signing up for my first class.

Do you have any advice for people who may be on the fence?

I’d say do your research on the program and different courses you may have to take.  I found the personal reviews of the courses in The Voice Magazine to be extremely helpful.  But ultimately, go for it.  You’re never going to know what you’re able to achieve if you don’t try.

What do you do like to do when you’re not studying? Any hobbies?

I love spending time with my wife and kids.  As far as hobbies go, in the winter I love skiing and playing hockey.  In the summer I love to golf and go on holidays with family and friends.  I’m also an avid guitar player and enjoy playing when I get the opportunity.

What are your plans for this education once you finish? What would be your dream job?

I hope to continue working for my current employer at DistributionNOW, be able to extend the knowledge I received from my education to my current job, and advance myself through the company as opportunities present themselves and become available—they are the ones that are supporting my education.

Describe your experience with online learning so far.  What do you like?

I’ve really enjoyed my experience with online learning.  I originally thought I would struggle with online learning and the discipline it requires but I’ve come to appreciate the freedom it affords me to be able to study basically anywhere.

Is there anything that you dislike?

The only thing I guess I dislike or would consider a disadvantage is you don’t have the same access to a professor/instructor as you would if you were in a traditional class.  With that said, I’ve found most of the tutors I’ve had to be very accessible and have been extremely quick to reply with anything I’ve contacted them for.  The additional supplemental resources that often accompany the course I’ve found helpful and between those and textbook there haven’t been many problems that I wasn’t able to work through myself.

Was there ever a point that you wavered about continuing your schooling?

I wavered the most right after I applied.  It probably sounds funny but that’s when I really started creating all the excuses in my head about why I wouldn’t be able to get through it.  This was mainly caused by what I’m assuming is a similar feeling to others, by not having enough time in the day, having a full-time job, family requirements, etc.

What got you through it?

After applying and enrolling in my first course, I quickly began to enjoy the new challenge of continuing my schooling but also began to appreciate the flexibility I had to complete it through AU as opposed to more traditional educational institutions.

What’s your favorite AU course that you have taken so far, and why?

I’ve really enjoyed all of them for the most part.  I recently just completed ACCT 250 (Accounting for Managers).  Although it was extremely involved and very time consuming, I really enjoyed it and how applicable it has been to my current job and my day to day responsibilities.

If you would like to know more about ACCT 250 (Accounting for Managers) and Gerard’s experience with the course, read my Course Exam article.

Would you recommend ACCT 250 to others?

I don’t know if I would pick the course strictly just as an elective to fill a course in a program if I didn’t have to take it.  This is based solely on the intensity and time-consuming nature of the course.  However, I would recommend the course to anybody interested in a greater understanding of business practices, costing procedures, and understanding the day to day numbers of doing business.

What have you given up going to Athabasca University?

This is the one question that the answer surprised me the most.  I don’t feel I’ve given up overall too much of anything.  If anything, it would be a bit of social time specifically as I get close to an exam.  However, I’ve tried to stick to a schedule that limits the amount of time that I must take away from other important areas of time such as my family.  While there are exceptions, as I mentioned more typically around exams, I’ve found that utilizing the other areas of time throughout the day I probably took for granted in the past.  i.e.; lunches, commuting to and from work, travel time with work, etc.  I found these times gives me plenty of time to study and allows me to limit the time I might otherwise have to take away from other important areas.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?

Overall, the communication with my tutors has been quite good.  All the tutors I have had have got back to me usually within half of a day to a day.  I even had one who went out of her way to contact me by phone a couple days after I received her email feedback just to make sure I was completely satisfied with her response to my question.  While I certainly don’t expect that all the time, I thought that was a nice touch and showed the concern she had for me as a student and her desire for me to succeed.

What’s your pet peeve if you have one?

Bad drivers!  Hands down easily my biggest pet peeve.  I can’t stand bad drivers.

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?

While I don’t necessarily agree with all his politics, I think Barack Obama would be very interesting to sit down with.  He seems like a guy you could sit down with, maybe not agree on everything, but still have a genuine intelligent conversation with.

Describe the proudest moment in your life.

Outside of marrying my wife, I’d have to say the birth of my two kids.

How has studying been like while being a full-time dad to two kids?

Children definitely make it more challenging.  I don’t get a lot of time to study when they are up.  So, I’ve had to be more disciplined in the hours that they are napping or in the evening when they are sleeping.  This does make for some late nights or early mornings at times, but overall, it’s not too bad.  I also try to use some time at work usually at the end of the day especially when I need to concentrate and have minimal distractions.  This is mainly around exam time or while competing assignments.  I’m also very fortunate that my wife is very supportive and helps keep the kids away if I need to study and they are up.  But again, the big thing for me is to make sure I am very deliberate utilizing and maximizing the time when I have it to study.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?

My dad taught me from an early age that while failure is a part of life, it’s how you react to that failure that is most important.  He taught me that if I set a goal and didn’t achieve it that it was ok to fall short but to regroup and try again, but quitting is never an option.

Have you traveled? Where has life taken you so far?

I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit around North America.  Growing up in western Canada, I spent and continue to spend a lot of times in the Rocky Mountains.  I’ve also done numerous beach vacations including my favorite spot in Saint Lucia where I spent my honeymoon.

Out of the places you have been to, which was your favorite and why?

Trips that I always remember most fondly are the trips I’ve had the chance to take through my church to build homes for people less fortunate in Mexico and setup playgrounds and work within some of the rural communities of the Dominican Republic.

What types of books do you enjoy reading (outside of AU textbooks, of course)?

I love reading biographies, especially sport biographies.  Combining that with my love for hockey I often find myself reading biographies of former players and their memories and accounts of their playing days.

Are you reading any books right now? Could you describe the book?

I’m currently reading a book called Tales from the Bus Leagues which basically is a humorous recount of a former minor league players’ days of playing hockey and the numerous shenanigans that he and teammates got in.

Have you been enjoying the book?

I’ve found it to be a very funny read.  It’s probably not for everybody, but for people that have either played the game and can relate or people that wonder what else goes on in the lives of players both on and off the ice it’s a hilarious read.

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