Product leader Brian Roepke came to GGU mid-career to complete his undergraduate degree. Now he’s applying the practical skills he gained to a new role in data analytics.
Brian Roepke, BSDA 21, came to GGU after a successful 25-year career as a business unit leader and product manager. As senior director of product management and user experience at Autodesk, he ran multiple product lines and managed large international teams.
But he wanted to complete his bachelor’s degree.
Degree Completion at GGU
“I started my career as a machinist and later built a software startup that was acquired by Autodesk. With this non-traditional path, I never ended up earning my undergraduate degree,” explained Brian.
His parents wanted him to do so and Brian wanted to make them proud. While Brian didn’t intend to change his career, he wanted to gain new skills relevant to his profession in product leadership in the areas of analytics, machine learning, and big data. GGU’s BSDA program allowed him to complete his degree while pursuing subject areas he was passionate about.
“The admissions process felt appropriate for me as a mid-career professional,” reflected Brian. “It just felt so respectful in tone and approach. Once admitted, I had really impactful conversations with advisors about how to accelerate my education.”
Brian finished his program in 18 months with a 4.0. GGU’s flexible credit policies allowed him to transfer credits from his associate’s degree and online programs he had taken through other universities. He accumulated liberal arts credits through Study.com and earned the rest of his credits through GGU coursework.
“What’s great about the program is that it’s practical, but it’s also thorough and grounded with great, detailed reasons why what you learn is important,” said Brian. “You really do learn so much with the curriculum they’ve put together and you can put it use.”
As he progressed through the program, he began to consider new possibilities for his career.
“I fell in love with what I was learning,” recalls Brian. “The curriculum was so compelling, the thought of eventually changing my entire career was more and more on my mind.”
From Product Leadership to Data Analytics
When a new CTO joined Autodesk and the company underwent a reorganization, Brian did some soul searching. He decided to pitch an analytics department in his particular group to the new CTO.
“I went out on a limb,” said Brian. “I put together a list of colleagues who were close enough to the needed job profiles to fit into the new team. I pitched how I would work with engineering and the other teams, and she said it’s a great idea, let’s do it.”
Brian’s education helped persuade the CTO that he was qualified for this new role. He explained that he doesn’t just want to lead people but he wants use the technical skills he gained in a hands-on capacity. His boss told him that was a contributing factor in the creation of the new team.
Today, he is the director of analytics & insights for the group that runs the platform technology for the entire company. Working with a team of five data scientists and analysts, he’s building a new practice that leverages the power of data to drive better decision making.
“Interestingly,” said Brian, “it’s not a promotion. I was the senior director of product management and UX and now I’m director of analytics and insights. Your career doesn’t always have be about upward mobility. It can be lateral or a total change in what you do that gives you new experiences and new energy.”
His team will collect, standardize, and centralize data as well as create dashboards and ways to display key measures. Analyzing data and using methods he learned at GGU, they’ll look for insights that can create quantifiable cost savings or revenue growth opportunities for Autodesk.
“It’s a 100% fresh start of a career,” said Brian. “I can use everything I’ve learned on the business side to do this job better and will use my new technical skills in my new role.”