MBA grants graduate Joy Gope a competitive edge at Ford
Growing up in Detroit, Joy Gope watched his immigrant parents work hard to build a better life in the U.S. It was their dedication that inspired him to become a first-generation college student.
“College just seemed like a very safe option to get to a financially stable lifestyle with the least amount of risk,” he said.
Wanting to stay close to home, he enrolled as an information systems management major at the Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business. In 2018, he graduated with his bachelor’s and immediately set his sights on Ford, drawn to the automotive manufacturer's efforts in tech innovation.
“I started out as an engineering data analyst working with car parts, but my academic background and interests remained in business tech.”
He made vertical career moves, becoming a software engineer in 2020 and then a product designer in 2021.
“I started to learn more about what it means to think about product. I realized I like thinking big picture but felt I lacked some of the fundamental knowledge on the finer points of business concepts,” Gope said. “I would always be thinking very short-term, like how do we quickly make profits? I didn’t necessarily see too much value in things like prototyping, marketing, and experimentation.”
He returned to MISB and pursued a Master of Business Administration to bolster his knowledge. His courses took in-depth looks at companies making a real-world impact, as well as how their priorities changed with the market over time.
“Companies, first and foremost, must determine who their customers are, what they want—research that doesn’t necessarily immediately generate a profit but does make for a more valuable product that will go the distance,” he said.
In addition to his full-time job and studies, Gope mentored an undergraduate student as part of the Success for Underrepresented Students in Graduate Education (SURGE) program.
“It was a great way for me to learn how to mentor but also get some exposure to the diverse set of obstacles that underrepresented students face. It made me much more aware of my own privilege and allowed me to learn new ways to find solutions to challenges.”
Lessons that broadened his perspective on his work at Ford.
“I think one of the key pieces of understanding your customer base is mapping their day-to-day from when they wake up to when they go to sleep. What are their daily struggles? Approach their lived experiences with empathy, and you can come up with lasting solutions for people.”
Gope graduated with his MBA and advanced to IT product manager at Ford in 2022. Now he collaborates with software engineers and product designers that work to enhance the customer experience through innovative design. Being human-centered, analytical, and managing stakeholder relationships on behalf of the company are key components of his job.
Perhaps it then comes as no surprise that he encourages students to utilize any networking event, especially those sponsored by Wayne State University.
“There's so much diversity in the workforce and you never know who you are going to really 'click' with during these networking events. They might just open the door a bit more for the opportunity you're looking for.”