By Kevin Manne
As a student, the technical side of cybersecurity came naturally for Aaron Fiebelkorn, BS ’15, MBA ’17. But he realized there were other areas where he could grow.
“When people would bring me a project they’d done or come to me with a problem, I’d give a lot of corrective feedback instead of being an active listener and understanding,” he says. “I wanted to focus on the skill sets that would make me better for myself and for others.”
So he enrolled in LeaderCORE, the School of Management’s exclusive leadership certification program that bridges the gap between academic learning and the workplace.
Today, Fiebelkorn is a cybersecurity governance analyst at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in Washington. There, he puts his LeaderCORE skills to work, serving as a translator of sorts between the cybersecurity pros and government administration.
“I noticed there was a huge gap with one side not understanding the business needs and the other not understanding technical terms,” he says. “So I wanted to be in the middle, where I could understand the technical requirements while making sure we’re getting what we really need.”
In just four years since graduation, Fiebelkorn has led big improvements at CISA. After recognizing a training need for the engineers who moved to leadership roles, he developed an employee engagement program that helped them succeed, while also increasing retention of the cybersecurity professionals who worked for them.
He’s also made a remarkable impact on CISA’s hiring process. After assembling a team to implement strategies to retain the staff they had and attract more, they analyzed and optimized the organization’s recruiting pipeline to reduce onboarding time by 100 days—a key metric to reduce hiring attrition.
Fiebelkorn is just one of more than 400 UB MBA alums who have graduated with LeaderCORE certification since its launch in 2011. In the 10 years since, the program has garnered high praise from students, alumni, employers and the educational industry—including winning the MBA Roundtable Innovator Award in 2012.
LeaderCORE spans the entire two years of the UB MBA experience and focuses on 10 core competencies considered vital by the business community for effective performance and successful leadership, including team leadership, problem-solving, decision-making, self-management and adaptability.
The 2020 class was the first to receive the new MBA LeaderCORE micro-credential—a digital badge that houses information validating their newly acquired skills that can be shared on social media, digital résumés and e-portfolios.
And building on the program’s success, the school is now sharing its expertise in leadership development with other graduate students across UB through the new Foundations of LeaderCORE micro-credential.
For Alex McLeod, MBA ’17, LeaderCORE was a steppingstone out of the startup life and into a career at Deloitte, where she serves as an advisory manager.
She began her career at two technology startups that worked to give people job opportunities in the tech sector.
At Deloitte, she’s leading another social impact project. Called Close as You Go, the tool is the firm’s first blockchain product and will help communities better prepare for and recover from disasters by enabling them to quickly recoup costs through federal grant programs.
McLeod says that LeaderCORE equipped her with the skills to become the social impact entrepreneur she is today.
“Startup life is fun, but it’s also very stressful and there often isn’t much space for you to do more than your day-to-day,” she says. “You also don’t know what tools you need to become a great leader.
“The LeaderCORE competency model gave me that—focused me on the areas I needed to work in, on how to be mindful through experiences and step back to reflect.”
Ryan McGraw, MBA ’13, is a human resources business partner in technology for M&T Bank. He graduated from the second LeaderCORE class and, like Fiebelkorn and McLeod, gives back to the program by serving as a coach for current students.
As coaches, they meet with students throughout the semester to guide them through the process—reflecting on the students’ logs, providing feedback on how they’re viewing themselves and what they’re getting out of the program.
“We’re there to help students grow, learn and navigate their LeaderCORE journey,” he says.
When hiring, McGraw says LeaderCORE grads stand out in the crowded field of job candidates.
“It shows that a person has self-awareness and that puts them above and beyond,” he says. “There’s always going to be the technical skill sets you require for a role, but LeaderCORE shows you’ll be more likely to succeed because you have extra initiative, emotional intelligence and an awareness of how you’re perceived by others.”
To learn more about the LeaderCORE certification and micro-credential, visit management.buffalo.edu/leadercore.