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Developing the Mindset of a CEO

Dahlia Haynes’ credits her time in Northwestern Engineering's MPD2 program with helping get her where she is today — which happens to be working in Malaysia for SC Johnson.

By the time Dahlia Haynes took her first class in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development Management (MPD2) program, she already had a PhD in chemistry and a successful career at SC Johnson, the manufacturer for brands like Fantastik, Glade, Raid, Scrubbing Bubble, and Ziploc.

But Haynes wanted something more — and she found it in MPD2.
Dahlia Haynes
“Developing a well-rounded understanding of what it takes to lead a consumer-product-based organization to be successful was a unique insight that only the MPD2 program could deliver in a relatively short time frame,” she said. “This program teaches you to have the mindset of a CEO.”

MPD2 opened new horizons for Haynes. Not only was she promoted four months after graduation, but in May she moved to Malaysia for a new role as a senior manager in international registration and regulatory compliance.

The move was a major one, but one that excited her.

“The transition has been amazing,” Haynes said. “Becoming a leader across different cultural backgrounds and ways of working has truly been enlightening, inspiring, and exciting.”

Who she is as a leader was shaped by MPD2.

During her time in the program, Haynes (MPD2 '20) learned ways to collaborate with disparate teams, strengthened her business acumen, and improved her communication skills.

“This program strengthened me as a business leader, not just in my core functional area in research, development, and engineering (RDE), but as an overall cross-functional partner, understanding my contributions to the entire company,” she said. “It teaches you the value of what it takes to be a successful and sustainable business.”

Among the skills she honed in the MPD2 program was time management. Haynes earned her degree from 2018 to 2020 while working full time as a project manager and RDE lead at SC Johnson’s headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin.

“Maintaining a robust course load but still delivering against my day-to-day work activities was critical for success,” she said. “Another lesson was how to manage within a group of varying personalities, how to get the best out of people, recognizing that passion may look different based on cultures and working styles.”

That respect for diversity and recognition of its importance in the business world is a key part of Haynes’ career. She serves as the chairwoman of the Alliance of Black Professionals at SC Johnson and leads initiatives to support, retain, and develop diverse talent across the company. Being able to make a difference in that space is one of her proudest accomplishments, she said.

With her time at Northwestern in the rearview mirror and new challenges in a new country ahead of her, Haynes credited MPD2 with helping her get where she is today.

“MPD is unique and valuable in a way that is different from a standard MBA," she said. "This program teaches about both entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. Every single course taught me something, and I still use aspects of each course both personally and professionally."
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