Published: Sept. 23, 2022

HR Business Associate, Ford Motor Co.

Shay Cardenas has long been driven to succeed. So it makes sense that she works in human resources for an automaker. 

“What I enjoy most about my work is the opportunity to creatively problem solve, because every day, there’s a new challenge,” she said. 

Headshot of Shay CardenasAfter completing an internship with Ford, Shay started part-time while she was enrolled in the Leeds MBA. It’s been a major career shift—she worked mostly in nonprofits before completing her graduate degree—but one she has embraced wholeheartedly, despite the challenges she faced in enrolling in the program. 

“Making the decision to go to grad school and forgo income is a hurdle for a lot of people in my position, but I always looked at this as investment in myself,” she said, adding that for the first time, she’s making more money than she owes in loans. “Without this degree and the support I got from Leeds, there’s no way I would have been able to get this job at Ford.” 

That support included scholarships that allowed her to be very involved in the Leeds community—important, she said, because building a network was so important to her. 

“At Leeds, you become part of this community that gives you a network and connects you to mentors,” she said. “I didn’t have a mentor before. Now, I have people I can call for career advice, or help solving problems.” 

At Leeds, Shay was president of external relations for the Net Impact Case Competition, co-president of Women in Business and served on the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee—a serious lift for someone working part-time and raising three children during a pandemic that kept schools closed. 

“I stayed busy,” is her modest way of putting it.

While her ultimate goal is to start her own business, Shay said she’s looking forward to advancing into a more strategic role at Ford as her career progresses, and said the analytical nature of her MBA will help her develop as a decision-maker and leader. 

“I come from humble means, so it was a struggle for me to even get to where I was in my career,” she said. “Sometimes I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’ve come a long way.’ And Leeds really gave me such a boost and helped me find my path.”

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