As the first member of my family to pursue a college education, I chose marine engineering as my undergraduate degree because it offered me an opportunity to work as a licensed engineer on ships, to operate and maintain machinery and equipment, and to see the world.
After spending five years sailing around the world as a marine engineer, I decided a life at sea was not a long-term proposition if I wanted to have a normal life and raise a family. I took a position shore side and quickly realized that a career as an engineer was limited and decided that management was the path to career growth. I experienced my first management position for a shipping company located in Houston, Texas, and realized that I lacked the business acumen needed to be successful. I decided to pursue an MBA. It was 1989 and opportunities to stay employed full-time and pursue a master’s degree were very limited.
After researching my options, I decided to apply to Syracuse University where they offered an online MBA program (iMBA, which was relaunched in January 2015 as MBA@Syracuse) that required students to attend classes at Syracuse for one week a semester and continue the educational process from home. We had students from around the world who ascended on the Syracuse campus three times a year and participated in the program, which was unique at the time. We developed relationships with other students and professors who understood the importance of pursuing an education while continuing to work.
Without Syracuse’s iMBA program, I would have not been able to obtain my master’s degree while continuing to work. The program was designed for working professionals and provided the flexibility needed to take classes at our own pace. It took me four years to complete my MBA because my job frequently took my entire focus and required me to take semesters off to support the business.
During my iMBA studies at Whitman, I worked for three different companies and moved from Houston to Pompano Beach, Fla. I was still employed in the marine transportation industry and had a difficult challenge balancing my work load and school. I had to take several semesters off while I was managing ship dry-dock repairs and maintenance and spent one year in Seville, Spain, overseeing the construction of six new refrigerated cargo ships for Del Monte Fresh Fruit.
Complimenting my undergraduate engineering degree with a Whitman MBA opened doors that would have never been open otherwise. I was fortunate to advance my career and change industries a couple of times since obtaining my MBA. I was recruited and accepted a position as director of maintenance and operations with Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah, Ga., which was owned by Forstmann Little & Co. and on the brink of bankruptcy in 1997. I was part of the management team that helped turn the company around and position it for an acquisition by General Dynamics in 2000.
As a result of the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001, the aerospace business took a turn for the worst and I found myself looking for a new opportunity. I successfully found employment as director of maintenance for Walmart during a time when the company was in a growth mode and building six to eight distribution centers a year in the early 2000’s. The tools I received from Whitman positioned me for success in this role. I found myself in a position of managing hundreds of associates in the maintenance of material handling equipment and managing millions of dollars in both expense and capital budgets. I was promoted to vice president in 2006 and took on even more responsibility leading the team supporting the maintenance of Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs across the U.S.
I left Walmart after 11 years for an opportunity to be closer to family in New England. This was short lived as one year later, Amazon recruited me for the executive position to lead the company’s facilities organization. Given Amazon’s history of growth and innovation, it was an opportunity I could not turn down.
I feel blessed to have the career I have had which would not have been possible without the tools and knowledge I was able to obtain from the Whitman School and Syracuse University. The iMBA was ahead of its time and provided an opportunity for individuals to pursue an advanced degree while continuing to progress in their career.