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Navy Veteran Torpedoes From Nuclear-Powered Submarine To EMLYON Business School

Culture of innovation and entrepreneurship lured engineer to French MBA

Wed Jan 20 2016

Aaron Hoyles wants to kick-start a career in consulting with an MBA from EMLYON Business School.

The ambitious American started out his career working as a submarine nuclear power technician in the US Navy. For almost a decade Aaron worked aboard the USS Albuquerque, based on the US east coast and deployed on operations throughout the Atlantic.

Eager for a new challenge and taking advantage of the post-9/11 GI Bill which helps fund the post-service education of US military personnel, Aaron moved on from the navy to take a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago.

The pause for reflection proved fruitful and the multitalented engineer joined the Allstate insurance corporation soon after, rotating through several positions on its leadership development program before landing a management consultant role at the company’s Chicago headquarters.

It was during his time at Allstate that Aaron realized an MBA was the essential ingredient necessary to advance his career goals.

What are your career plans? 

I really enjoyed my pre-MBA experience in consulting so I’m pursuing opportunities that will bring me similar challenges.

I want flexibility in my next role here in Europe and I think consulting allows you to go in many directions.

What stands out from you experience working on a submarine in the US Navy?

It’s really another world!

You’re crammed into a very small space with about 130 people for months at a time so you have to learn how to live in that environment while performing at your peak.

The work was very challenging and when you’re not operating the reactor plant you have constant security training. We actually received extra training in order to deal with the sleep deprivation caused by the long hours of security training!

How did your experience prepare you for a career in business? 

The strongest connection is my ability to keep a clear head under extreme pressure and the lessons I’ve learned from providing leadership in a high-stakes environment.

Why do you think so many engineers go on to take MBAs?

A background in engineering lends itself to creativity and adaptability in problem solving which is a good fit for the rigors of business school.

An MBA provides a great way for engineers to broaden their perspectives.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at EMLYON?

An MBA was the right avenue to develop myself further; to gain a formal business education and to move my career beyond the US.

EMLYON has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best MBA programs in Europe. Its diversity and its culture of innovation and entrepreneurship really attracted me.

How have you profited from your MBA experience so far? 

We focus a lot on the how and why of what we do.

“Un-learning” cultural biases and programmed, automatic responses to problems has been an extremely important part of my MBA experience.

How has your experience living and working in France compared with that in the US?

Business culture in France is more formal and things don’t move as fast. At the same time, people take great pride in their professions and are very happy to share their experiences.

Life in France has been good to me but it’s been challenging in ways that I didn’t expect. It took two months to find a barber that knew how to cut my type of hair!