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How My MBA Helped Me Switch From Naval Officer To HR Business Partner

Dustin Reid spent more than six years in the US Navy. Now, he’s a HR business partner at GE Aerospace—find out how his MBA helped him change careers


Fri Oct 20 2023

Dustin Reid left his home state of Michigan to travel across the world for almost seven years in the US Navy. On his return home he found his way to an MBA and a new career path in human resources (HR).

A common objective of an MBA is gaining a transferable skill set to help you change career paths. An MBA gives you technical and interpersonal skills, as well as a robust network that can help you change careers.

While an MBA is often thought of as a general management degree, there are MBA programs that allow students to specialize in a chosen area.

Find out how Dustin customized his MBA at Michigan State University (MSU) Broad College of Business, helping to launch his dream HR career. 

From the Navy to the MBA classroom

In the Navy, Dustin was a surface warfare officer, working on the kind of boats that Tom Cruise’s “Maverick” lands on in Top Gun. 

“He’s the ones flying the planes, we’re the ones driving and running the ships that they're landing on,” he says. 

Dustin spent five years travelling around the world, spending time on board destroyer warships deployed to places such as Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Tahiti, Bahrain, and Hawaii.

After his final two years certifying ships for deployment while stationed in San Diego, Dustin decided it was time for a change.  

“The hours are pretty rough. My wife was also a military officer, and we spent a lot of time apart and decided we didn't want that for ourselves going forward,” he says. 

When researching his career beyond the military, Dustin realized what he enjoyed most was solving organizational problems through the lens of people. 

Having no formal business education, Dustin wasn’t sure how to enact this passion. However, after lots of research, he realized HR was the right path, and an MBA would be the best way to make this switch. 

“I decided that because I had no business experience, what I should do is focus on an MBA to get a well-rounded experience,” he explains.

Gaining a transferable skill set to become an HR business partner

Having decided on an MBA, MSU Broad College of Business was the clear choice for Dustin.

His family is from Michigan, and he completed two bachelor's degrees at MSU.

Dustin (pictured) says that the MSU MBA gave him a holistic understanding of various topics, allowing him to elevate his knowledge enough to communicate across sectors.


“You learn enough about each sector, to be relatively fluent in the language and ask good questions,” he says.

Broad College of Business allowed him to personalize his MBA so he could work towards an HR career. MBA students select a primary concentration and then supplement their academic program from a robust elective course group.

The concentrations are Business Analytics, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Human Resources and Strategic Management, Marketing, and Supply Chain Management. Dustin took the HR concentration but made sure to supplement it with general management skills.

“I was allowed to have a plurality to my classes. We all took base level management courses, but then had optional courses tailored to our interests,” he explains. 

Dustin has found the emphasis on teamwork at Broad helpful in his current role. 

“Nearly everything is team-based,” he says. “The program is valuable because most roles, even truly individual roles, are team-based. Very few functions can work in a silo and effectively.”

A highlight for Dustin was John Wagner’s Organizational Behavior class, where he learned about the specifics of corporate structure and how to run successful, healthy organizations.

“It felt very focused on what I was interested in doing, which is the strategy and structure of HR and how to run a business effectively,” he says. 

Networking and launching his HR business career

During his time at MSU Broad, Dustin networked with companies, alumni, as well as his fellow classmates. 

“You spend the fall of your first year in a blitz of meeting companies and going to mixers and applying and interviewing,” he explains.

In fact, he landed his current role at GE Aerospace through the help of his network. An MSU grad working at GE initially reached out to him, which led to him applying and then interviewing for the MBA job.

After two different roles—the first in a rotational program for former military officers and the second in supply chain HR—he landed his current role as an HR business partner. 

The highlight of his job is the same as it was in the Navy: helping solve business problems with a people-centric approach.

“I often get pulled in by senior leaders or executives to help them solve a business problem that requires thought about how we engage with our people,” he says.

Dustin credits his success to the hard work and dedication he applied during the MSU Broad MBA program.

“Treat [business school] like a job. The hours roughly mimic one, and ultimately the reason you're doing it is to get a great job. So, take it very seriously,” he concludes.