From the Air Force to Consulting: Wharton MBA Exec Alumnus Transitions to Business Role

After years as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Stan Allen was looking to transition into the business world. However, he didn’t have a specific type of position in mind nor did he have a sense of what jobs were available. To make it even more challenging, the feedback he got from headhunters was that the airlines were hiring “like crazy” for pilots, which wasn’t particularly helpful advice for finding a management position.

Although he did end up working for an airline as a pilot, he quickly realized that he was not on the right career path. To correct his course, Stan decided that he needed an MBA degree, but it couldn’t be from just any school. He’d seen too many other pilots fail in similar efforts to reposition themselves. Instead, he focused his efforts on applying to Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program in San Francisco.

Stan explains, “I knew I needed to signal prospective employers that I was diligent about starting over and to be seen as something more than just a pilot. I selected Wharton because of its brand and capability to transcend my resume and communicate to those employers that I was capable of doing something rigorous and different.”

After being accepted to the program, he began commuting from the Seattle area to Wharton | San Francisco while working full-time for the airline, part-time for the Air Force, and doing some property management on the side. “It was a big challenge to balance all of that and keep up with people 10 years younger than me,” he recalls. “But accomplishing all of those things was also part of the reward because it required a lot of teamwork and collaboration with classmates.”

And it was those classmates who ultimately helped Stan to define his career interests and goals. “I specifically wanted an executive MBA program because I wanted to sample what other successful people did for a living and figure out where I would fit in. My classmates were emphatic that I should consider consulting and they were instrumental in helping me prepare for interviews,” he says.

After going through Wharton’s on-campus recruiting in Philadelphia, he was offered a job as a consultant with Accenture. “I’m confident that the transition to consulting would not have been possible without the Wharton education and reputation. I’d probably still be trying to make a transition from pilot to the business ranks and am confident I would not be where I am today – and that’s certainly true in light of the current economic situation.”

Since graduating in 2009, Stan says that he’s enjoyed the variety that comes with being a consultant. “It’s an environment where you rapidly learn about the interactions of different business functions and industries in a short amount of time. It’s actually similar to business school where collaboration is key and you have a focused team working on issues and projects rather than just the day-to-day transactional grind.”

Stan adds, “I’d definitely recommend Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program for others in the military trying to make a similar transition. Military officers bring to the curriculum a familiarity with leadership and a willingness to take risks; there they are joined with students from commercial enterprises who bring strong expertise in business functions. Wharton’s EMBA program is designed to create an executive mindset with the broad expertise to take appropriate risks to grow and develop a business. For military officers, the opportunity to learn from a prestigious faculty while merging with that business element is a great combination.”