“I would recommend this program to anyone who’s in the military and trying to make that transition, especially into an executive position. It’s almost required reading, so to speak, to learn the language, and I think their career paths will have a much steeper trajectory upward having done this.”
Executive MBA Online, Class of 2020
General Manager, Aero-Flite
Retired U.S. Navy Commander Shane Sullivan has always been willing to put in the work to achieve his goals. That work has yielded great dividends.
He began his naval service as a pilot operating the P-3 Orion, a large maritime patrol aircraft. Pursuing his childhood dream of flying off an aircraft carrier, Sullivan was eventually selected for an F-18 transition.
After Sullivan turned his focus to a different sort of flying, he was offered a unique opportunity that helped showcase his innate ability to lead.
“I got picked up to go to the Marine Corps Weapons School (MAWTS-1), which is very unusual for a Navy fighter pilot to do,” Sullivan said.
“I excelled there, and they asked me to come back as an instructor. I was the first ever to do that,” he continued. “Then I got picked up for command of a Super Hornet squadron, which no P-3 transition pilot had ever done before.”
Sullivan served as commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 41—otherwise known as the Black Aces—which involved leading an elite 250-person team of professionals.
A Degree to Address the Blind Spots of Business
When Sullivan retired from the Navy after 20 years of service, his reputation as a leader helped him land a corporate job. He joined seaplane manufacturer ICON Aircraft in Vacaville, California, in 2016.
“I started in a manager position but very quickly worked my way up into the executive position,” he said. “From there, I was able to springboard into the position I’m in right now.”
In 2017, Sullivan was recruited to serve as the general manager of Aero-Flite, an aviation company in Spokane, Washington, that contracts with the U.S. Forest Service and other government agencies to help fight wildfires using air tankers.
While he understood how to run operations in management and leadership, he realized he lacked some of the formal training that would help him perform to the best of his ability.
“I felt I was missing some elements in my background. Mainly business acumen—understanding some of the financials that you just don’t do in the military,” Sullivan said. “I understood how to run operations in management and leadership, but those other elements I didn’t have formal training on. That was one of the reasons I elected to go back and get the degree.”