In this post, we catch with Skip Arny, a graduate from the Executive MBA Class of 2020. Arny had a successful Naval career — after retiring as a captain, he came to Darden to help him with the process of transitioning from the Navy to the private sector. He currently serves as vice president of a defense company aerospace company, AEVEX Aerospace, a firm that focuses on airborne intelligence gathering solutions. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia, with his wife and three teenagers.
We recently caught up with Skip to talk about his decision to pursue an MBA, how he landed his current role and the impact of his Darden experience.
Q: What led you to Darden?
A: I had a couple of good friends who mentored me through my transition from the Navy, and I was aware of Darden’s Executive MBA program from other officers who had participated (including my brother). I knew it was a good program, but I never really considered for myself until one of my mentors suggested it.
My mentor thought it would be a great way to learn a more about business and cover the gaps I had as a naval officer. I knew the defense community and foreign relations exceptionally well, but I’d never worked in a company. I could obviously learn on the job, but, reflecting on my mentor’s advice, I realized Darden’s Executive MBA program would allow me accelerate my learning while also meeting some great people.
Q: You made a career change while pursuing your MBA. Tell us what your day to day looks like in your new role?
A: I am a part of a small business development team for my company. We help set the strategy for international commercial and defense sales. Because of my background, I also support some of our efforts to try to win business with the Navy and Marine Corps.
A lot of my job is getting out to meet potential customers, build relationships, understand what their problems are, and then see if we have a solution that we can match to their challenges. Given our client set, the work can be very complex, but every day I’m learning – which is great.
Q: How did you find this role?
A: I had been through some transition courses early on in my career, and I knew I wanted to leverage networking to find my next opportunity. When I arrived at Darden, I had a basic network in the defense community, but I was really excited about having formal career support. I took full advantage of all the programming through Darden’s Career Center. Those sessions were very helpful in putting more of a framework to the transition process. Of course, it took a lot of effort because I was balancing quite a bit in addition to my job search, but it was important to me, so I made it a priority.
I started with networking conversations and I also leveraged some of the workshops the Career Center hosted. The workshops allowed me to sit with teammates or the Career coaches and brainstorm ideas. I found all the work I did around understanding who I was very important and enjoyable, and it helped set me up for the next phase in the process, when I started having informational conversations to test some of the ideas I had around potential career paths.
These conversations were really helpful – both in terms of helping me figure out what I wanted to do, but also what I didn’t want to do. In these interactions, I was just trying to learn more about what the person does, and if I thought I might a good fit for that sort of role. It’s an iterative process, and through these conversations, my path became clearer, and I started to understand the kinds of opportunities that best aligned with my skillset as well as my interests.
Q: What was the impact of your experience at Darden?
A: First of all, I made great friends. And, I really learned a lot. The community of people was just great, and the friends I have now I have some of my best friends – many of whom are much younger than me. From a job perspective, I joined a private equity-backed company, and when I interviewed, I interviewed with our C-suite and others at the company, but I also interviewed with our ownership. Every single person in our private equity firm has a top-ranked MBA, and they liked that I had a Darden MBA.
Q: Any advice you would share with our prospective students?
A: If you haven’t already decided to apply, do it. You will not regret it. It’s a fun program. Yes, it’s hard work at times, but everybody works together to graduate. I would also encourage prospective students to approach the process without fear. No matter what stage you’re in your life – whether you’re somebody in your early 30s or you’re like me (I was my early 50s when I started at Darden) – you can benefit from Darden’s program. There’s truly something for everyone.