Career Tips, Darden Alumni, EMBA, General Management, Technology

Alumni in Tech: From Diving With the Navy, to Leading at Amazon

By Mary Shea Watson-
alumni-in-tech-from-diving-with-the-navy-to-leading-at-amazon

Darden Executive MBA alum Rich Hanna (MBA ’15) knows more than a little something about how to breathe and operate well under pressure. Before coming to Darden, he served as an explosive ordnance officer in the Navy, or an underwater diver who disarms bombs. Based in Boston, Rich now leads operations at an enormous Amazon fulfillment center as its general manager — an operation that has grown tenfold since he joined. Read on to learn more about Rich’s unique expertise and how his career has evolved since he graduated from Darden five years ago.

Rich Hanna (MBA ’15)

Describe your current role and what you like most about it. What skills are most important to be successful in it? What has surprised you the most about working in the role that you’re in now?

I run a 1.5 million square foot fulfillment center with 2,200 employees who ship Amazon products to New England, the U.S. and globally. I am accountable for all aspects of the business and enjoy the challenge of leading a large team of leaders in 24/7 operations. I am most surprised by how quickly we can innovate even as a large and growing organization, and how much risk or actual failure we tolerate in order to do so.

 

What was your title and company before Darden? What were your main reasons for attending Darden and what was your primary career objective?

I was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer in the Navy, or a diver who disarms bombs. I joined Darden to match my leadership experience with business education which would help me transition from a 20 year military career to a career in the civilian workforce. I was very interested in building things and naturally gravitated to operations.

 

How has your career evolved and what role has your Darden education and its alumni network played in that?

The size of organization I lead has increased approximately tenfold since I joined Amazon. At the same time, the company has grown five times in size and launched numerous new businesses and divisions to help that growth. In the military, I had a strong curiosity and said ‘yes’ frequently to roles others might not like, only to find them extremely rewarding.

I have done the same at Amazon and this has meant launching and leading new buildings in other states, moving four times, and building multiple teams. One of the most critical skills to build as scope increases is the ability to lead through others — to earn their trust, to trust them and to teach. I do a lot of that in my current role.

 

What is your “why,” or purpose in your work and/or life?

I work to live and try to embody that in everything I do. Work-life balance is very important to me and is a key success factor in growing and developing large teams. Make your job attractive to your teammates and they’ll be replacing you soon so that you can go lead larger things.

 

What career advice do you have for Executive MBA students?

Darden is a very unique opportunity for Executive MBA students. I compare it to when I first joined the military and went off to Dive School. Reach very far out of your comfort zone, bet on yourself, and embark on an adventure. I guarantee you the worst that will happen is a great story to tell others.