2016 Best MBAs: Will Cannon, Florida Warrington

Will Cannon Florida

Will Cannon


University of Florida, Warrington College of Business

“No word better describes Will Cannon than “leader.” He has the innate ability to motivate others to accomplish things they never believed they could do.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Orange Park, FL

Education: University of Florida, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? United States Navy: I served as the Main Propulsion Officer and Officer of the Deck onboard a Guided Missile Destroyer during two Middle East deployments, as a Boat Officer and Special Warfare Trainee in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training, as an Action Officer preparing long term strategic initiatives at Naval Surface Forces, and finally an Officer Recruiter.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Eaton in Beltsville, MD

Where will you be working after graduation? Anheuser-Busch InBev, Strategic Sourcing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Career Counselor to peer group and entering Graduate Business students; President of the UF MBA Fitness Club (GatorFit); Founder and Host of the first two Annual “Murph” Charity Workout Events to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the Navy SEAL Foundation; Volunteer “Buddy” at the Tim Tebow Foundation “Night to Shine” event.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m currently a Platoon Officer in a Naval Coastal Riverine Reserve Squadron, and last year I pitched, organized, and ran the largest BootCamp and Comprehensive Gunshoot in our Unit’s history. As a Lieutenant, I filled the role usually reserved for a seasoned Lieutenant Commander or Commander and was tasked with preparing sailors from across several Platoons for forward deployment as Expeditionary Security Detachments.

To streamline our staff’s efforts, give my sailor’s the best possible training, and save the Navy money, I pitched to my Chain of Command a much larger version of our previous BootCamps and Gunshoots that would integrate sailors from several Platoons and Missions. By working with my Chain of Command, horizontal assets (Army Ranges, Patrol Missions in Mayport, Logistical Commands, etc.), and my sailors, I was able to ensure successful completion of the BootCamp for 50 sailors and of the Gunshoot for 107 sailors. By ensuring the highest quality in training, I was able to preserve the effectiveness of the missions our nation hands down and protect my sailors in the safe execution of their duties.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I believe one of my biggest impacts was during my second deployment to the Horn of Africa. I was on a Guided Missile Destroyer, and we had intelligence a mid-sized cargo ship had been pirated by four Somalis. We found the ship and over the course of seven days shadowed the vessel, as well as do some high speed passes trying to visually verify crew health and pirate numbers. The seas were too rough for our small boats, so we couldn’t send over our boarding parties to apprehend the pirates and free the crew. On the early morning of the seventh day as the seas subsided, I was on watch as the Officer of the Deck when the orders came down to take the vessel. I plotted out the course and speed of the pirated ship and recognized it would be crossing into Omani territorial waters by the time we would be boarding, which would be against International Law. I recommended that we report up to our landside Chain of Command to coordinate with Oman so we could together take the ship. My Executive Officer agreed with my assessment and we reached out to Oman for assistance. As soon as the sun rose, the Omani’s approached the ship with a medium sized yet heavily armed Coast Guard vessel.  As soon as they approached, a barrage of gunfire came from the vessel as there were 18 pirates onboard, armed with AK-47s with no intent of surrendering without a fight. The Omani’s opened fire with their larger caliber weapons until the gunfire stopped and the ship started to sink. The ship was then escorted to Oman by four of their ships where they prosecuted the Pirates and returned home the Indian crew. I wholeheartedly believe if I sent my team over, some of my sailors would have been seriously hurt or killed. Our ship’s organic boarding teams use small Rubber Boats, whose low profile would have made them easy targets. Our teams also consist of only 14 Boarding Party members, meaning they would have been outnumbered and outgunned. The effect I had on keeping my sailors safe while also accomplishing our mission is my proudest moment in the workplace.  

Who is your favorite professor? Dr. Virginia Maurer, she is an amazing Professor who during my Ethics course always started the most interesting conversations, getting even the most reserved and shy students to participate.

Favorite MBA Courses? Ethics for the amazing material and conversations, and Game Theory for the practical application of common approaches to solve what would be tough problems.

Why did you choose this business school? The small cohort sizes and individualized attention by the professors and career services were above and beyond what I had envisioned.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I enjoyed the camaraderie between all the students in my cohort and in other cohorts. It’s easy to see how Hough alumni are so willing to give back once they move on.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? I learned the importance of networking; the benefits of keeping close relationships with the people you work with or meet so that you can both mutually benefit from each other’s experiences and contacts.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was unaware how much time we would be devoting to networking and job hunting. I was surprised how every week for our first two modules we were attending some activity related to recruiting. I’m very thankful for how we were held to the fire early as I would not be walking away with my dream job.

What was the hardest part of business school? For me, the hardest part was quickly picking up material some of the others had as business undergraduates.  Accounting and Finance were foreign to me and at first very difficult, but eventually through working with the other students and hitting the books hard I was able to catch up and complete the coursework.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Do your research into the companies and industries you’re interested in. This program will get you in touch with the decision makers at these companies and give you the opportunity to land your dream job, it’s on you to make sure you know where that is.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my Father told me about his MBA experience and how it helped in his transition out of the Navy and into corporate America.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a Special Agent in the FBI. I had an application in when the Sequester first took place and all hiring was frozen. I reapplied at the same time I applied to the MBA Program and found out I had been recommended for Final Round Interviews a few days after I was accepted to UF MBA. After some heavy decision-making, I chose to attend the Hough Business School, and I’m extremely happy I did.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Navy SEAL Captain Norm Olson (Ret). After accomplishing more than any man I’ve ever met in his time of service, he continued to serve his country and support his brothers by becoming the Founding Director of the Navy SEAL-UDT Museum in Fort Pierce, as well as helping start the Navy SEAL Foundation to help support the families of fallen Special Warfare Operators. More than that, he is a humble man who is respected by every man and woman who has ever had the pleasure of working with him.

What are your long-term professional goals? To continue to lead motivated men and women at Anheuser-Busch InBev as well as in the Navy Reserves. I want to show transitioning Naval Officers it’s possible to excel in both realms at the same time.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I wouldn’t be en route to the fantastic job I have if it wasn’t for the dedication and consistent effort the Associate Director of Career Services, Jason Rife. He challenged me to push my brand worked with me when I was deciding between different opportunities.  Jason has to be the hardest working Career Services Representative in the country, as my experience was shared by every student who attends Hough.

Fun fact about yourself: I participated in a Naval Olympics in Oman, earning Silver in the 50 and 100m Freestyle against France, Britain, and Oman.

Favorite book: Lone Survivor

Favorite movie: Top Gun

Favorite musical performer: Sublime

Favorite television show: The Unit

Favorite vacation spot: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Hobbies? Swimming, Ultra Distance Obstacle Races, Guitar

What made Will such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“No word better describes Will Cannon than “leader.” He has the innate ability to motivate others to accomplish things they never believed they could do. As the President of GatorFit, Will grew the club and created a series of training events including an intense cross-fit-style, military -themed race in which the participants wear simulated body armor and compete as a team. Not only did the event build participants’ physical stamina, but it provided valuable insight into planning and executing a strategy to overcome obstacles as a team.

Will also serves as an example and mentor to other students in his work as an MBA Career Coach, providing additional interview training to first-year students.  Always leading by example, Will was voted the first-place winner in UF MBA’s annual Iron Gator interview competition for delivering the best video answer to a series of mock interview questions. His direct but patient demeanor in guiding his fellow students builds their confidence when preparing for interviews. Will seldom misses an opportunity to give back to the UF MBA program and has certainly made it a better place.” — Jason Rife, Associate Director of MBA Career Services, University of Florida, Warrington College of Business


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