2017 Best MBAs: Paul Jin Carlson, Indiana (Kelley)

Paul Jin Carlson

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“Husband, father, and leader who coaches so that others can discover their own true potential.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Boise, Idaho

Fun fact about yourself: I’m adopted from Seoul, South Korea.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Notre Dame, BS Electrical Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

United States Navy, Civil Engineer Corps, Naval Facilities Engineering Command

  • Facilities Engineering & Acquisition Division Director
  • Production Officer/Director
  • Resident Officer in Charge of Construction

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Intel Corporation, Hillsboro, OR

Where will you be working after graduation? Intel Corporation, Hillsboro, OR – Commodity Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, MBAA Veterans Club
  • Admission Counselor & Graduate Assistant, Admissions Office
  • Veterans Merit Fellowship Award
  • Lazzara Memorial Fellowship Award
  • Peer Advisors for Veterans Education (PAVE) Mentor
  • Coach/Trainer, Pinnacle Leadership
  • “Meet the Class of 2017”, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Poets & Quants

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being able to represent my fellow Veterans and the active duty service members as the President of the MBA Veterans Club at the Kelley School of Business. I am honored to have been selected by my peers as their leader. They are all great leaders in my mind and it is humbling to be their representative. Veterans bring a lot of diversity, experience, maturity, and leadership to whatever organization they are thrown into, and I am proud to have lived up to those standards.

I am very proud that I have sustained a strong Veteran culture at the Kelley School of Business. As an Admissions Counselor, I feel that I am truly assisting all transitioning Veterans even if they choose not to attend the Kelley School of Business. It is a profound honor to be able to help shape the Class of 2019 and maintain the esprit de corps of the Veterans Club.

As a coach and trainer with a local veteran-owned leadership development company, I have shown corporations, students, teachers, and athletes that they can “find their peak.” I have coached them to find their own leadership style and to exhibit resilient leadership so that they can create effective and cohesive teams.  This has also aided me and other Veterans in our transition providing camaraderie and a sense of purpose and mission that we so dearly miss about active duty service.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career, I am most proud of my work as the Resident Officer in Charge of Construction in Haiti. Post-earthquake, I was sent to the Republic of Haiti as the youngest and most junior officer to hold the position as the Resident Officer in Charge of Construction. I was the only Naval Officer in Haiti and in charge of over $35 million in construction to improve Haiti’s ability to effectively execute their Emergency Management protocols. This tested my leadership and my ability to operate in ambiguous and challenging environments. It shaped my interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence making me the leader that I am today. I was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal for my exemplary work during this deployment. I am proud to have served the interests of the United States of America and represented the United States Navy in a foreign country with honor, courage, and commitment.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course has been the Leadership Academy. This is a semester-long course that has classroom work but also includes many experiential learning opportunities.  I was able to refine my view of my own leadership style and then practice it by being a coach for multiple first year students.

The biggest insight that I gained about business from this class is that while every company says that their most precious resource is the people, it is much more difficult to execute on that belief. As a military officer, I was thrown into situations and positions of leadership at a very early age and had to learn on the job. I had great mentors and some leadership classes, but the Leadership Academy helped refine and put names and processes to my leadership style. Leadership is a way of life and must be practiced. The class emphasized constantly learning and refining so that you can become the most effective leader. Leadership is a journey and one which I am excited to continue.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose business school because I felt like it would be a great transition out of the military. I realized that I never fully understood the business and budgeting meetings that my military organizations had during the fiscal years. There was so much terminology that was foreign to me as an engineer. I was curious and excited to learn more about how businesses and work, and I felt like I needed these skills to become a more marketable business leader.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The thing I enjoyed the most about business school in general was the people. My peers humble me daily because of their previous accomplishments and their future potential. The students are Kelley are down to earth and hardworking individuals. They are always looking at improving themselves, but they are always searching for opportunities to improve others. The staff, professors, and alumni live the Kelley values and help create the family culture.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? While previous academic and professional performance is a must, it is imperative that you clearly articulate why you are getting an MBA and why you want to come to Kelley. The essays should not be generic in that you can substitute “Kelley” for any other school. While you may not know exactly what you want to do, you need to have an idea of the roles that MBAs perform in a corporation. You must be true to who you are and ensure your essays and interview answers are clear and concise.

What is the biggest myth about your school? When Kelley students, staff, professors, and alumni talk about the “family culture” that exists at Kelley, many people do not believe it. They think of business school as competitive and “dog-eat-dog.” It is truly different at Kelley. When prospective students come and visit, they are able to see how this “family culture” permeates the everyday interactions of all involved with Kelley. People will drop what they are doing to support each other. Diversity is celebrated and encouraged. We sincerely root for each other’s success.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Honestly I do not have any regrets. I have loved my experience and been able to maintain a strong work-life balance.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Alexandra Aghajanian. In her former career she was a successful engineer and is now moving into an Operation/Supply Chain consulting role. She is actively involved in all aspects of the school. She is the President of the Systems and Operations Management Association and an active member in the MBA Women’s Association. She is technically competent, both engineering and business, as well as being a leader who exhibits high emotional intelligence and empathy. She has the courage to share her experiences in class and provides many insights that many of us would not have thought of. She will continue to succeed at all her endeavors. She will be a strong woman in the business world.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my wife and I talked about getting out of the Navy.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… I would still be in the United States Navy.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were dean for the day, I would take the time to give a “state of Kelley” or have a “community discussion” with the MBAs.  I would ensure that the MBAs understand initiatives that are in place and how MBAs can help with the initiatives.

We are fortunate to have a dean that does this about once or twice a year, but it would be nice to hear and learn from her more often.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal would be to teach.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Thank you to my beautiful wife and best friend Kala (pronounced “Kayla”). I would not have been successful in the military without her love and support. I definitely would not have gone to business school without her, and I would not have enjoyed my experience at Kelley as much as I have without her. She even took on a leadership role in the Kelley Kids Group as the President to help make the Kelley experience special for those partners with kids. She encourages me to be the best student, professional, and Veteran that I can be. She holds me accountable to the promises that I have made to her and our family. She picks me up when things are down and praises me when we are succeeding as a family. She is a strong and successful woman, wife, and mother.  Thank you Kala. I love you.

Favorite book: We Were Soldiers Once…and Young

Favorite movie or television show: NCIS Los Angeles

Favorite musical performer: Metallica

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere on the Gulf of Mexico

Hobbies? Crossfit / Weightlifting

What made Paul Carlson such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Paul has been outstanding since day one. I have worked with him in a variety of different capacities, foremost as his career coach (in my former role as Director of Coaching & Development in Graduate Career Services) but also in his role as President of the Veterans Association and as an Admissions Counselor. Paul has gone above and beyond in so many ways: 1) Helping classmates find and prepare for jobs within the vet group as well as the Supply Chain Academy. He is always willing to take the extra time to make sure a student is prepared for informational and full interviews, even taking time out of his weekends and family time. 2) In his admissions counselor role, he actively engages with all of the veteran applicants, showing them the personalized attention and support that Kelley is known for. He understands individuals needs and does a fantastic job addressing each person as an individual, instead of getting caught up in craziness of school. 3) He cares. He’s come to me many times, concerned about one of his classmates in one way or another, always seeking guidance on how to best help. And then he does. I’ve said many times that we need to find more Paul Carlsons as he is such a huge asset to the class. He will be greatly missed when he graduates.”

Rebecca Cook, CFA

Executive Director, MBA Program


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.