Meet Indiana Kelley’s MBA Class Of 2020

Allen Jarboe

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

I am passionate about being excellent in all that I do.”

Hometown: Bloomington, Indiana

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have done many adventure sport activities for work and fun, parachuting, open water diving and even becoming a private pilot on my own time. But, I have a nerdy side that not everyone knows about; I can’t put down a good book and I am a tournament chess player.

Undergraduate School and Major: Purdue University, Mathematics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Navy, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer (EOD), Officer in Charge of an EOD Detachment

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As an officer in the Navy’s Special Operations community, I was given a lot of autonomy from Day One. Because of this, I got the opportunity to really push new ideas and have a sense of ownership of both my successes and failures.

I am particularly proud of my efforts as a commander of an expeditionary mine countermeasures company out of Virginia Beach. The concept was brand new at the time and I was basically told, “Here is a new sensor technology. We are putting you in charge of 31 people that haven’t worked together before and about 20 million dollars worth of equipment, figure it out. Oh, and additionally, please don’t break anything, thanks.” It took many hours (days… weeks…) of trial and error, working with research and development engineers and many missteps, but I authored the system’s first standard operating procedures. Under my direction, the team completed a month-long stateside proof of concept and then went on to participate in three multi-national exercises during a deployment to the Middle East. The data we provided went directly to the Navy’s executive leadership and was crucial in validating and updating long-term plans.

My team’s ability exceeded all expectations; the concept was formalized into an official Navy program and incorporated around the world. My efforts directly contributed to the explosive ordnance disposal community as a whole, receiving a Secretary of the Navy Innovation Award that year.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Genuine. Everyone I have met at Kelley has shared this attribute, from being genuinely helpful on the application process and thoughtful about my interests, describing their own time at Kelley, and their plans going forward.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Kelley’s strong connection to industry leading companies in the Midwest was the deciding factor. My wife and I have a strong desire to stay in the Midwest, and likely Indiana post-graduation. Kelley is unmatched in its connections to local companies across many industries, especially in life sciences and consumer package goods. Kelley is the perfect school for me to make a career shift into either of those industries. Additionally, although I have a good idea what I would like to do post-MBA, I fully appreciate that I currently only have experience working in the defense industry and that my current plan may change over the course of the program. Kelley’s breadth of connections will allow me to discover many different career paths in my target geographic region and ensure no matter what I choose for a post-graduation career, the opportunity will be there.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? PLUS Life Sciences Academy. My wife works for a life science company in its research and development department, so we have had many conversations over dinner about setbacks and success at a scientific level. This has piqued my interest in the industry as a whole, and I am really excited to get a more business-oriented perspective of how life science companies operate.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I know I have the soft leadership skills to manage people and plenty of experience in general operations, but I have no experience working outside of the government. I want to bridge that gap over the next two years and gain technical business proficiencies. I want to ensure my transition from military service into the corporate world is seamless and guarantee I can work to my greatest potential.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? As a veteran, the financial cost of getting an MBA was mitigated by the GI Bill, but I still compared the potential lost revenue of taking a two-year employment gap with the long-term potential of acquiring an MBA. For me, it wasn’t the initial salary of the post MBA jobs that enticed me the most, but the flexibility and long-term growth potential I believe it will offer.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I actually didn’t apply to any other programs, but I was heavily researching Ross. Ross is obviously very good, but I really liked what Kelley could offer in terms of connecting me to local markets. I got accepted to Kelley with a competitive financial package in round 1, and I felt it met all my desires in a future business school. I didn’t see the need to apply elsewhere.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I am married and have a young daughter, so my search criteria were probably different than somebody who was single. I looked at schools in a context of what was best for my whole family, both during the program and post-graduation career opportunities. I started my search using the different media ranking sites to determine a band of highly ranked schools that had the post graduate connections into the region (Midwest) I was targeting. This left only a small handful of schools I could focus my time on, and I was fortunate enough to either visit or have family connections to all of them. This provided me a good window into the school’s culture and my fit. In the end, although I think I could have been successful at any of my short list, Kelley was my number one choice.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I don’t think I have any one moment that defines me, but rather multiple moments. When the thought of quitting entered my mind, I was able to block it out long enough to accomplish the task at hand and continue forward. There were times during my undergraduate degree when the course material was so hard, I thought about dropping the class and replacing with something easier, but I didn’t. I was involved in a motorcycle accident in college that left me wheel chair bound for 3 months; I didn’t let it delay my academics and graduated on time. I overcame the physical injuries and was still selected for a demanding special program in the Navy, even though immediately following the accident I couldn’t do a push up, let alone complete the required fitness test. There were times in the selection process I was hot, tired, in pain and the thought of quitting crossed my mind, but I didn’t. There were aspects of my previous job that were physically hard, and downright scary at times, where you wouldn’t be sane if you didn’t ask yourself why you do it. Leadership was demanding in requiring detailed, thoughtful planning and clearly articulating yourself. Not everyone succeeded, and it is mentally hard to keep coming back to the plate on a daily basis when there is a good chance of failure. I didn’t quit coming back. This cumulative effect of relentless effort into the face of adversity has shaped who I am today. Without doing this I would not be who I am today.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? The general plan is to target life science companies in Indiana, but I don’t like to lock myself into any particular long-term plan. There is a lot of flexibility in that plan, as I know I have much to learn in the next two years, and would not be surprised in the least if my interests evolve.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I have even less certainty about a five-year plan, but what I can say is I want to be doing something that challenges me to grow as a person on a daily basis. I want to lead people and guide teams to success. If the past is any indication, I am sure I will.

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