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Army Veteran Scouts New Career in Technology

Full-time Jenkins MBA student, Luke Hale, spent his summer intering at IBM, as one of eight Extreme Blue interns focused on stategy and software automation.

Luke Hale holding a celebratory frame that says I am officially employed by IBM.

Luke Hale spent most of his 21-year Army career in intelligence — a background that came in useful when IBM assigned him to research competitors to its automation business.

“I was able to use some of my previous experience as an intelligence officer to help understand key competitors in the software automation market and highlight areas where IBM could better compete,” he says. Hale spent the summer of 2022 as an intern at IBM — one of just eight Extreme Blue interns focused on strategy out of a total summer intern cohort of more than 1,700.

Luke Hale sitting amongst fellow IBM RTP Extreme Blue Interns while smiling at the camera.
IBM Extreme Blue Interns-Summer 2022

But reconnoitering the software automation marketplace wasn’t the only intelligence gathering Hale did at IBM. He was also trying to understand what career opportunities might exist at a company like IBM for someone like him, and what it might take to rise to the executive ranks in the technology industry.

“I met some phenomenal mentors who helped me see my potential in a company like IBM,” he says. That’s exactly the kind of insight he was looking for when he decided to return to school for a second master’s degree after retiring from the Army in 2021.

Luke Hale standing with his significant other while dressed in military uniform.

He knew other veterans who’ve gone into business, he says, and he wondered if his leadership skills would apply well in the private sector. He also wanted to make sure he had some foundational business skills and knew what it would take to be successful in the business world.

“I didn’t want to do that going in blind,” he says. “I recognized that I wasn’t as skilled as I wanted to be in the art of business.”

Leadership plus business

The NC State Jenkins MBA was a perfect fit. He wanted to be in Raleigh to be close to family and he liked the program’s rise in the rankings over the last few years. He also liked the fact that the cohorts were small, meaning he would have a chance to develop more personal relationships with faculty, staff and other students. And NC State’s support for military veterans has been great, he says.

“Also, NC State is known for its grit,” he adds. “I like the matter-of-fact and straight-forward attitude the school has.”

The program’s career management team has been especially important, he says, in helping him understand the value of his military-honed leadership skills. 

“I am finding that the core values that companies are looking for, and that successful people have, are interpersonal skills, time management, having a little bit of personal courage to address a topic with a superior — to say, ‘I see something. I have an idea about something,” he says. “That’s more character and I think that’s experience built.”

Through the Jenkins MBA program, as well as experiences like his IBM internship, Hale is adding business skills for a career in technology. 

For example, his Creating Value in Organizations (MBA 580) class, taught by Associate Professor of Strategic Management Elena Kulchina, taught him about corporate strategy, some of which he could apply during his Big Blue internship. In his analytics classes, taught by Donnie Hale, he learned about the opportunities and pitfalls that artificial intelligence and machine learning are bringing to the business world.

Hale also plans to also earn certificates in Operations and Supply Chain Management as well as Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization by the time he graduates.

Beyond academics

Besides the classroom experience, Hale is also making the most of leadership and extracurricular opportunities at the Poole College of Management. He’ll be president of the MBA Student Association and he, along with a team of other students, are leading efforts to re-engage students with career- and school-enhancing activities after two years of COVID-19 limitations. 

Hale with the winner’s trophy after the Jenkins MBA team won the annual Duke MBA Games where teams from across the state and around the country compete against each other in a series of competitions – like relay races, tug of war, capture the flag and a dance-off. All proceeds benefit North Carolina Special Olympics athletes. 

That, and other efforts, are run much like any business initiative: A project or program is approved; the association provides some budget; and a team led by a project manager executes it. One effort was to find ways to enhance relationships between current MBA students and new students.

“We called it Wolf to Wolf,” he says. “It was a program where our current students are actively reaching out to new students coming in, to be a friendly face.”

After graduation he hopes to find a role as a product manager or product director at a company like IBM. But he knows that’s just another beginning. His sights are set on a bigger goal: “I want to be an executive of a business or to have my own business.”

His Jenkins MBA will provide him a lot of the intelligence he needs to get there.