Navy Top Gun Becomes Business Top Gun
Chris Cook MBa’05
Associate Director, Institutional Structured Investments, UBS Investment Bank
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former Navy Top Gun-trained instructor pilot with two combat deployments under his belt, Chris Cook is a go-getter. But after several years as a Naval officer, he felt his career was at a crossroads. A Navy colleague was a Kelley Direct MBA candidate at the time, and Cook became interested in the program.
“While I loved my position and aggressively pursued a personally rewarding career in the Navy, I wasn't sure if I wanted to make the Navy a lifelong career or try something completely different within a few years,” he says. “Obtaining an MBA from Kelley would benefit my decision in either case. The Navy highly values post-graduate education and the additional skill sets obtained through an MBA could also open doors for civilian opportunities.”
The online nature of the Kelley Direct MBA degree appealed to Cook, who wanted to stay in the Navy while earning his MBA—and faced the very real possibility of being deployed for extended periods of time. Although he was shore-based during that two-year period, he did spend his last semester onboard the USS Carl Vinson in the Arabian Gulf.
“That created some interesting challenges as Internet access could be shut off for extended periods of time,” he recalls. “Nonetheless, I was able to complete all the assignments and worked closely with professors to keep in the loop on what was required for me to complete. The faculty, students, administrators, and career services were all really there to help me succeed.”
Cook loved his Kelley course work so much that he decided to leave the Navy for a career at the global investment bank, UBS. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, Cook works in the company's Institutional Structured Investments department where he heads the fund derivatives structuring effort in the United States. He relies on his Kelley knowledge frequently.
“I use various aspects of my MBA daily,” he says. “Most of the structures we devise address a specific accounting, tax, or regulatory constraint faced by the end client. Understanding how changes in the market, such as interest rates and currency fluctuations and various other factors will affect the hedge are key considerations from an internal risk management standpoint. The MBA prepared me to address these sorts of concepts.”
And although Cook no longer flies fighter jets or trains the Navy's top guns, he's quite satisfied with the challenges of his current career path. “I like working with so many talented people. When a client meets with us to explain a particular problem they have, there is often no clear answer. This is the situation where a Kelley MBA serves best—finding solutions to problems that have no clear answer. It is the process of bringing many people together to come up with a good solution that I like best,” he says.
- Best thing about Kelley Direct:
“The support network built into the program. I thought a remote learning program might be a bit impersonal. It's not that way at all. It really is a personal experience.”
- How I juggled work and school:
“While I was shore based, the work load was manageable, but required efficient time management to balance education, career, family, and recreation. I found that if I could dedicate some time each work day, and some lengthy blocks of time during the weekends, I was able to make the MBA the most meaningful experience.”