Leveraging Leadership - From Military Service to MBA Student
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Nearly 9 years ago, Adam McKinney was sitting at his kitchen table surrounded by family waiting for his recruiter to arrive. All he knew was that he would be heading to basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He had no idea what was to come.
“I’ll never forget that day. It was gorgeous and sunny outside. I remember trying to figure out how I was going to say goodbye to my parents, especially my mother. That day she had me call her phone and leave a voicemail so she would be able to hear my voice whenever she wanted. Unfortunately, we went through this process two more times when I left on subsequent deployments to Afghanistan.”
Fast forward to 2018, post-deployment, and McKinney is now part of the Purdue University Krannert School of Management family as an MBA candidate.
Boiler since birth, McKinney was born and raised in Lafayette Indiana, growing up with the ever-present Purdue prestige. While his two older brothers (also Boilers) took the engineering path, he completed his undergraduate degree in Aviation Technology at Purdue in 2009, where he eventually left to serve 8 years as a Blackhawk pilot and later as an instructor pilot in the military. With that said, McKinney dedicates his many successes to his parents, who sponsored his education and put him on his current career path.
“Neither of my parents are college educated but they placed a major importance on education growing up. They worked unbelievably hard to finance a college education for three Boilermakers.”
From a young age, McKinney knew he wanted to give back to his country, but describes the defining moment as watching the horrific events unfold on 9/11 paired with a subsequent history assignment, in which a special quote resonated with him. The quote was spoken by Sir Edmund Burke and reads:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
In terms of memorable moments throughout his service, McKinney explains how he will never forget his last deployment, in which he was on medevac duty with 24/7 standby. There was severe weather moving through, and so his unit decided to be efficient with time and began cleaning equipment. As a precaution, they also placed covers on the aircraft and tied down the rotor blades to prevent damage. When the weather passed, he received an urgent call for a casualty in need.
“In 12 minutes, we not only had to get the aircraft started and off the ground but also assemble two fully taken-apart machine guns and untie and remove covers off the aircraft. But, everyone came together and we somehow were able to accomplish it.”
“Similar to the military, an international business school environment is one that nurtures different ethnicities, cultures, upbringings, values, etc. to accomplish a common goal.” – Adam McKinney
With that said, the kind of perseverance and hard work that McKinney displayed during his time in the service is also visible in his actions as a student and leader at Krannert.
“It’s actually considerably easier working in a business school environment. In the military, I had to make decisions in a highly time-constrained environment. There was no time to waste because the stakes were life and death. I keep a similar mindset in business school, tackling any situations head on. Similar to the military, an international business school environment is one that nurtures different ethnicities, cultures, upbringings, values, etc. to accomplish a common goal.”
When asked why he decided to pursue an MBA at Purdue Krannert, McKinney explains that the decision was a no-brainer. With an MBA being such a versatile degree, McKinney wanted options in terms of applying to different industries and companies. Additionally, having been a Purdue undergraduate, McKinney already knew the value of a Purdue degree, and how helpful it had been to him thus far.
“Growing up in Lafayette, Purdue was always here and never really seemed that special. But after graduating and moving away from Lafayette, I realized the weight that the Purdue name possessed, as a school that has produced various astronauts and top executives. Every Army school I attended I finished at the top of my class, and I attribute that to the education and experience I received as an undergraduate Boilermaker.”
In terms of his undergraduate time at Purdue, McKinney explains that while most of his friends were sitting in class, he was in the sky. His favorite memory was dialing a friend, telling her to look up outside. He then did a couple circles so she knew it was him.
“I guess guys will do whatever it takes to impress a girl.”
Recently elected as the upcoming President of the Krannert Wine Business Guild, McKinney also spends his time volunteering locally with the Read to Succeed Program helping elementary school children with their reading as well as Junior Achievement, which is a program for teaching business and professional fundamentals to local schools of various grade levels. His hobbies include fitness and nutrition, cooking, reading, aviation and being outdoors.
In terms of his future aspirations, McKinney is exploring the possibilities of a career in finance and accounting, law enforcement and piloting, just to name a few.