As a pilot for Delta Air Lines, David Sneed was already well acquainted with the view from 35,000 feet. But he knew he needed that level of business perspective (through a global lens) to achieve his goal of becoming a major airline executive. So he enrolled in the Global Executive MBA program at Georgia Tech College of Management in 2010.
Shortly after graduating 17 months later, Sneed was promoted from pilot/flight instructor to general manager of corporate strategy and business development for Delta, an unprecedented type of role shift at the company. "I was really blessed to make such a huge leap," he says. "But without my Georgia Tech education, it wouldn't have happened."
Sneed, who majored in aeronautical science at Middle Tennessee State University, dreamt of becoming a pilot as a child. "I had a burning desire to fly planes, and I wouldn't take no for answer," he says. "I became the first person in my entire family to go to college."
After beginning his commercial piloting career at US Airways Express in 1995, Sneed worked for ATA Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Transmeridian Airlines, Maxjet Airways, and Continental Airlines before returning to Delta in 2007 after an extended furlough. Sneed continues to fly the International Boeing 767 to maintain his pilot requirements at Delta, but his full-time focus is now on corporate strategy and business development.
Sneed decided to advance his career through the Global Executive MBA option because he's seen the growth of Delta into a major international player with employees around the globe. "I knew it would be important to choose a program with a global emphasis".
Because of his piloting experience, Sneed had a jump on his classmates when it came to international exposure. He'd visited 91 countries by the time he started the program. But the Global Executive MBA afforded him the opportunity to delve more deeply into business cultures during international residencies in China, Germany, and Turkey.
For Sneed, one of the most rewarding experiences of the entire program was the Capstone Global Strategy Project that he worked on with a team of classmates. They completed a business analysis of Health Lean Logistics, a Spain-based healthcare logistics and distribution company.
"None of us had healthcare experience, but once we dug in, we realized we could really help them make it happen in the short term," Sneed explains. "The company ultimately made the decision to start operations in the United States while they had the six of us on the team to help." The company chose to locate in Atlanta, adding 100 jobs to the area.