Rob Coyle, MBA 1997, doesn't take no for an answer. When he received the letter rejecting his application to Georgia Institute of Technology's MBA program — then called the Master of Science in Management degree — he made an appointment to see now retired program director Ann Scott.
"I told her that I wasn't leaving until she changed her mind," Coyle recalled with a smile. Apparently impressed by his determination and his sales pitch, she changed her mind.
"Sometimes a little bit of perseverance pays off," he laughed.
Coyle is vice president of Global Logistics for the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline at its offices in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. He heads a workforce of 700+ people and is responsible for the physical movement of all of the company's products — four billion units a year, distributed among 163 markets. In addition, he oversees product labeling, artwork, and technical packaging.
"Let's say you get a prescription from the doctor," he explained. "That prescription, in essence, is our order. You go to the pharmacy and they fill the prescription with one of our products. My job starts when you walk out the door because the pharmacy has one fewer of that product, and I have to see that it gets replaced. Our patients need our products to do more, feel better, and live longer. We can't get it wrong."
Regarding the technical packaging side of his job, Coyle enjoys "walking into one of our manufacturing plants and watching how the product is placed into a bottle, blister pack or syringe — that's what my team does. That's the engineering side of me, and I love it."
Originally from New Jersey and the son of a grocery store manager, he declined an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, preferring instead to attend Georgia Tech for a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. His father was not happy with the decision, largely because the family could not afford out-of-state tuition, whereas Annapolis would have been a free ride. Coyle's solution was to join the co-op program and establish residency in Georgia so he could pay for college himself and qualify for the in-state tuition rate. When his two younger brothers, Kevin, BSBIOL 1998, and Jeff, BSCS 2001, decided to attend Tech, Coyle invited them to live with him and applied the economical strategy again.
Although he enjoyed the technical aspects of the mechanical engineering degree, which he received in June 1995, Coyle found himself increasingly drawn to business. One of his co-op jobs was with Southern Electric International, a division of The Southern Company.
"I would hand a project over, but then I wanted to know why it was important — what was the business aspect of it and how did it fit within the company's overall operation," he said. "I came out of the engineering program thinking I needed something more."
He decided that the best way to learn how companies work would be to enroll in the MBA program at Tech.
"I learned a lot not only from the professors, but from the other people in the program," noted Coyle, who was the youngest member of the class. "Sharing their experiences and what they had learned in business helped me grow up, and that knowledge gave me a leg up in the workplace after graduation."
Working an internship at UPS while pursuing his MBA gave Coyle useful insight into global business and logistics. After his Tech graduation in 1997, he worked at Ernst and Young's Atlanta office, where his first client, Federal Express, was assigned largely because of his experience with UPS.
Over the next seven years, he worked his way up from senior consultant to senior manager to senior director. There was talk of a partnership offer, but Coyle decided he wanted the time to see his family and work in the corporate business world, and in 2003 he accepted an opportunity with GlaxoSmithKline. He was named to his current role in 2012.
Reflecting on some of the most important things he has learned over the years, Coyle says, "Our family didn't have much money, so we had to go out and work. That's been an invaluable lesson. You have to respect people, treat people right, and work hard for what you get."
And a little perseverance helps, too.