2018 Best EMBAs: Evan Barnes, UCLA (Anderson)

Evan Barnes

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“Honest, dependable and committed to the team. Always looking for new challenges.”

Age: 32

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Family Members: My beautiful wife Karin our two children, Sophie (6) and Axel (4).

Fun fact about yourself: I played semi-professional soccer in Stockholm, Sweden with Långholmen FC and have also flown my own aircraft over the arctic from Alaska to Iceland.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • BSc in Systems Engineering. United States Naval Academy. Annapolis, MD
  • MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management. Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (Royal Institute of Technology). Stockholm, Sweden

Where are you currently working? I am currently an active duty Marine Corps Officer serving as the Marine Officer Instructor for the UCLA and USC. During the summer of 2018, I will leave active duty and begin a new career as a Consultant with Bain & Company in one of their European offices.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I’ve spent over 10 years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps as a KC-130J pilot. During that time I was fortunate to serve with some best individuals I’ve ever met and conducted operations on five separate continents, including multiple combat deployments and well over a 1,000 hours of flight time. I’ve held various leadership positions ranging from Intelligence Officer, Asst. Maintenance Officer, and Operations Officer where I had the honor of leading Marines. My current position involves the education and leadership development of future Navy and Marine Corps officers at UCLA and USC. In this role I’ve overseen the unit operations, training and development of over 150 future officers. Being able to pass on the mentorship that has been provided to me throughout my career has been tremendously rewarding.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was very fortunate to be selected as a 2017 John Wooden Global Leadership Fellow.  Coach Wooden’s legacy has had such a profound impact on so many lives. He was a man of incredible character and his leadership values, whose principles closely mirror many of my own.  To receive this award was a tremendous honor and I am very grateful to those who have helped me along the way.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One challenge of military service is that you often change roles and responsibilities within organizations without any forewarning, turnover, or time to prepare. Furthermore, the time spent in individual “billets” can make it difficult to oversee long term projects and enable lasting change. While I have had numerous individual achievements throughout my career, I am most proud of the fact that in each position held, I was able to implement positive change and improvements so that my successor and the organization could benefit even after I have left. Specific actions included the integration of enlisted intelligence Marines into the flight planning and briefing process to provide aircrews with more realistic training scenarios, increasing squadron flight operations by over 20% through the use of a new feedback and forecasting process to better predict flight trends and more efficient use of resource. In addition, we re-vamped a training regimen that increased our success rates for candidates at external schools from 66% to 100% consistently over the past few years.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? At UCLA Anderson, we are fortunate to have an incredible collection of faculty and staff working with the Executive MBA program. Each professor brings unique experience from academia and industry and all go out of their way to help us be successful. Reflecting back, I’d have to say Prof. Mark Garmaise, Prof. Nicole DeHoratius and Prof. Ian Larkin stand out in my mind as personal favorites due to their commitment to the individuals in the class and the learning process itself in each of their courses.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Professor Nicole DeHoratius’ Operations Management class, as well as Professor Ian Larkin’s Competitive Strategy class. Being able to balance and reinforce a long-term strategic vision with short term operational execution is something that is often neglected, mismanaged, or misunderstood. Taking both courses in sequence and identifying ways to better integrate the two separate concentrations of decision-making into one cohesive plan of action was very insightful and relevant for my future career.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose UCLA Anderson for a number of reasons. First, the timing and location of the program worked seamlessly with my career situation and future plans. Second, it was UCLA Anderson’s global reputation, as I knew I wanted to work overseas at some point. Finally, I wanted to be challenged – by both a rigorous academic curriculum and my peers. The quality of individuals who comprise Anderson’s Executive MBA program is one of its greatest assets.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Without a doubt, it is the people.  The friendships made with my classmates has been the most rewarding and enjoyable part of the experience. Every one of my classmates has a genuine interest in seeing each other succeed. Coming into this environment from a military background and being surrounded individuals who have tremendous experience in their particular industry was daunting at first.  Their support, advice, and friendship has by far-and-away been the most enjoyable aspect of my time at UCLA Anderson.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? One of the toughest challenges many service members face is actually leaving the armed forces and transitioning to a civilian career. Learning how to best leverage my military leadership experience with the functional knowledge obtained throughout business school has provided a tremendous foundation for my future civilian career.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? While the timing of the Executive MBA program aligned perfectly with my career goals, it has definitely been challenging. At one point, I found myself simultaneously managing the rigors of our final six month research project with my transition from active duty, planning a move overseas to Europe for my family, various family medical challenges, continuing to work full-time in my current position, and still fulfilling my roles as a husband and father. If that wasn’t difficult enough, I needed to have shoulder surgery right in the middle of it! But it can be done. There’s no substitute for hard work and more importantly teamwork – with my wife, co-workers, and classmates.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Enjoy every minute of it. You won’t be able to do everything you want, but work hard and take advantage of as many of the wonderful opportunities it provides as you can. That being said, it is a challenge. Make sure you find a way to maintain balance with all the other aspects of your life. If you have a family, do not forget it’s a team effort.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “I’m too busy and don’t have time.”  That’s a poor excuse. There is always time. It may involve making changes in your lifestyle and a few less hours of sleep, but it can be done. Don’t let such an incredible opportunity for personal and professional growth slip by because you feel you can’t find the time.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I try not to have any “regrets,” but the one thing I wish I had more of was time itself. There were definitely opportunities I wasn’t able to take advantage of due to other commitments, but that’s life. I tried to make the most of every day in the program and I recommend others do just that.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is impossible to narrow down to just one individual. Our class is full of incredible individuals whom I admire. Whether overcoming significant life challenges before and during the program or individual stories of success or perseverance, my classmates are ambitious, genuine, and humble. Numerous individuals went out of their way to assist me in my personal and professional growth, and I hope they are aware of my sincere gratitude.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I started contemplating life after my military service and what that would entail. I realized there was a deficiency in my understanding of various business principles that I wanted to address.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…applying to business school. I highly recommend going back to school for any individual looking to make a career change. There are many opportunities you are never aware of if you don’t take the initial steps down a new path.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To reach a point in my career where my individual success will allow me to have the greatest impact on the community and individuals around me. Whether running a major corporation or my own entrepreneurial venture, one of the things my military career has instilled in me is a passion for the services of others. Being remembered as someone who genuinely prioritized the betterment of those around me over my individual needs.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Hard-working, loyal, and, most importantly, grateful for the experience and friendships they have provided me while at UCLA Anderson.

Favorite book: It may be cliché and not necessarily my “favorite”, but to give credit where it’s due, reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People early in my career helped me develop tools to be successful, take on more responsibility and still main balance as professional and family man.

Favorite movie or television show: Good Will Hunting

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Great-white Shark cage diving in South Africa & Heli-skiing in British Columbia backcountry. You only live once.

What made Evan Barnes such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2018?

“Evan Barnes (EMBA ’18) has weathered many storms, but he didn’t do it alone — and the support that got him through his toughest times influences not only his Executive MBA studies, but his future as a UCLA Anderson Executive MBA alum.

Barnes received an appointment to the United State Naval Academy soon after 9/11. “In the military, we view leadership as service,” Barnes says. “It boils down to showing care and compassion to the members of your team. It comes from building a relationship with the team, and that’s building leadership. Leadership has to be derived from your courage, care, compassion and trust to build that unbreakable bond with your team.”

Barnes’ career in the Marines led to an assignment in Germany, but he also found time to attend graduate school in Stockholm, Sweden. When he returned to Quantico, Virginia, he completed a seven-month officer course, followed by flight training in Pensacola, Florida. Barnes was an aircraft commander and later, as a captain, he flew from five continents — including two tours in the Middle East to conduct combat operations in Iraq and Syria. “The tours built trust, strength and cohesion in the team to make it successful,” notes Barnes.

In 2015, he became a Marine officer instructor for ROTC at UCLA and USC, where he trains officers attending college on ROTC scholarships. He’s also a leadership coach and mentor, teaching others how their internal character reflects on influencing the people who report to them.

“One of the most rewarding things is that I was very fortunate throughout my military career to have mentors who were phenomenal leaders. Seeing how they conducted themselves, leading individuals — it had a significant impact on the development of my career,” says Barnes. “Now I’m paying it forward, having an impact on shaping the careers of the next generation, making sure they’re as prepared as possible to lead those individuals. It has been incredibly rewarding.”

It’s this values-driven leadership that led to Barnes’ selection as a 2017 John Wooden Global Leadership Fellow, one the most prestigious honors UCLA Anderson students can receive. Named for John Wooden, UCLA’s legendary coach, leadership philosopher and exemplar, the fellowships are awarded annually to MBA students who embody Coach Wooden’s values-based leadership. Essential components of this style include a focus on ethics, team spirit, skill, hard work and loyalty, along with a commitment to constant learning, continual improvement and innovation.

Going forward, Barnes will transition out of the marines and has leveraged his MBA from UCLA Anderson and his strong leadership development experience to land a position with Bain & Associates in Stockholm, Sweden. Wherever his path takes him from there, he will undoubtedly be an inspiring leader for years to come with the capability to help shape the world in powerful ways.”

George Ingersoll

Associate Dean of Executive MBA Programs

UCLA Anderson School of Management


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.