Carlos Ayala-Pagan

Carlos Ayala-Pagan, 42
Kansas City, Missouri
Vice President of Administration, Henry Industries
Degrees: Master of Business Administration, 2017

Surrounded by co-workers, friends and family, Carlos Ayala-Pagan received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Grantham University during a special award ceremony in December at Wichita, Kan.-based Henry Industries. Carlos, Henry’s Vice President of Administration, chose to hold the ceremony at work so other employees could see the outcome of a commitment to education.

The Situation

Carlos had already set a family record when he earned his bachelor’s degree in business, but he wasn’t ready to end his education.

“I felt like I wanted more knowledge, and [pursuing an] MBA was the right choice for me,” he said.

In 1992, Carlos joined the Army and served as a combat engineer the first half of his career. “I enjoyed that and it is a typical Soldier’s position, but then I wanted to try something a bit different.”

So he switched gears a bit, finishing his career operating recruiting offices for the Army. “I loved talking to people about the Army and how they could serve,” he said.

After 22 years in the Army, Carlos retired as a sergeant first class in 2014, and Henry Industries hired him as a recruiter in Human Resources. Two promotions in three years brought him to his current position as VP.

The Motivation

The first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, Carlos has always believed in education. “You are never too old to learn, and you can always do things better,” he said. “No matter your family situation or stage of life, education is always going to be important to be better at what you are doing.”

With his current role at Henry Industries, Carlos said he found himself in the executive arena after a career as a tactician. “[Grantham’s] MBA helped me hone my executive leadership skills in mentoring, leading and motivating others to make change happen.”

However, with a demanding new job and the need to be in North Carolina to open a new facility, an online degree program was vital for him.

“After working all day, I’d work on homework at night instead of watching a movie. It was about priorities for me,” he said. “I also want to be the best role model I can for my family because everything I do is for them.”

Carlos and his wife, Kimberly, have been married for 23 years and have five children ranging in age from 10 to 21. At the celebration, his family crowded around him offering him congratulations and praise. There was a shared sense of pride in his accomplishment.

The Benefits

As a first-time executive charged with helping his company’s culture grow, Carlos knew he needed more education.

“Every master’s class I took had something useful I could apply immediately to what I was doing at work,” he said.

Carlos said the strategy and change management courses were the most eye-opening for him. “I could see how I could use the principles in class to improve our communication across the company. With locations in 18 states, communication can be a challenge.”

He said that though he was working on ways to improve the flow of communication between departments, he still faced some resistance.

“I needed more buy-in and to really have a dialogue with others on how to improve communication so it was their solution,” he said. “I needed to step back and be the mentor and champion a bit more, and my MBA classes helped me understand how to do that.”

The Outcome

Carlos said he put the same drive he used in the military to completing his MBA, and he earned his degree in less than two years. “In the Army, officers were the executives and I was a tactician, so my MBA helped me understand executive communication.”

Today, Carlos makes change happen as a mentor and motivator, skill sets he obtained during his studies with Grantham. He credits his master’s degree with helping him learn how to look at work from that perspective.

“I am now able to show others how to make change and invest in that change so they can improve our company,” he said.

In the end, that is why Carlos said he chose to have the special award ceremony at work. “I am a mentor for all those who work for us, and I want to emphasize the importance of education. By having the presentation here, they can see the benefits of sticking to [the goal].”

During the presentation, he encouraged others to follow in his footsteps and keep learning.

“Don’t be scared to take that first class,” he said. “Once you do, it’s easy to see how to apply it to your daily life. I recommend starting with a class in an area where you need to grow, because then you are more excited to take the next class.”

Carlos admits that earning his master’s degree was more challenging than the experience he had with pursuing a bachelor’s degree. “It required more effort and coordination because you have to put more of yourself into it, [but] then you get more out of it.”

He credits his military experience with his success in the civilian sector.

“They teach you in the Army to always strive to be the best you can be. In the civilian world, that drive translated to quick career advancement. I went from [being] a recruiter to an executive in three years because I pushed myself to succeed,” he said.