Pivot from long-time role to CEO

Aaron Warner returned to school to bolster his skills and instead reignited his entrepreneurial ambitions. After 20 years as Chief Information Officer in the explosively growing tech company he helped start, Warner was no longer dealing with start-up issues – he was facing down complex, cross-functional challenges.

In the Tippie classroom, Warner quickly adopted new business vocabulary and a deeper understanding and respect for other functional areas. The high-quality professors and classmates energized him to think bigger.

"It touched on an entrepreneurial fire inside of me that I hadn’t really felt for many years,” he said. “Given that I had now this far more complete set of tools I could bring to bear on an organization, it helped me move from someone who was a very capable CIO to taking on the role of CEO. I’ve started an information tech and security firm of my own."

Here’s how the program drove Warner to launch his new company:

1. You’re unstoppable in your area. And ready to tackle new ones.

Warner owned two decades of information system success. But working with leaders from other areas of the company sometimes frustrated him. At Iowa, his understanding of cross-functional areas expanded quickly and transformed his ability to work with those areas.

"It improved my relationship with other members of the management team pretty significantly,” he said.” I could speak the language. I understood where the finance guys were coming from and why they have this insane obsession with cash. I began to understand why the marketing people talk the way they do and why they took the approach they did to the job. And they all knew I understood them better."

2. All your successes? They’ve just created bigger challenges.

Fast-growth is exciting, rewarding … and endlessly challenging. As his company grew explosively, Warner went from small company management issues to complex organizational ones. Good problems, right? With an MBA, he collected tools to tackle change management and solve structural issues.

“The company was so big that common sense wasn’t enough to make the sorts of changes in the organization that it deserved,” he said. “The organizational management class was life changing.”

3. Rediscover your excitement to lead.

Ruts, habits … everyone lands in them. An MBA busts you out. Warner found so many strategic management ideas in his teachers and classmates in the program, he had to stop himself from racing back to the office to apply them.

"One of the greatest challenges of the program was not coming back to the office every week with a new “Hey we're going to totally change that” idea, because every week I’d come back with something kind of amazing. I had to be selective about what I chose."