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Globally Minded

Through several international roles, Martin Craighead stayed true to his inner compass

Martin Craighead
Former Chairman/CEO, Baker Hughes A GE Co LLC

Vanderbilt IEMBA 1999

Martin Craighead was living as an expat in Venezuela when he enrolled in a new program being offered by Vanderbilt — the International Executive MBA. Every third weekend, he flew from Caracas, where he was working for oilfield services giant Baker Hughes, to Miami, where classes were held.

The IEMBA program didn’t last, though the animating idea evolved, some years later, into the Americas MBA for Executives. But the program had enduring benefits for Craighead’s career. After beginning as a research engineer — he’d majored in petroleum and natural gas engineering in college — he rose to serve in a variety of leadership roles in North and South America and Asia Pacific. In 2010, he became President of Baker Hughes, a $22 billion organization with more than 59,000 employees in 80 countries around the world. Two years later, he was named the company’s CEO as well.

“I didn’t appreciate it as much then, but [the IEMBA program] had a real international bias to it,” Craighead says. “For the energy sector, a key criterion for success is having global-minded executives.”

Craighead stepped down after GE acquired Baker Hughes in 2017. Earlier this year, he was named to the board of directors of another global giant, Emerson Electric (whose chairman and CEO, David Farr, is a fellow Owen alum).

Though he has come far since then, Craighead remembers a lesson he learned from the time he was part of the IEMBA program. “It was a small operation [in Venezuela], and I was on my own,” he says. “I learned to trust my instincts. It gave me confidence from that point on.”

He never forgot. As he told Owen graduates when he delivered the commencement address in 2015, “Stay true to your inner compass.”