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Ordnance Officer Broadens His Opportunity Pool

After the Army, Paul Finelli cultivates skills to build a career in corporate finance

Paul Finelli
Senior Financial Analyst, AT&T

Vanderbilt MBA 2017

Unlike most junior officers leaving the military, Captain Paul Finelli had set a career goal based on his wartime experience. In the Army, he oversaw the operations of a 400-person unit whose mission was “explosive ordnance disposal.” Eventually, he wants to build his own social enterprise that supports removing land mines in conflict areas.

Meantime, he wanted to cultivate the business skills that will enable him to build a career in corporate finance and then transition into strategy, especially for business development emerging markets. He concluded that an MBA was the credential he needed — and that Vanderbilt was the place to earn it.

“Coming from the military, many junior officers are funneled into a very narrow opportunity pool,” Paul says.” I felt that getting my MBA would allow me to learn about different business functions and expand my choices on the back end.

“The small size and collaborative culture were crucial to my decision. I am a huge believer in teamwork, so I wanted accessible teachers and engaged classmates."

He has found the program “academically rigorous — which is what I wanted.” But because he had majored in Marketing, it wasn’t entirely unfamiliar. Meanwhile, Paul realized — as do many other students entering the program from the military — that the non-business skills he had honed as an officer transferred both to business school and the business world.

“Skills you learn in the military — always working hard, thinking critically under pressure and managing your time appropriately — are not only transferrable but vitally important,” he says. They helped him succeed at Vanderbilt (especially in the first mod, Paul says. That success helped him land the internship in corporate finance he sought, and put him well on his way to the next phase of his career.



Fun Fact: Paul and his wife got married on New Year’s Eve. “We’re always on vacation for our anniversary.”

“Coming from the military, many junior officers are funneled into a very narrow opportunity pool.”