“As I began my career, I found there was a difference in the level of preparation and exposures of students from other schools compared to those I gained at UT."
Full-Time MBA - Student
Full-Time MBA - Student
Max Waibel, a native of Knoxville, returned home to the University of Tennessee to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration after four years of working for Norfolk Southern (NS).
Waibel began his career with NS after completing a summer internship as a senior at the Haslam College of Business. At the time, his internship included working in field operations observing multiple roles. The internship program Waibel participated in was a successful pilot program for the company, and Waibel subsequently received a full-time offer with the railroad upon graduating in 2014.
Waibel began working full-time at NS in field operations. His territory served as a high-volume, high-visibility area which came with several challenges. As a recent college graduate, he was new to the industry and role and was responsible for the management of dozens of unionized employees who had been with the company for decades. After successfully managing his responsibilities in Danville, KY, Waibel moved into network operations and supervised a regional operations command center, giving him a broader perspective of the railway and an understanding of overall strategy.
“As the youngest person to be appointed to this position, it was a great opportunity to be a part of many of the changes that were taking place within the company,” says Waibel.
Waibel then moved into a special projects role assisting in the implementation of the new plan in the field and network centers.
“I enjoyed many elements of working in rail,” says Waibel. “Specifically, I enjoyed being a part of the solution to the challenges often found in rail transportation; similar to working through a puzzle. It was a great opportunity to be a part of large-scale change initiatives as NS was quickly working to implement new technologies and operating practices. Outside of operations, I served as a department liaison on several HR projects that were looking to improve culture and help attract talent to NS. Many of the changes our committees drafted were implemented and were still in practice when I left for my MBA.”
Waibel credits his undergraduate experience at the Haslam College of Business to his early success.
“As I began my career, I found there was a difference in the level of preparation and exposures of students from other schools compared to those I gained at UT. As I moved into roles of increasing responsibility, I was able to build on the foundation that I started at Haslam,” says Waibel. “Advantages like this allowed me to stand out to my managers and gave me quicker access to opportunities beyond that of a typical new hire.”
Waibel enjoys the emphasis that the Haslam College of Business places on ensuring students are provided with an applicable education and given opportunities to connect to employers, professionals, and alumni. Students are given ample opportunities to network with hiring managers and attend lunches with business leaders.
“It is evident that these visiting alumni and business leaders come to campus because they see the return on investment both personally and professionally,” says Waibel. “There is such an overwhelming sense of pride that Tennessee students, faculty, staff and alumni have in their school. I once had a boss who made a comment that some of our offices ‘had too much orange.’ He was directly referring to the number of Tennessee alumni that were employed. It brought me joy to know the impact that we as a university and college can have on a business environment.”
At the culmination of his MBA in December 2019, Waibel plans to pursue a role in logistics planning and strategy with a mid-to-large international company and continue to gain experience in logistics.
“My plan is to continue to focus in transportation, which has been my primary interest since undergrad,” says Waibel. “Long-term, I can see myself remaining in the corporate environment working towards a senior leadership position. As the logistics field is continuously changing, there are great opportunities for young professionals to enter and grow the field.”
In his research, Haileab Hilafu aims to make it easier to extract actionable knowledge from large datasets