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From Canadian Armed Forces officer to airline executive: how this EMBA’15 grad did it

November 16, 2017

Eghtedar ManouchehriSome of the best career coaching Eghtedar Manouchehri (EMBA ’15) ever received came about by chance, during an evening out with classmates from the Executive MBA program at Rotman.

That night, over dinner and drinks, a fellow student pointedly asked him about his future.

“He told me that he’d seen what I was capable of and that he’d be willing to offer me a job immediately — but he needed to know what I wanted to do,” Manouchehri recalls.

“The art of actual decision making came from my military background, but applying it in a business context came from the MBA.”

—Eghtedar Manouchehri (EMBA ’15), Vice President at Porter Airlines (formerly a Major with the Canadian Armed Forces)

That off-hand remark triggered a larger conversation, involving several other students, about Manouchehri’s possible next steps.

Without knowing it at the time, his career transition — from serving with the Canadian Armed Forces to overseeing operations at Porter Airlines — was set in motion.

When asked about how to successfully make the move into a new role and new industry, Manouchehri, who is now vice president of airport operations and system operations control at Porter, offers two key pieces of advice.

“First: set a goal. Be targeted in defining what career you want to move into. From there, pursue the education or training to close the skills gap,” he says. “Second, look for champions. Find people in your network and convince them that they can put their name behind you.”

In Manouchehri’s case, he was able to do both at Rotman.

Closing the knowledge gap

Having served with the Canadian Armed Forces for over a decade, Manouchehri came to the Rotman School with substantial strategic planning and operations management experience.

Through his military career, he had mastered the art of navigating tough situations.

As a liaison officer on assignment in Kabul, he overcame language barriers and leveraged limited resources to help coordinate security operations with 40 other allied nations. He had completed a peacekeeping tour in Bosnia, served in a senior operations role during a combat mission in Kandahar and completed an 18-month secondment with the US Army, leading American troops in Afghanistan.

“Building that network at Rotman and having such a supportive group of people is really what opened the door for me.”

—Eghtedar Manouchehri (EMBA ’15), Vice President at Porter Airlines

As he moved up the ranks, Manouchehri saw the value in pursuing a one-year Executive MBA. He was interested in learning alongside and from senior leaders who, like him, had substantial experience. And knowing that his military career would eventually come to an end, he saw how a management education would position him well for opportunities in other industries.

“I didn’t know what industry or field I wanted to pursue, but I knew I wanted to continue on the management track,” he recalls. “It was simple; an MBA could fill in any gaps.”

Ultimately the courses in leadership, strategy, marketing, finance, accounting, economics and negotiating helped him develop his business mindset.

“The art of actual decision making came from my military background, but applying it in a business context came from the MBA.”

Finding champions

After some reflection and support from his fellow students, Manouchehri found a new professional direction.

One of his classmates, Piyush Gandhi (EMBA ’15), who was director of flight operations at Porter at the time, recognized that Manouchehri’s experience made him uniquely qualified for a senior role with the airline. Porter was in need of someone who could oversee daily operations and deal with the unexpected — from bad weather to resource shortfalls — quickly, to ensure minimal flight interruptions.

Gandhi, who was promoted to vice president of flight operations immediately after completing the EMBA program, forwarded Manouchehri’s resume to the airline’s COO and endorsed him, before recusing himself from the hiring process.

After a series of interviews, Manouchehri successfully landed the role. He credits his peers for their role in his career development.

“Building that network at Rotman and having such a supportive group of people is really what opened the door for me,” he says. “Then, it was up to me to walk through that door, live up to their expectations, and demonstrate that I had the management knowledge.”

Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »

Eghtedar Manouchehri

Class year

EMBA ’15


Airlines, Military (previously)

Current job title

Vice President, Airport Operations
and System Operations Control,
Porter Airlines, Toronto, ON

Previous employment

Director, System Operations Control,
Porter Airlines,
Toronto, ON

Canadian Armed Forces

Previous education

Royal Military College of Canada,
Kingston, ON