Seeking Executive Influence: How Caleb Newton MBA '15 Made a Career Pivot from Engineer to Decision-Maker

Caleb Newton MBA ’15 was nine years old when his father, Don Newton EMBA ’96 was a graduate student at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business. He remembers hearing all of the stories; from how his dad defended a case study in front of the class to how there was never just one right answer to a problem. So, when Newton decided to pursue an MBA himself, William & Mary was at the top of his list of schools.

“I think I always just knew based on the experience my dad had that William & Mary was a leading candidate to get an MBA from,” he said.

Finding the Right Fit

Newton graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he worked as an engineer for several organizations before landing a role doing hydraulic schematics with Altec in Raleigh, North Carolina.

After several years with Altec, Newton closely evaluated his professional toolkit. Engineering provided him with a strong set of hard skills, but he lacked refined soft-skills and exposure to areas like finance and marketing, all of which he knew were requisite to running a business. All of the decision-makers within his company had their MBAs, and of course, his dad did too.

“My dad was also a mechanical engineer early on in his career and I saw how he transitioned from working at individual plants or on improvement projects to making executive decisions after earning his MBA,” he explained. “I wanted to eventually make those types of decisions too and it occurred to me that dad was right. I needed an MBA.”

With William & Mary as the obvious first choice, Newton explored the different program formats. He says where he was in his life at that time, both personally and professionally, led him to strongly consider the full-time MBA program over its executive counterpart.

“I desired the full immersion of the full-time program because I was entering a transition in my career where it made sense to take that break and make school my full-time job for two years,” he said.

A Parallel Journey

Despite choosing a different program, Newton’s experience as a full-time MBA student at the Mason School paralleled his dad’s in many ways largely because he was taught by several of the same expert faculty members as his dad.

“It was sort of surreal that we would share the same experience with the same professor thirty years apart,” Newton said. “I loved it. I think my dad loved it too.”

Because both programs cover many of the same basic business principles, it’s not uncommon for long-serving faculty of both the Executive and full-time MBA programs to teach generations of the same family.

“It’s always a pleasure to run into students whose parents I taught. It’s wonderful to see them here,” said former Mason School Professor of Marketing Lawrence J. “Larry” Ring. “It’s also a vote of confidence. I was good enough to teach your dad, and I’m still good enough to teach you too.”

When he arrived at Miller Hall, Newton reached out to Ring during office hours to introduce himself. Ring remembered Don Newton from the Executive MBA program well and was excited to learn of his son’s interest in marketing. In his second year of the program, Newton applied for a graduate assistantship (GA) and worked closely with Ring on drafting a marketing case study.

“He was a strong student,” said Ring. “We developed a good working relationship.

In addition to schoolwork and serving as a GA, Newton was active in the William & Mary community. He played intramural flag football and ran for the MBA Association council. But the biggest highlight for him was building strong relationships with his classmates.

“I developed a community of friends and peers who were all going through the same experience as me. We learned how to defend cases together and did lots of team projects,” he said. “I have lifelong friends that I still keep in touch with.”

A Professional Pivot

The greatest outcome of attending William & Mary for Newton was that he leveraged the school’s connections with Deloitte to secure a job after graduation. Before Newton even began the full-time MBA program, he attended Deloitte’s consulting immersion program in Dallas. It was an opportunity he learned about through the Admissions Office and through that experience, Newton successfully secured a summer internship and then a full-time position as a Senior Consultant in Deloitte’s Washington, DC office.

“My relationship with William & Mary produced this awesome opportunity for me and it took me into a whole other line of work that I would not have had exposure to otherwise,” he said.

While in DC, Newton met his wife who was living in North Carolina. He made the decision to relocate south and joined Red Hat, a subscription-based company that sells subscriptions to enterprise open source software. Today he serves as the Senior Manager for Global Renewals and his group is responsible for using strategy and analytics to improve the customer and partner experience to ultimately improve subscription rates.

“I use my MBA almost every day,” Newton said. “In my experience, an MBA is complementary to an engineering degree because problem solving and business share the same vein. Every day I am on a whiteboard trying to solve a problem and I have to correlate that to how we can run our business.”

Newton says his MBA credential has allowed him to participate in the executive-level discussions he sought to be a part of before he went through the William & Mary program. He hopes he can continue to grow his role at Red Hat over the next few years and eventually run a division within the company.

“Professionally, I aspire to run a business,” he said. “Personally, I want to be able to do that while spending time with my family. I want to be competent, motivated, and aggressive in my career while also balancing time to invest in my family.”

While he’s actively pursuing both fronts, Newton often reflects on his full-time MBA experience. He shared some of those thoughts in a message to Professor Ring upon his retirement from teaching in 2019.

“I’m tremendously thankful for the opportunity I had at William & Mary.” he said. “The impact that the institution has had on my family – both parents and my current family – is profound. And the impact they as professors and administrators are having on generations and families is very intense and it’s very real.”