Smith MBA Student Helps Alternative Energy Take Off
Brian Childs, a 2010 MBA Candidate, has charted many dangerous courses in his
career. Before beginning the full-time MBA program in Fall 2008, Childs was a
pilot working for military subcontractors and humanitarian groups in the Middle
East. He picked up aviation as a hobby while studying anthropology at California
State University Chico, but soon found it was an expensive pastime, so he
decided to make it part of his career. Childs was preparing for graduation when
the Sept. 11 attacks devastated the job market for commercial pilots. Having
always wanted to “use his position for good” and desiring to work in the
developing world, he spent the next six years flying across some of the world’s
most dangerous territory: Iraq and Afghanistan.
Childs didn’t like many things he saw during his time in the battle zones.
One of his major frustrations was the inefficient use of public money by
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government bodies. “This is public
money,” Childs says, “The Afghans deserved it, but it ran dry before it got to
them.” He realized that the enormous resources being sent to help the people of
Afghanistan and Iraq just weren’t getting there. “I didn’t know about money,”
Childs says, “but I do know you have to manage its flow properly, or it won’t do
anything.” This provided his first motivation to gain a further education in
Another life-changing experience led Childs to consider a career change that
included an MBA education. While flying over Baghdad, he saw a bomb go off in a
public place beneath his plane. It produced the largest bomb casualties in the
war thus far, killing 85 people and wounding many others. “I’d never seen
anything like that before. It scared me—what happened there could happen here.”
Driven partly by fear, he started applying to business school without a clear
idea of what course his career would take. Childs recalls writing admission
essays while sitting in his plane or on a remote military compound.
After beginning the full-time MBA program, Childs chose to focus on the
energy industry. “Iraq and Afghanistan are destabilized because of energy
prices. It’s been going on for so long, we say it’s been forever.” He has chosen
a career path in alternative energy sources that will help “relax our demand” on
foreign oil, thus allowing for greater stability, and less interference, in the
During his first year, Childs founded an Energy Club at Smith with fellow
classmate Justin Trudel as an opportunity to create a student-learning forum
about the energy industry. They have had a successful launch, gaining faculty
support and bringing several prominent energy companies to campus. Childs also
pursued projects during the first year with the aim of reducing the carbon
footprint of the university as a whole.
This past summer, Childs worked for ZipCar, the world's largest car sharing and
car club service. He saw this internship as an ideal opportunity to work on two
important causes: reducing gasoline consumption and reducing carbon emissions.
Ever the spokesman, Childs contends, “Reducing use of automobiles is the number
one easiest way to eliminate carbon gas emission.”
Childs, who is well known at Smith for his wit and self-effacing humor,
downplays his role as a hero or humanitarian. “What I experienced was real,” he
says, “and maybe it will motivate others as well.” He joins a growing group of
MBA students who want to use their business experience to create social, as well
as financial value. And that sense of purpose will surely help him chart his
flight into the next phase of life.
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