MBA Capstone turns into job offer for one alumnus

August 28, 2018
When Duncan Pitchford, GB'18, accepted his final Capstone Project at Hydro Aluminum in spring of 2018, he didn't realize a few months later he'd also be accepting a job.

When Duncan Pitchford, GB’18, accepted his final Capstone Project at Hydro Aluminum in spring of 2018, he didn’t realize a few months later he’d also be accepting a job.

“It was pretty interesting,” Pitchford said. “They submitted a project concerning a pending merger transaction, where they were acquiring another aluminum company. They asked me to look at some possible integration strategies to be pursued to maximize the benefits of the transaction.”

Matt Aboud, president of Hydro Aluminum Metals USA and adjunct professor for The Richmond MBA, submitted the project request to help the global aluminum company seamlessly acquire a smaller company.

“We knew there would be some integration challenges,” Aboud said. “Lacking an internal strategic resource, we used the Capstone Project as an opportunity to partner with somebody in who was versed in the business language, and had been applying these types of skills in an academic environment.” 

Hydro Aluminum is a global metals company with 35,000 employees in 40 different countries, and Aboud knew having someone on the ground in the Richmond region would help make the transition smoother. 

“It was complicated, and I came up with a handful of recommendations that I delivered to their team about ways the two companies could better realize the benefits of the merger transaction,” Pitchford said.

“He presented a complete, holistic integration plan, and we went on to submit it up to our next level of management,” Aboud said.

Not long after his presentation, Aboud said he wanted Pitchford on the Hydro Aluminum team full-time.

“The project that I did had a strategic orientation, and after completing that, Aboud approached me, and said that they were looking at creating a strategy analyst role permanently, and asked whether or not I would be interested in that role,” Pitchford said.

He quickly took the job.

Before joining The Richmond MBA, Pitchford worked as a lawyer for 15 years, and was looking to make a change. 

“I didn’t go back to school to continue as a lawyer,” Pitchford said. “I liked the fact that the role at Hydro Aluminum was strategy oriented. Problem solving fits with my background, trying to draw together disparate pieces of information, personnel, and processes, and assemble them into something functional that moves the business forward.”

Aboud also taught Pitchford in class while serving as an adjunct professor, and said from the moment he met him, he knew he was working with an extraordinary person.

“It was clear that this was a guy who was so capable, that I knew he would be successful,” Aboud said. “It didn’t feel like I was working with a student, it felt like I was working with a professional.”

He knew he wanted Pitchford on the Hydro Aluminum team, and knew the company needed a strategic thinker to help them work more effectively. So, he created the commercial business analyst role with Pitchford in mind.

“We had a backlog of strategy projects, longer term initiatives that we hadn’t developed quickly enough,” Aboud said. “We were looking for somebody who could come in and make an instant impact and really hit the ground running, which he’s done so far.” 

Since starting his new role and graduating from The Richmond MBA, Pitchford says he made the right decision. 

“It’s challenging and stimulating,” Pitchford said. “I think the MBA program does a good job of preparing people for a transition, and helping them think in a broader perspective. It’s geared toward training people for that sort of wider management and leadership roles.”