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Pepperdine | Graziadio Business School

A Leading Executive: Current Executive MBA Student Austin Norton Details His Career and Educational Experience

When it comes to capitalizing on an opportunity, current Executive MBA student Austin Norton is a premier example. His impeccable journey acts as a powerful emulation of how one can benefit from the enriching experience of pursuing opportunities when they are presented in one’s path. 

A Tennessee native, Austin began his career in the military, serving as an infantry officer for the United States Army. His initial draw to serve his country came from an innate desire for camaraderie, patriotism, and leadership coupled with his civic duty. 

After his honorable discharge in 2014, he began seeking his next venture. He craved an opportunity aligned directly with his passions and skills—eventually finding that opportunity upon his recruitment by Gavin de Becker & Associates, a private security firm headquartered in 72 and sunny Los Angeles. Gavin de Becker & Associates allows Austin to lead within an organization that cultivates its employees to perform at their best—recognizing and rewarding them significant opportunities based on their merit and career performance.

From an educational standpoint, Austin chose Graziadio’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program due to its emphasis on executive education and leadership competencies. Additionally, the ability to attend classes with a small cohort of individuals, consisting of like-minded business leaders, enticed his decision to earn an Executive MBA over a traditional MBA. The program’s flexibility enables Austin to balance his priorities, including his career, schooling, and, most importantly, his family.

Austin suggests looking at your goals and overall career aspirations for those seeking to earn an Executive MBA versus another degree. From his point of view, whatever path you choose, do your best to “leave it better than you found it.”

We thank Austin for his service to our country and his contributions to our school. We look forward to seeing how he continues to make an impact as a Best for the World Leader. 


Interview with Austin Norton

1. Please provide some initial information regarding your academic background and professional experience.

I obtained my Bachelors of Science in Sociology from Tennessee Technological University. As an undergraduate, I was a part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). I earned my commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, specifically as an Infantry Officer. I then served on Active Duty before being honorably discharged in 2014. Upon transitioning, I began considering employment opportunities that aligned with my passions and skill sets. During this time, I was recruited by a private security firm based in Los Angeles, CA. I joined the firm in 2015 and have been with them ever since. 

2. You have significant tenure at Gavin de Becker & Associates; what do you enjoy about working for that firm? What drew you to work there? 

When I transitioned from the military, I wanted to pursue something that would be unconventional and challenging. There's certainly a level of mystique about what we do in the private security industry, and that in itself is attractive. But ultimately, Gavin de Becker & Associates promoted themselves as being a merit-based organization. They take pride in recognizing their associates for their job and affording them career opportunities based on their performance. This appealed to me because I knew my work ethic, and by working hard, I was confident that I could capitalize on these opportunities they spoke about.  

I most enjoy our people. Our executives and associates are some of the most driven and talented individuals I have ever met from the top-down. Our organization fosters a culture of collaboration, teamwork, and inclusion, which allows our associates to operate at the highest level and provide an unmatched level of service. 

3. I also see you have some experience working for the Army. What attracted you to that field of work? 

I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I knew that the military would be one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I was attracted to the comradery and certainly the patriotism. Serving my country seemed like a duty and was certainly one I wanted to fulfill. As an undergraduate, I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do as a profession, but I knew I wanted to be a leader. The Army was willing to provide me that opportunity while also developing many other skills I knew would translate well in the public/private sector.

4. What interested you in enrolling in Graziadio’s Executive MBA program? Why did you choose an executive MBA over a traditional MBA? 

I had considered a graduate school for quite some time, but it wasn't until the pandemic last year that I started thinking about what life might look like should my job be affected. I wanted to expand my knowledge and ability as a business leader, and I knew of Pepperdine’s Business School and heard nothing but positive things about it. Given my current role within my organization, the executive route seemed most reasonable given the program structure. I was attracted to the idea of learning in a small cohort and connecting every 2-3 weeks. I also liked the idea of learning alongside other working professionals, hearing their perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, and collaborating in a way that would refine my personal and professional competencies.

5. Do you have any advice for those debating between earning an executive MBA versus a traditional one? Do you have any other advice that has helped you succeed in your career? 

My advice would be to seriously evaluate your situation and determine what will be most beneficial for you professionally. I can’t say I know exactly what the traditional program encompasses, but I know that I desired to be learning amongst other working professionals.

I’ll end with something that has always stuck with me, and I have tried to incorporate it into my outlook on any component of my life; faith, family, athletics, work, etc. My father always encouraged me to leave anything better than the way I found it. Professionally, that means that my contributions, attitude, and decision-making impact any organization I am a part of positively. As a result, it is left better for those to come after me.