New Orleans native Bill Peltier figures he will eventually steer his career back in the direction of his first love -- cars. For now, he's enjoying the winding road that led him to the online Master of Business Administration program at LSUS.
"Some friends and I had a shop where we were building and working on race cars," he said. "I was traveling the country tuning drag cars. Post-Hurricane Katrina, my dad and I opened a company that was car-oriented but more in sales. We were reconditioning used cars and doing other work to help dealers who sold pre-owned vehicles.
"That business failed, but I learned a whole lot from it. Running a small business and having to handle everything from sales to the accounting side to the operational side of it gave me quite a bit of exposure."
Peltier then changed gears and worked in the oil and gas industry, where he became a project coordinator and worked in asset management. After the start-up Peltier worked for was purchased by another company, he helped several other firms with start-ups or management reorganizations.
"The last oil and gas company I worked for, Terra Oilfield Services, was a reorganization that moved me to Houston full time," he said. "I went in and worked for them for a year, and it was apparent at the time they were going to sell soon. I was also at a point in my life where I wanted to settle down."
As Peltier worked on Six Sigma certification and prepared to take the Project Management Professional exam, he decided to instead enroll in the LSUS online MBA program.
"I said, 'This is a lot of work. If I'm going to do this, I should just go get my master's degree. It's way more valuable and something I've always wanted to do anyway,'" he said. "I never took the PMP test. I decided that if I could find somewhere I didn't have to take the GMAT Exam, I'd jump right in. I found the LSUS program. I sent them my information and they accepted me on the spot. I said, 'That's perfect.' I went ahead and dove right in."
Right on Track
While Peltier was working for Terra Oilfield, he needed to take a couple of semesters away from the online MBA program to focus on work. He was able to restart the program while with Terra, and in Summer 2016, he was recruited by Sunnova Energy Corporation, where he now works as director of shared services and projects in October 2017.
"The fact that LSUS would take my professional experience and substitute for the testing was a big deal," he said. "Making that decision in the moment and getting started is the biggest thing. Being able to go from making the decision to striking while the iron is hot was important. LSUS accepted me, and I started two weeks later. I happened to be coming up on a deadline and said, 'I'm just going to do it.'"
The flexibility of the online format was also important with a new job in a different industry. Peltier, who also took some undergraduate courses at LSU, already had some experience with online courses from earning a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2015.
"With the 7-week sessions, if I see something really crazy coming down the pipeline at work, the class options and working at your own pace make it easier to handle," he said. "The processes and the way that you interact with the teachers is pretty perfect for me. We used Moodle at ULM too, so there is familiarity there. It's a very intuitive platform."
The flexibility especially came into play for Peltier after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, where Sunnova has about 9,000 customers.
"For all intents and purposes, I moved to Puerto Rico for two months in Spring 2018," he said. "I was down there with hurricane recovery and getting people back online. The whole time, as long as I had internet connectivity, I didn't miss any school. I was commuting back and forth to San Juan from Houston weekly for two months. Flying in Friday nights to have a couple of days at home, I'd hit submit on my schoolwork as I'd come into Houston and the Wi-Fi turned back on.
"Even with going to a storm-ravaged area, working and having to perform at a high level and using my time in the evenings for school, I kept on going with it. I really thought I was going to have to take a break from school during all of that, but the flexibility of the program allowed me to keep going."
Peltier has enjoyed the management courses the most in the online MBA curriculum.
"I originally went to school at LSU to be an engineer," he said. "I was never really a big fan of it. That's when I ran my own businesses for a while. When I settled into my professional career, I became a manager.
"Dealing with organizational management and behavioral management are the things I enjoy. I like talking about different ways to motivate and compensate people and get people to work together as a team and a cohesive unit."
Dr. Michael Meeks is Peltier's favorite instructor in the program.
"One of the things I really liked about Dr. Meeks was his class was really a heavy writing class," he said. "There were no multiple choice questions or anything -- we just wrote. I enjoyed being able to parlay my experience to make decisions in certain situations, writing about them and getting active feedback.
"Sometimes I made a horrible decision and put why I made that decision in my process. The feedback would say, 'You made a bad decision, but your thought process was correct. You were thoughtful about this.' Dr. Meeks didn't ding my grade because I made a bad decision.
"The teachers embrace that most of the people in this program are working professionals looking to take the next step. I wanted to go heavier into this and not just talk about the conceptual; I wanted to talk about the application. Dr. Meeks and several other teachers did that quite a bit."
Peltier has plenty of support for his return to higher education from his family and friends. In Spring 2019, he will become the first person in his immediate family to earn a master's degree.
"They love it," he said. "Neither of my parents went to college -- they got married when they were teenagers. They were incredibly supportive of me getting an education. They sent me to good schools and made sure getting a good education was important to me. They're super happy. My mom works for a bank and most of the people who work around her have advanced degrees.
"They talked about me getting a master's degree when I was younger, but I wasn't ready for it. I'm getting a lot more out of it now. They ask me all of the time, 'How's it going?' and 'When will you graduate?' My girlfriend, Anne Sears, is unbelievably supportive, too. She's always there to take up the slack if I need to take some time out to do some schoolwork. They've all been hugely important."
With the finish line of the online MBA program rapidly approaching, Peltier looks forward to moving forward in his career with an advanced degree in his toolbox.
"I'm pretty content with where I am right now," Peltier said. "Not to say I'm finished moving up -- I'm obviously going to keep doing that. Coming to Sunnova and moving into a senior leadership role was a big deal to me. Hopefully, I'll move up in the next couple of years to a vice president role or into the executive ranks."
Still a car enthusiast at heart, Peltier hopes to eventually open a mechanic shop focusing on higher-end cars.
"I'd also like to help people," he said. "Maybe a single mom whose starter went out in her car and she needs to get to work -- we do it for free. I try to give back and do some things like that. I've been fortunate. I've been successful. I'd like to do something to help the community. I feel good about what I do now. We're pushing for cleaner air and stand-alone solar. That's a good counter to my oil and gas time."
Earning an MBA online wasn't in the plan for Peltier, but he couldn't be happier it worked its way into his life to give his career even more horsepower. He recommends the program to anybody in any area of business.
"If you're thinking about enrolling in the MBA program, just jump in and do it," he said. "Start going after it. It might seem daunting, but when you put your mind to it, it just happens. Before long, you're three-quarters of the way through it. Not that long ago, I looked and was running out of classes to take. I've got to take two electives in the Spring, then I'm done. Quit putting it off. Just do it."
Learn more about the LSUS online MBA program.
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