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Headshot of WPI Business School alum Chandlor Lyles

Chandlor Lyles '16, MS Management Engineering, shares how WPI pushed her to go out of her comfort zone and into an ambitious career.

When Chandlor Lyles was searching for a college from her home in Randolph, Mass., WPI wasn’t anywhere on her list. In fact, she had never heard of WPI—but when the university recruited her for basketball and she saw the STEM focus that she loved so much, everything changed. “WPI became my first choice,” she says, noting that being able to combine her passions for engineering and sports made all the difference. When Lyles graduated in 2016 with a management engineering degree with a concentration in mechanical engineering, she never expected that all she learned at WPI would shape a journey that is uniquely hers.

Lyles completed her Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) studies at Neoma Business School in Paris in June 2022; she is now a senior product IT manager at Dell Technologies. She’s also an entrepreneur who founded CL Styles, a personal wardrobe styling company. Soon she will head to Baruch College in New York City to begin an Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (EDBA) program in international relations with a concentration in DEI. “Right now, I’m living and enjoying my life in Paris,” she says, “and will be bicontinental between Paris and NYC to pursue my degree and to work on my fashion business in those major fashion cities!”

Lyles has many interests and talents, but WPI was the catalyst for her feeling the freedom to dream big. When she arrived at WPI, she focused exclusively on mechanical engineering. She had the passion for discovery, but she'd had her share of struggles, including taking an NR in physics twice. Then, a friend recommended that she look at WPI's Business School degree programs because they seemed more aligned with her interests. That suggestion opened up a new world.

“My experience in The Business School was absolutely amazing,” she says. “The faculty are super helpful, and they do everything they possibly can for their students.”

The Business School curriculum and faculty support helped Lyles thrive. “My brain hasn’t ever worked in a typical engineering way,” she says. “It doesn’t strictly work with numbers. The business classes combined business, tech, and people, and that has made me a more versatile person. At Dell, I can be a liaison between tech and engineering because I know about both. Being able to do that gives me an edge, and WPI helped me with that.”

That kind of academic and personal connection was personified when Lyles met Professor Adrienne Hall-Phillips, who was her academic and MQP advisor and is now a close confidante and friend. “She is why I went for my master’s and my doctorate,” she says. Lyles talks about Hall-Phillips as a life advisor who helps guide her through her educational and professional pursuits.

Lyles says two WPI project experiences—her HUA in Morocco and her IQP in Namibia—helped her develop the ability to work successfully on professional teams. Learning how to use her discomfort as a foreigner in different parts of the world or as the only person of color on a team, gave Lyles a valuable perspective that helps her successfully navigate team dynamics to this day. “It opens the dialogue," she says, "and we have one common goal.” 

Stepping wholeheartedly into new experiences is Lyles’s go-to mode, and she relies on the guidance of mentors like Hall-Phillips so that she doesn’t take a leap without some understanding. She’s succeeded and failed and turned the lessons from each into something better.

“I never thought in a million years when I was applying for my master’s program that I would ever be where I am,” Lyles says. Her experiences at WPI, particularly the grueling ones, amplified her resilience to bounce back when life got really challenging. “It’s also guided what I tell students today,” she says. “Be open minded and be okay with being uncomfortable. Nothing grows when you’re in a comfort zone.”