Chandlor Lyle

Chandlor Lyles

Chandlor Lyles Grows Outside Her Comfort Zone

When Chandlor Lyles ’16 came to WPI for the engineering focus it offered, she never predicted a future that included the pursuit of a doctoral degree in business administration and success as a fashion entrepreneur. And while the two professional pursuits might seem distinct, it was Lyles’s engineering and business education that provided the foundation and opportunities that launched both.

After graduating in 2016 with a management engineering degree and a concentration in mechanical engineering, Lyles went on to complete her Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) studies at Neoma Business School in Paris in June 2022. Currently working as a senior product IT manager at Dell Technologies, she’s also an entrepreneur who founded CL Styles, a personal wardrobe styling company, while a student at WPI. 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 diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Right now, I’m living and enjoying my life in Paris,” she says, “and will be bicontinental between Paris and New York City to pursue my degree and to work on my fashion business in those major fashion cities.”

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.

Lyles has many interests and talents, but WPI was the catalyst for dreaming big. The opportunities to try new courses and the support of faculty made a significant difference. When she arrived at WPI, she focused exclusively on mechanical engineering because that was her original path. While she had the passion for discovery, she encountered 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.

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 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.”

Advisor, Confidante, Friend

That kind of academic and personal connection was personified when Lyles met Professor Adrienne Hall-Phillips, who was her academic and Major Qualifying Project 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.

“Chandlor was the typical WPI student who was interested in a thousand things,” Hall-Phillips says, laughing. She helped guide Lyles through her academics and then the two stayed in touch. Eventually all those interests posed real career potential, and she was able to present options that Lyles hadn’t even considered. “I asked if she had thought about grad school and furthering her education in a topic that’s interesting to her,” she says. “I said, ‘You know, you don’t have to stay in the U.S.’” And when Lyles talked about wanting to teach, Hall-Phillips urged her to consider a PhD. “It’s about telling people about things they had not thought possible,” she says of mentoring students to achieve their potential.

Lyles says two WPI project experiences—her Humanities and Arts project in Morocco and her Interactive Qualifying Project 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. “Chandlor is going to do really great things and I can’t wait to see it,” says her mentor.

“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.”

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