What did you do before getting your MBA?
I went to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. I received an engineering degree and then went to the Marine Corps, a bit more of an unusual path compared to folks who are going into the business/ tech world. The cool part was that as a 23-year-old, I was in charge of about 40-45 people right off the bat. Instead of getting a lot of reps doing internships for product management/finance, I was primarily focused on leadership. I was based in California and had a couple of deployments to Southeast Asia. I’ve even been to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Being able to travel for work is something I look forward to in a future job. While I was in the military, I visited some not-as-traveled locations as well, such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries.
Tell me a little more about what you were responsible for while deployed?
My whole platoon was about 45 people. The platoon was comprised of one senior enlisted Marine, who I closely worked with. He would manage three squad leaders who led the rest of the platoon. That's our management org chart! Everyone was specialized within my platoon. There were experts in special weapons, communications, and medicine...just as a CEO would have a senior finance or tech counsel. I also had individuals from outside my platoon who would be added to help us use heavy artillery and air support. The specialization of their skills makes its easier to leverage the ability of the team as lines of communication and responsibilities are clearly defined-- no grey areas.
At your current MBA internship, what gives you a competitive advantage amongst your peers?
I was put on a strategy project that focused on inter-organizational efficiencies. Some of my peers had great technical training opportunities but did not have a chance to work on strategic projects within their organizations. The peer leadership I was exposed to in the military helped me solve a challenge with team structures at my internship this summer. I assembled a plan to map out where the communication gaps existed and how to address the pain points. What I presented to the group leadership blended my learnings from my military experience with a case study we studied at McCombs about Cisco.
I assembled a plan to map out where the communication gaps existed and how to address the pain points.
How do you build consensus?
That was a big concern for me in my internship early on because the majority of folks I was working with have a Ph.D. (Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of the most prestigious national laboratories in the country). During my time in the service, I spent a lot of energy solving problems by building consensus with many different political and government affiliations. I’ve learned the key to building consensus is be an active listener and have as much subject knowledge as possible. Whatever element I can control to improve my credibility, I prioritize. I learned that if you prioritize listening and learning, respect will follow.
I’ve learned the key to building consensus is be an active listener and have as much subject knowledge as possible.
How did you choose UT Austin?
Out of all the MBA programs, UT Austin ranked the highest for me in the following categories: value for money, a close knit entrepreneurial community, the city and access to quality faculty. I’m amazed at the student caliber and cross mingling that happens at the university. Not to mention Austin is an incredible city!
Is an MBA worth it?
Like most things in life, it is what you make of it. Luckily, UT Austin has an incredible community. I really think the MBA is a one-time opportunity to make an industry change without losing career momentum. For someone leaving the military, it's a perfect tool to help lay the foundation for business fundamentals. I couldn’t really even begin to discuss finance and accounting with my peers before business school. Now, I have a base level of understanding to be competent in more than one way in a corporate environment. Another benefit of business school is the extracurricular groups and organizations. I'm moving more toward a tech role but am working with a classmate on a robotic startup. We got second place in a couple pitch competitions through the school and Texas Venture Labs and have built prototypes from that funding. That was made possible by the strong community here at UT Austin.
I really think the MBA is an one-time opportunity to make an industry change without losing career momentum.
What’s the most exciting organization you’re apart of at McCombs?
It’s called Texas Venture Labs. You work with a pre-revenue and a post revenue start-up, and then you do projects for them over the course of the semester. It allows you to get a lot of exposure without taking a ton of risk. I am working with a blockchain (XSeries) and a virtual reality (Viewer Ready) for my startups.
What differentiates McCombs?
I have a story that perfectly sums up the spirit of McCombs. A friend of mine was about to sign her internship or was pretty sure she had an internship locked up with Apple and Amazon asked her to interview with them. She knew she was going to accept the Apple position, so she recommended a classmate for the job based on her knowledge of his skills and interest. He interviewed with them and got it! That level of camaraderie and helping spirit is what McCombs is all about.
Do you have a mentor?
Yeah actually, so I would say my mentor is a gentleman named Professor John Doggett. He’s got a JD from Yale, an MBA Harvard and he has had experience working with startups for decades... His classes are famous within the student body for being very confrontational and very challenging. He purposefully pits people against each other to draw out debate. Among the many things he has advised me on, he talked me out of a leadership role in a startup after we both walked through all the information we had on the company.That saved me a TON of time and headache as the company went belly up.
What are your current travel habits?
I’m into the minimal style of clothing today, brands such as Ex Officio. Anything smart wool or lightweight I'm typically going to go for.
What gear can you not live without?
I'm a big fan of the lightweight, compact pieces of gear that you can quickly get warm on. That's something you can pack on the airplane for when you get to a place where the weather is a lot different than you expected. I also always carry a Lifestraw, a habit from my military days.
What are some of the business books that you’ve read?
Competition Demystified and The Challenger Sale.
Are you a Kindle, magazine or book person?
I would say for a long time I was a Kindle person, just because I like to read a couple of different books at the same time. But lately, I've been buying a lot of books because I like taking actual notes/ highlighting. I just finished the book called Hocus Pocus.