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MBA Student Insights: Military Veterans at the GSB

MBA Student Insights: Military Veterans at the GSB


Welcome to our webcast, MBA Student
Insights, military veterans of the GSB. My name is Reeb Wilbin and
I’m a second year MBA student at the GSB. I’m joined by Valerie Rivera and
Jacob Sheehan. Like me, they served in the military
before becoming a student in here. We’ll be talking about the student
experience here on campus and answer some as many questions as we can. To submit a question to us about
what it’s like to be a student, just click on the chat button at the top
of your screen, enter your question, and click Send To All Panelists. We won’t be talking about the admission
process, the application or financial aid, but
staff from MBA admissions office will answer those types of questions
directly in the chat box. So, let’s begin with introductions. Valerie, Jakob. You want to tell us a little
bit about yourselves.>>Yeah, sure. My name is Valerie Rivera, and I joined
the Air Force right when I was 18. I enlisted as a Linguist and served for 15 years and right when my enlistment
ended that’s when I joined the GSB.>>Hi, I’m Jacob. Went to West Point class 2006,
and then active duty for the last eight years,
Army Special Forces Officer. Deployed a lot of different places around
the world, and decided to come to the GSB. I’m actually still on active duty for
at least a few years after graduation. A teaching assignment at WestPoint,
so I’ll be doing that for three years after this.>>Thank you. All right, as for me, I was an Airforce
Academy grad 2007, went from there to the Kennedy school to do a Master in
Public Policy, and then as a guy, I ended up being a finance officer and did
some cost analysis on satellites in LA. Deployed for a year to the headquarters
[INAUDIBLE] working on strategy and then went out to Korea for a year to do
a tour as the budget officer at Ozan.>From there I decided to get out. I took a year off,
I spent some time with family, I traveled around, had a lot of fun, and then decided that coming to the GSP was
a really good way to get back on track. And came here. And I’m going to go take a job with
a [INAUDIBLE] company in consulting after I graduate. I start in July. So now let’s get started with some
questions submitted by the audience. First one is how is the transition from
being in the military to being in school?>>All right, well,
I don’t think it’s as big of a shock as I, I guess, thought it would be.>>You’re still in.>>Yeah, I’m still in.
Yeah.>>[LAUGH]
>>I think the biggest thing for me is, there is a very strong emphasis
here at GSB on social activities. And so, I think in the military there’s
a lot of social stuff integrated throughout the work day, but there’s a
very clear time at night where it’s like, okay, it’s six or
seven p.m., time to go home. And then everyone has their life there and
it all just blends together. The GSB. It’s just one big academic,
social, and professional spectrum. The whole thing.>>Yeah.
I guess for me it was a huge change. I actually did my degree over ten years. So there was night classes,
online classes and so being at the GSB is actually my first
time really being on a college campus. So that’s pretty much
a very intense change, and I guess I thought because I was working
full time and doing school at night, that it would be very easy to fit in all
the things that are here at the GSB, but I found it fills up my day
quite A bit more than I expected.>>Yeah.
I think here, probably more unlike anywhere else
that I’ve ever been there are so many opportunities of good
things to do in a day. It becomes a lot about being strategic
about time management and saying no. Which I thought I was good
at in the military but you can really continue to
improve on that while your here. But it can be done. So if you’re worried about the transition,
I’d say, dive in and have faith that the skills you built
are going to carry you through. And it’s going to be a big
learning process, but it’s worth it on the backside. So, number two. What are you learning about leadership
that you didn’t all ready know from being in the military?>>So, I’m in a class right now with
Andy Ratcliffe called The Markets, one of the things that he talks
about in the class is there’s leadership by example which I think we’re
most familiar with with the military and then there’s leadership by design. And one of the interesting points
that he makes about it is, a lot of people strive to
be leaders by example and I think that’s again something
that the military helps us master. The leadership by design is a little bit
more thoughtful in that the only way you’re going to allow an organization to
scale is if you can be a leader by design. Or you can design successful organizations
for other leaders to succeed in. And, leadership by example, I think,
we probably all burned ourselves out a lot in the military, just trying to
be really good leaders by example. So that’s the biggest learning I’ve taken
away from here at the G S B with that.>>I think for me there’s more of
an emphasis on the diversity of different kinds of leadership for
the different kinds of organizations. In a lot of ways it didn’t feel
like I necessarily fit the mold of a military leader but here I feel like I have more opportunities
to explore what makes me really unique and what I really bring to the table
without ruffling as many feathers. So that’s been really nice.>>Excellent, thank you guys. Number three,
what are your career plans and how do you think how your
post-military background helped or hurt you in job interviews for
summer, or post MBA jobs. So for me, I can take this, I’d say that my career plans have
changed significantly since I came here. And, I originally thought that I wanted to
figure out another way to address problems associated with terrorism by
creating economic opportunities for people in developing markets. And I think that’s a big thesis and
a big thing to bite off and chew. But I think what happened is that I’m
evolving, so I’m going to go into consulting for a couple years and continue
to build out a robust skill set and then probably and
potentially stay there for a long time, but maybe transition into another
career after I’ve built those skills. And so I like to look at it in
terms of building blocks and sort of three to five year plans. And in terms of my
post-military background, I think the military is
getting a stronger brand. Where people like the discipline and
people like the fact that we are just willing to sit and get things done and
not complain about it, and so when you learn to translate the things
you’ve done and the skills you’ve built, and put it in the right language. That was the hardest thing to transition,
but when you figure how to put it in the right
language, I think people are responsive and they’re really receptive
to the idea of hiring vets.>>On a related note,
I’m not looking for a job yet. [LAUGH] But in the different groups
I’ve worked with, a lot of my classmates have remarked how working with
veterans has been so wonderful. We start on time, we end on time,
we get the job done and they really appreciate that. So I’m glad to help
bring that to the table. But also, as far as career plans,
I’m taking some of my frustration with the bureaucracy and dovetailing on
what Jacob said, helping organizations that struggle, build the kind of
environment where people really thrive. So I’m using my past experience with
the government and military and then taking what I’m learning here, to gain the confidence to
start my own consulting firm.>>Yeah, so the first day of class,
I showed up 15 minutes early and I was the only one in our 70 person or
70 seats in the room. And eventually five minutes before
class the professor walked in and said, what are you doing here? How come you’re not outside socializing? I’m like, but I thought class started,
and he’s like, but most people just show up a few
minutes after the class starts, so even the professor sort
of acknowledged that. So it was an awkward start from that
standpoint, but for career plans, I’m still on active duty So [COUGH] I’ll be
going to back to teach for a little bit. I think I did do an internship over
the summer and what I thought was interesting working for a tech start
up was there’s a lot of things that in the private sector there
are habits that people learn and military candidates do
not have to unlearn them. So there can be some bad habits from
previous organizations and I think that we come in with a completely open mind having
transitioned from one organization to say the private sector or a different
organization, so that’s an advantage.>>What do you find most rewarding
about your Stanford experience?>>I think by far, it’s the opportunities. I feel that we’ve won this platinum
ticket to see things that we’ve seen, get the access to different people,
organizations. Speakers that come here
are just incredible, and stuff that you would have to look
forward to like, in six months, I’m going to see something really cool, I
feel like that’s happening every day here. And the hard part is just trying
to decide what to do every day.>>Okay.>>For
me on that same note has been the people. I am surrounded by consistently the most
talented people I have ever been around in my life and career. And I feel like I’ve seen a lot of
different organizational contexts and that is both pressure,
because you’re surrounded by people who are making you feel like
you’re not very smart every day. But it’s also, it’s changed my life in
many ways and it has really upped the bar for me in terms of what I expect of
myself and my ability to perform. So that has been incredibly rewarding,
and people care about each other and there’s a nice community that I
think that’s a huge understatement.>>Yeah, I think the ability to have some
time to experiment is really valuable. I think in the military, we get
really focussed on just performing on the function that we have and
the task at hand is. The stakes are usually particularly high,
particularly if you’re deploying a lot. So I think having some time for
reflection and experimentation and to really figure out what it is
that you’re uniquely good at. And thinking about some of the
opportunities that Valerie talked about to be able to apply those
skills in the future.>>Nice, and I think there’s
a lot of questions rolling in, so I’m going to try and have just one answer
from here on out but this has been good. So are there any active
duty students at the GSP? Also how is your experience different from
military vets and peers at other schools? So we’ve got Jake.
>>All right, I got this one.>>[LAUGH]
>>Yes, so there are two of us in the class of 2016. I don’t they’re in the classes 2017.>>I don’t think so.>>Okay, and
as fas as experience being different, I just know specifically at
Stanford that I’ve heard differs, and I’ve experience the differsm is the
amount of collaboration that goes on here. And that’s just part of
the Silicon Valley ecosystem, but it’s pretty unique to
the academic experience here. So I think that’s a really
large benefit for an active duty student to come here and
have these two years be focused on collaboration and reflection instead
of maybe mentality that is just, I need to get ahead during
my time here for two years. So I think it’s a great place to think
about how you can apply your skills to the military afterwards.>>Thank you.>>Valerie, I am relieved to see
a prior enlisted graduate student, thank you very much for being here. As a prior enlisted member, were there any
unique challenges you had to overcome as a graduate student that perhaps prior or
current officers were not faced with?>>I think number one
is just the background, not having that consolidated
four year kind of degree, and I guess a lot of my peers that are
officers have gone to service academies. So there’s that bond that I
didn’t necessarily experience. Also, I’d say that there are fewer
enlisted service members. There are two in the class of 2017, and
I’m just really proud to see us there, and I would love to see more
prior enlisted people here. I think sometimes there’s a perception
that you’re blue collar, or you can’t hack it, and
I don’t think that’s true. I think if you work hard,
and you have this dream, and you can really sell it, and
get yourself here, then go for it.>>Yeah, I’d say, one of the more
successful guys in our class, Andy Turner is a prior enlisted Marine. And he’s done phenomenally well as
has Valerie, so you have the ring.>>Yep.>>Okay, what are you studying or
specializing in?>>So we have essentially
a generalist track here as opposed to having a more
specialized degree. And so with that there’s a lot of
flexibility in the second year to sort of take whatever it is that interests you. So in the first year there’s a pretty
strong course and requirements and you can take a couple of electives. So that’s fairly set, because they
want to have you come out of the MBAs. They want you have a standardized
product to a certain degree. Just to know that you got the skills
you need to be versatile but beyond that,
they’ve got a lot of offerings. I think probably the strongest curriculum
here is centered around entrepreneurship just because of the environment
we’re living in. But there’s also really
strong financial skills, there’s a financial modeling class we took
that I think was pretty foundational. And then there’s a lot of leadership and rolep laying that I’ve
been focused on as well. But there’s lots of information on the
website about classes that are out there. Who did you have write your references?>>I can talk about this, so I think a
good thing to consider is someone who can write about you at a snapshot in time. And then so that was my company commander
when I was in Iraq on a combat deployment. And then I had a mentor who had sort of
seen the larger arc of my experiences. So be able to zoom out and contextualize a
lot of different experiences that I had in different jobs and sort of show how
that effected my personal involvement. So I think references should be written
by people who know you incredibly well. And can talk about why you’re wired
a certain way or who as we do, rather than based on title or position.>>Yeah, are there GSB students
who are in the Reserves? How easy is it to balance Reserve
component obligations with GSB academics and extracurriculars?>>So I can take this one. I’m still learning the ropes, but
what I’ve been able to do is enroll in the IMA program through
the Air Force Reserves. And that allows me to put my
reserve duty in the summer, there’s a trade off with that. I can’t do an internship for example,
but I’ve been able to work with a great supervisor who’s
found a way to get a job for me over the summer that’s uniquely in line
with my strengths and what I want to do. So that’s pretty exciting, the other thing is that there is
a really interesting unit in the local area called a defense innovation unit
experimental down at market fields. And so that may be an option for
people looking to come to school here too.>>Excellent, let’s see besides
the bets club what other social and professional clubs are you involved with? Can you talk about your
experience with the vets club? Yeah, so I think there’s no shortage
of extracurriculars around here. Like we said before, it’s really a monumental task trying
to figure out what to say no to. So there’s the energy club I’ve
done a little bit of time with. We just stood up a virtual reality club. I think there’s 38 student clubs, so all sorts of either diversity clubs or
any flavors, you name it. There’s an entrepreneurship club,
venture capital, finance. There will be a club centered around. The industry that you’re interested in
going to, and if not you could make one. And there’s always a group of interested
students that will join you in that. And that provides an amazing platform, you can leverage to bring in cutting
edge speakers in those fields. So I’m very happy with those. And specifically with our experience with
the Best Club, I think that the Best Club is growing in terms of its
platform here with the GSB. When I got here it was
kind of a low key thing. There was a little bit of a social. There wasn’t a lot of program around it. I think a lot of us,
it’s a smaller community. There’s probably 20
>>Right.>>that’s between the two classes roughly. And so people were kind of
getting here and going out and exploring a lot of other things versus
spending a lot of time with other vets. But I think the class of 2017
is really upping the game there.>>Yeah, absolutely, and we had a military service banquet
this year that had 300 people. I was shocked because it’s bigger than
some of the military events I’ve been in when I was active duty. So, it was great to see not
just military and veterans, but also our class mates attended. And I thought that was really wonderful.>>It was really great.>>They were just really curious
about us and our heritage. Everybody wanted to see us in uniform too.>>Yeah.>>So that was very interesting.>>How certain were you on the career
you wanted to pursue prior to starting your MBA? I ask because I’m wondering how
essential your internship is to getting the job you want upon graduation. So, this probably applies for
me since I’ve had an internship. So, a lot of people come here,
do their internship, come back from their second year and realize they didn’t like
their internship at all and there’s a lot of our classmates right now that are two
weeks out and are still looking for jobs. And it’s not because
there’s not jobs available, it’s because they’re really
trying to find the right fit. And, I had a thesis about
what my career would be and I think it’s important to have a thesis
and to build that together and make that show through
in your application. But I think that what they’re looking for
in the application process, we’re not going to talk about
that too much specifically, I think they want it to show that you
can build a vision that’s coherent, but there’s also an understanding
that you’re going to get here and you’re going to meet all
the new kinds of people. And that’s going to change and
that’s okay. So I think it’s important to
have vision and build that. But you don’t need to be anchored to it. Do vets go the entrepreneurial route? Well.
>>I think so, I mean that’s my plan and for me it’s not about having that freedom
that I was craving where I was in to make my own choices about what to do,
where to live, who to work with, all of those things. So I’m excited about the process and
I’m excited about testing it out while I’m here and I think that’s going to
give me even more confidence, that yes this is the path and
just step out as soon as I graduate.>>So there’s a popular class here at
the GSD called entrepreneurial acquisition NIC See a lot of vets interested
in the entrepreneurial route where they work with investors to acquire
a small business and then they grow it. There were a lot of veterans who did that
last year as a percentage of how many vets are here. And I just think in general we’re
comfortable with risk-taking, particularly from a lot of our deployment
experiences and we’re looking to do so in a way that’s not part
of a larger bureaucracy. And so I think a lot of us come
here with something to prove and want to test themselves as entrepreneurs, and so I think that’s why
it’s a good fit to come here.>>Yeah. And one notable GSB alum,
I forget his name, but founded TRX coming out of here and
now you see them at bases everywhere. So you guys, if you use TRX bands,
that was a GSB incubated experience, so. During what class, group, or experience have you most heavily relied
upon your skills acquired in the military?>>I think this is a tough one.>>Yeah.
>>Yeah.>>Yeah.>>Well I think that spending
a lot of time overseas, working on negotiation is I think
a very popular class here and personal dynamics known more
colloquially as touchy feely, and so it’s a very unstructured ambiguous
class where you’re trying to learn about group dynamics
in the absence of authority. Structure and say, you think that my
military background wouldn’t necessarily lend itself to that, but I found that
having a lot of negotiations with tribal chiefs, or
with civilians on deployments actually gave me an advantage in putting myself out
there a little bit more with that class, and getting the most
learning possible from it. So, yeah.>>All right.
Have you encountered any people who are hesitant to hire or work with veterans because of
your non-traditional background? I think that the hardest industry I’ve
seen or heard about to break into here, seems to be private equity. And that is not a wall
that is impenetrable. But it’s just a more challenging thing
to get into, because mostly tends to be people who come from private equity,
that will go back into it. But it’s doable, but
I haven’t seen anyone do it yet. There’s a guy in the class that is. But otherwise, I think people are here
to hire veterans You are different. I think that there is a lot of
non-traditional backgrounds that come here, probably half, and I think
that with the time you have here and working with career management center and
talking to our peers and classmates that have been in these industries, you can
figure out how to shape the narrative that you need to then be able to
sell them on hiring you for the job. But a lot of it comes down to things
you’re good at which is being responsible, being diligent, being good planner,
getting things done, leading people. That’s been the message that reinforced to
me time and again since I’ve been here.>>To build on that,
there are professors here who are if you’re trying to break into
an industry, were better if going into. You conform relationships with definite
access to giving a shot during your summer or in any way. So Everything is possible.>>Yeah and I was actually struck by how
many veterans are in the local area and that intersection between Tech and
the GSB and all of the different things. For example, we just finished
this class called Hacking for Defense that pit a lot
of different students, whether it’s business background or law
school students or engineering students to tackle tough problems being faced
by the Department of Defense. So that’s really, really fun.>>Yeah.
>>See what the challenges were.>>Did you run in to any challenges during
your application process while being in a military and how did you overcome those?>>I’d say the biggest challenge was
translating my military experience into civilian lingo. Like far and away. And I never really had to do a resume. So that was something that
took me a lot of time. I had to do my research. I had to figure out how to translate
those things and sell myself. And I would definitely give
yourself enough time to do that.>>Yeah.
On that, there’s a couple secrets that are helpful
in terms of of doing that effectively, one is reach out to the Vet’s Club. We have veterans here, you can find
our e-mail, who are always willing and helpful with sort of talking through
the process more on the side, I mean I was helped by a veteran that
was a former graduate of here when I was trying to think about
my application process. So, for any school you’re thinking about
applying to, reach out to those resources. They’re there available and
waiting for you. We’ve all benefited from that and so
people are willing to pay it forward. Okay, how do you manage your
time to explore the various post MBA options available to you?>>That is- [LAUGH]
>>That’s hard too, coming up a few weeks away from graduation, so,
let me give you my personal example. I’m going back to the military and I still feel stressed about about when I
eventually transition out of the military. There are so many post MBA options that
I’m thinking, how do I make sure that I have all this sorted out in my head so I
know who to contact when that happens, and I can imagine it’s probably more stressful
for people who are entering the workforce. Right afterwards though, I think the thing is just to be willing to
be experimental right when you show up and to have contacts within the industry that
are people you can rely on later on, so.>>Yeah. Are there any classes? Or sorry, I’ll do this one, for
an enlisted marine retiring looking for diverse peer demographic compared
to a veteran heavy MBA program. Can you speak to the educational and
networking value?>>I can absolutely do that. I think one thing I’ve seen here is
that people are here to learn and they’re here to share their background and
experience with others. We have people in our class that, you
might be reading a case about the FCC and somebody will raise their hand and
say, I was actually a lawyer working there at the time and
[LAUGH] and this is what really happens. I mean, it could be anything, and somebody’s got some unique
experience to bring in there. That’s been fascinating, and there
are worlds I didn’t even know existed. So I think this gives us the opportunity
to really, really get out there and see what the world has to offer. In a way that I worry if I were at
a more veteran heavy organization, you might fall into some
of those old habits and patterns where we’re kind of racking and
stacking each other. And those kind of things happen. Maybe they don’t, but
I imagine they could, and I don’t have to worry about that here. And I really enjoy just just
learning from my peers, for sure.>>And I’ll reiterate too, the network for me has been the most valuable aspect
of part of this experience, by far. I’m just blown away by classmates and
they have experience, like you said, in so many different areas. And there’s just the collegiality here and
the willingness to either take a phone or to connect you with someone. It just really broadens the reach
what you can do with this places at Stanford platform.>>Totally agree.>>Okay, have you seen students with
families thrive at the Stanford GSB, given the competing demands of academic
rigor, social life and family life, well we have a new father here. And we have a mother as well so
I will sit this one out. OK so
I have 11-year old twin boys right now, [LAUGH] which I might have
the oldest kids here at the GSB. And so some of the things that made
me very ordinary when I was in the military like getting married young,
having kids young and being a parent Are absolutely
fascinating to others here. So, they just think I’m just superwoman. Which I am just paddling along,
trying to do my thing. And I’m also living off campus so,
that has been quiet the juggling act. But it is doable and I still feel like
I’m getting that GSBO experience and And Jacob’s got the whole other side of.>>Yeah, so
I have a three month old, Samuel. So for the first three quarters
of my experience here, I didn’t really have to
manage it that much. Now, being married and living off campus, like Valerie said,
I’m very close biking distance, but. It’s something you have to
negotiate in terms of how much of your day do you want to spend at the GSB. And also, how much do you want
to integrate your spouse or your partner in the GSB life. And I think because I
was just getting settled I didn’t INtegrate my wife as early
as possible into the GSB community. But then over time it happened, and we’ve realized we had this really
great set of friends here. And we’re going to be very
sad to leave afterwards. So, I think that answer’s going to
be different for everyone, and you just need to set up
the appropriate boundaries that allow both sides of your life
to Be really thriving.>>Wow, well,
we’re almost out of time today. Before we go, Valerie and Jake, any final
words of advice for people thinking about applying for Stanford MBA,
especially if they served in the military?>>I’d say don’t sell yourself short. Give it a shot. You never know what can happen.>>Yeah.
I think that there is value in experimentation and
reflection like I said earlier. So taking a couple years of your
life to invest Trust in you, and instead of actually rushing
right back into the workforce I think it’s helpful because you
identify what you’re really good at. And in a constrained world it’s much
better to do what you’re really good at instead of just trying to overcompensate
for something where you’re average. So.>>Yeah. Yeah, if I’ve got forty
years left to work, I really like the idea of taking
a couple of years to think about and test out all the different ways I can
go and then move forward from there. I would also say,
this is like a transition. It’s work. It’s a lot of work. I think when I got out of the military. I kind of got out knowing what I was
running from but not necessarily what I was going to and I had to really develop
and spend some time thinking about that. So I think when you’re in the lows of,
this is taking a lot of my time, how can it possibly be so hard to think so
much about these things and this process is incredibly complex
I would say that resoundingly it’s been worth it to get through that and to
keep pushing and to continue exploring and it’s, you know, there just a lot
of effort that goes into it but there’s a lot of upside
on the back end of that. So keep pushing. Great, well thank you both for
joining us and for everyone in the audience for
participating. You can learn more about the MBA
program on the GSB website. And the application for the class starting
in the fall of 2017 will be available in June, so
you’ve got a little bit of time. If you have questions
about the MBA program, you can continue to submit
them in the chat box. Staff from the MBA Admissions Office will
answer them for the next 15 minutes. Thanks again and have a great day.


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