4 Military Veterans Transition from Carlson MBA Program to Top Consulting Firms
“Right now is a great time to be a vet and get your MBA. Many companies are realizing the value that vets bring to the table.”
— U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dan Ochs, ’16 MBA
Despite their exceptional leadership skills, military veterans entering the civilian workforce often face difficulties finding jobs commensurate with their experience. Thanks to the Carlson MBA Program, veterans are building the foundational knowledge they need to break into business.
Increasingly, veterans-turned-MBA students are pursuing consulting to put their experience solving problems and leading teams to work.
“The military is the most intense leadership laboratory that exists in any profession,” says U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ben Gordon, ’16 MBA, who joins Bain & Co. after graduation. “Consulting is the closest thing to that in business: You’re moving into a new problem constantly, and you’re immersed in it with a team of really smart people.”
Building foundational expertise
Gordon is one of four military vets completing the Carlson Full-Time MBA Program this year and joining a top consulting firm.
“I think veterans are strong candidates and can perform well on the job because consulting relies on many of the skills and values vets develop in their military careers,” says Carlson Consulting Enterprise Director Sarah Gisser. “Specifically, consulting relies heavily on solving problems in teams and, at times, in intense environments.”
The students say the MBA program provided the business acumen they needed to compete with their peers—many of whom have more business experience or education.
“This was an opportunity to get the foundation we needed to start catching up to our peers and execute the way we know how,” says U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tom Marchant, ’16 MBA. He will begin his consulting career at Deloitte this summer.
“Once you catch up on those foundational pieces, no-one will ever catch you again," he says.
In only two years, the veterans have built a solid business foundation. They learned complex frameworks, practiced their presentation skills, forged a network of future business leaders, and so much more.
“The MBA program gave me the opportunity to spend some time figuring out what I wanted to do with my career and exposing me to a lot of different options. My MBA gives me ability to compete for the jobs I find interesting,” says U.S. Navy Lt. Angela Laird, ’16 MBA.
Field-tested leadership experience
Compared to their MBA classmates, the veterans bring an unconventional brand of management experience to the program. While many have never worked in an office, they’ve discovered their skills are extraordinarily applicable to business.
“When we were 24 years old, we were doing things that a senior vice president does in the business world,” says Gordon, as he describes the equipment, people, and missions he and his fellow vets have overseen in the military.
In the service, Laird was one of few women aboard a frigate—a smaller Navy ship. She was responsible for driving the vessel when the captain retired to bed at night. This experience, heading a male-dominated team to accomplish a mission, instilled invaluable management skills that she’ll utilize in her role at McKinsey.
“Growing into my own career in that environment taught me a lot about managing people,” says Laird. “I had to lead, get the mission done, and be successful as an individual and part of the team.”
The Carlson Enterprise advantage
Virtually all Carlson MBA graduates emerge from the program with 18 months’ professional experience in their chosen field. The four Carlson Enterprise programs (Brands, Consulting, Funds, and Ventures) challenge MBA students to solve real business problems for leading client businesses that expect real-world results.
“The Enterprise is all about teamwork, creative problem solving, and communication of ambiguous situations to your client. The experience of working in a team again in a civilian context warmed me up for my internship. It helped me leverage my skills and be aware of areas that I could push harder to build while in the internship,” says U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dan Ochs, ’16 MBA.
He was astonished that Carlson MBA students get access to the same career opportunities as students at Ivy-League business schools.
He remembers interviewing for a position with Deloitte alongside Harvard Business School alumni, and getting the job despite the concentration of talent in the room.
“You come here and you think the top-10 schools are going to dominate you,” he says. “But I realized you make your experience. If you want to get to one of these firms, you can do that if you’re the sort of person who is willing to work for it.”