US military to H/S/W to buyside- AMA

Kurtz83's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 247

Just re-joined the full-time working world after two years at H/S/W caliber MBA program. Attended b-school after ~9 years in the US military working in the special operations community.

While in b-school, I did interviews for our admissions office and was responsible for leading our vets' club admissions efforts (to include resume and essay feedback).

Did IB over the summer but managed to land a buy-side investment professional role full-time.

AMA. I'm probably best positioned to offer thoughts on the b-school application process (particularly for older and or veteran candidates) and transitioning to finance as a career switcher.

I've gotten a lot of solid insights via WSO, figured I'd try to contribute.

Comments (76)

Jul 29, 2017

Good job man. Any cool stories from your spec ops days?

Jul 29, 2017

Lemme think about how to sanitize them. Was going to share the Rob Riggle "I Killed Bin Laden" video but WSO wouldnt let me

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Best Response
Jul 30, 2017

Just a heads up, "what's the coolest/craziest/worst thing you've seen" is probably the worst question to ask a vet. Especially special ops or any other forward deployed person.

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Aug 12, 2017
spinergy:

Just a heads up, "what's the coolest/craziest/worst thing you've seen" is probably the worst question to ask a vet. Especially special ops or any other forward deployed person.

hmm not really

The lame ones will blabber about some crap they went through.

The hardcore spec ops people will just casually smile at you at say nothing.

I trained in spec ops and my brother was in it for 20 years. He has never told me jack. He's just real casual and low key about it.

The only ones to worry about that you may be touching on is people with PTSD. They usually have a hard time processing and may not handle those questions well. I don't know, I've only ran into one guy with PTSD.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Jul 29, 2017

what was the recruiting process like for public equity buyside roles from top bschools? Any facts or figures would be appreciated.

What were weekends/social life like at bschool? Is the traveling every weekend overblown or do you actually have the flexibility to that if you want to?

Jul 29, 2017

Sure. So full-disclosure I didn't recruit for public equity (or credit) stuff so everything you are getting is secondhand.

One of my good buddies (also an older vet) landed an investing role at a Fidelity/BlackRock/TRowe. But he landed the internship for summer 16 and full time role for this year. My understanding is recruiting was very challenging for first years looking to that direction this past year. I was told this was because there's typically a 10% churn that those kinds of shops leaving for hedge funds, but that was not the case this past year so there weren't the usual number of open slots.

Re; weekends/ social life, totally individual dependent. I have friends who traveled every weekend. If you recruit for a mature industry like banking or consulting and sign early, you can basically do whatever you want as long as you do just enough work to pass. The people who were hustling for start-ups or buyside roles typically had a lot less free time.

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Jul 29, 2017

Thanks for sharing your experience.

How did you find the IB internship, was it as tough as WSO would have you believe?
Could you provide your reasoning why you chose to recruit for buyside instead of taking IB FT?
What was the timeline on securing the buyside position, was it in your second year?
And could you have got there without the IB internship, on your background alone?
How have you found joining finance as an older/more experienced candidate?

I could ask questions all day, but that is probably more than my fair share already.

Jul 29, 2017

How did you find the IB internship, was it as tough as WSO would have you believe?-
I don't know that it was tough per se, I didn't feel as though as I was over my head. The hours were pretty tame by banking standards from what I understand (75-80 hours/ week) but I think it was a slow summer.

Could you provide your reasoning why you chose to recruit for buyside instead of taking IB FT?-
I worked on a couple transactions for shops similar to the one I joined full time. I liked the sort of commercial/operational diligence they were doing to find/capture value, more than the financially weighted diligence the bank was focused on.

What was the timeline on securing the buyside position, was it in your second year?
I was pretty lucky here. I was able to have everything resolved by December. I think most people doing something similar didn't sign full-time offers until the spring.

And could you have got there without the IB internship, on your background alone?
Frankly, I'm not 100% sure. I benefited from school alumni contacts as well as contacts with people who had similar military backgrounds. I think that's probably why they called me back after looking at my resume. I think the transaction experience I got over the summer probably lent me some professional credibility and de-risked me as a hire.

How have you found joining finance as an older/more experienced candidate?
I have lots of friends who have done it successfully. Banks in particular have no issue hiring older candidates if they demonstrate commitment and willingness to learn. My sense is that most buyside shops aren't looking to train anyone on basic finance skills, which is the biggest impediment to hiring those without finance experience. I think I was successful because I demonstrated commitment to the specific sector my shop is focused on (as opposed to saying "I want to be on the buyside") and had put in time to develop a sector-specific knowledge base (think reading lots of trade publications and blogs).

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Jul 29, 2017

One follow up question, when you say that you worked on a couple of transactions at similar shops, was that at a part-time internship while at school, or how did you get that experience?

Thank you for the detailed replies, and for your service. I wish you all the best in your new career.

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Jul 30, 2017

Can you elaborate on the operational diligence you were assigned to do in your buy side role? Also if you don't mind me asking, what was your MOS?

Aug 1, 2017
Kurtz83:

How have you found joining finance as an older/more experienced candidate?
I have lots of friends who have done it successfully. Banks in particular have no issue hiring older candidates if they demonstrate commitment and willingness to learn. My sense is that most buyside shops aren't looking to train anyone on basic finance skills, which is the biggest impediment to hiring those without finance experience. I think I was successful because I demonstrated commitment to the specific sector my shop is focused on (as opposed to saying "I want to be on the buyside") and had put in time to develop a sector-specific knowledge base (think reading lots of trade publications and blogs).

What is your research process in term of finding out which sector your shop is focused on, which investments they have made in the past and to find trade publications and blogs to read on? There is so much data out there and I'm often intimidated by the process

Jul 29, 2017

No questions, but wanted to say thank you for your service and congrats!

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Jul 29, 2017

Thanks!

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Jul 29, 2017

What was your undergrad degree in and do you think admissions properly valued your military career as work xp?

Jul 30, 2017

Undergrad degree was in Economics, no honors track or anything like that. And quite frankly about as quantitatively weak as you could get with an Econ degree. That said, I did minor in a non-western language which didn't hurt.

Short answer on admissions valued military experience-YES. If you look at the Top 15-20 b-schools, vets trend around 5-6% of each class. Some people view that as valuing the experience, some view it as another diversity wicket to hit.

I can speak directly for my school- they actively attempted to understand what you did in the military and how you stacked up against peers in terms of military performance. What that translated to was a crop of vets that trended older, leaned in favor of military communities with up-front selection (special operations, pilots, nuclear engineers) and who had been very successful by traditional military evaluation metrics. There are a few different schools that seem to demonstrate this preference. Happy to provide more specific insight via PM.

Conversely, there are some schools that appear to place less emphasis on what you did in the military than on your undergrad institution and major.

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Aug 2, 2017

What were the schools you thought had the preference towards selective communities? I ask because you are one of the first people I have seen list nuke as a selective community when talking about MBAs. The fact that you came from the army is more surprising... Nuke is selective, but its a different kind of selective (strictly academics). In your opinion, have adcoms picked up on the navy nuke community?

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Jul 30, 2017

Were there/did you hear of people successfully applying for HSW with a foreign military background and converting that into a sell/buy-side offer? Might go the officer route if this recruiting season does not work out for me!

Jul 30, 2017

I personally know of plenty of Israeli and ROK veterans who have been very successful with both buy and sell side recruiting. The overwhelming majority of non-US vets at top b-schools come from those two nations.

I also know of one French vet who landed a very impressive buy-side role a few years back and an Aussie who had some buy-side opportunities.

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Jul 30, 2017

A someone who is in the military (reserves) but has never been deployed, would it be wise for me to reach out to some MBA level veteran's clubs, or would they not take too kindly to that since I haven't really had quite the experiences that a lot of combat guys have had?

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Jul 30, 2017

Definitely reach out- nothing ventured, nothing gained. Can't speak for other schools, but the vets' club I was a part of just wanted to help other vets rather than act as badge-protectors.

That being said, if you want to heavily leverage your military experience in your application you want to have a significant body of work. I'd be less concerned about deployment experience specifically and more concerned about what concrete accomplishments you can point in your application, especially relative to your peer group.

While looking at resumes, I saw a few from very junior reservists who just didn't have enough time in the seat to build up a significant military resume. No harm in that, but I also didn't pull any punches in letting them know that they probably needed some more experience to be competitive from purely military standpoint.

However, if you are a rockstar in your civilian career, reservist experience even if limited could be valuable to the admissions committee in setting you a part from similar candidates in your civilian occupation.

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Jul 30, 2017

How elite was your spec ops unit? How does this compare to Israeli Special Forces?

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Jul 30, 2017

I dunno what the WSO metric for elite-ness is? Halfway between Gordon Gekko and Patrick Bateman?

I didn't want to get too far afield with the military stuff, but I did type "AMA". So to clarify, US Army Special Forces, popularly referred to as Green Berets.

I'm not terribly familiar with IDF special operations forces (haven't worked with them) but the mission set seems similar to some of the Commando Brigade ("Oz?") sub-units.

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Jul 31, 2017

Very interesting, thanks

Jul 30, 2017

Spec ops to H/S/W to buyside? Can I have your autograph? (been asking this too often lately...)

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Jul 30, 2017

Gratz, doing reserve/guard?

Jul 30, 2017

I did during b-school. I enjoyed it and it helped out financially, esp from a health insurance standpoint (I'm married with two kids). Happy to discuss further via PM as there are a few different things I'd recommend thinking about if you are considering it.

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Jul 30, 2017

I'm a couple years behind you, but I have a few questions. One thing I notice about the top programs is that everyone seems to be special forces or officers. I'm in logistics for a helicopter squadron, and deployed twice for 7 months each to Korea. I get out in 25 days (not like I'm counting or anything) and want to apply for a top MBA program in December. Haven't taken my GMAT yet, but I'm not worried about that. I'll study hard, but historically I kill every big test like that. I'm worried about the fact that I'm enlisted, the fact that I'll be 24 at the time of applying, and my school I'm coming from. I didn't know I wanted to attend a top school for my graduate, and attended a very popular school for military, Saint Leo. Private and accredited, but it's a no name. That being said, balanced deployments with it, and finished in 2.5 years with a 3.93. Although I'm in logistics, I did make E5 in two years. Getting out right as I'm up for E6. Will my youth and school choice be the holes that sink my application, or am I over judging those few parts of my application?

Jul 30, 2017

I don't think those factors sink your application at all. I'd be lying to you if I said every top school historically accepts a large number of enlisted applicants. That said, a number of the top schools recognize the value that prior enlisted students add to a class and admit some every year. Darden, Booth, Fuqua, Wharton and Columbia fall into this category.

If you crush the GMAT (think north of 710) undergrad brand name is a lot less of an issue. Undergrad brand name is also a lot less important if you have a STEM undergrad degree.

For incoming vets, unless you are coming from a highly technical field (which could be the case given you've worked in aviation logistics), academically their primary concern is that you won't fall behind and/or fail out. Not that they want dumb vets, but admissions committees see leadership and management experience as the value drivers that vets contribute to a class.

Most compelling pieces advice I can offer are 1) ensure your success relative to your peers is very clear on your resume (NCOER rankings) and 2) have a strong narrative about how your experiences will add to the class.

Happy to discuss further via PM.

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Jul 30, 2017

Hey Kurtz -

Congrats on the awesome path to success! Can you comment at all on what your experience was having a family while in b-school?

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Aug 1, 2017

I could write a book on this topic. Short answer is it's still a very doable and professionally/personally rewarding experience but obviously requires some additional planning considerations.

Cost is obviously a factor. It's not a coincidence that schools in less urban areas like Tuck, Fuqua and Darden have higher concentrations of families. Roughly 4% of my class had kids (mosty vets or LDS) and there was a tightly knit community to socialize with even if it wasn't large.

Class and recruiting-wise, you've obviously got less free-time. I didn't find this to be a huge disadvantage though, because single MBAs are busy traveling, getting drunk regularly and participating in a bunch of clubs. Not that I didn't consume my fair share of beer, but by not participating in intramural ice hockey until 3 AM on a Tuesday, I found that I had the necessary time to keep up in class.

I think the biggest consideration in going to b-school with a family is its effect on your career options. Some people would argue it's limiting, I'd argue it just requires one to plan ahead and be willing to assume some risk. "Mature industry" recruiting (read as banking, consulting and traditional MBA-recruiting corporates) takes place fairly early and at pretty well-defined intervals. VC, PE, HF et al and tech/startups often don't start offering summer internships until the end of year 1, after all the safe bets are gone. Same thing with full-time offers in year 2. So if you are married with kids and want to pursue VC/PE/HF or sexy tech stuff, understand that you need to have the risk tolerance that permits to go into the spring of your second year with a job in hand.

I was really lucky that I got my offer earlier than that because the shop I went to had some specific projects they could forecast manning needs for.

Honestly, the majority of older, married vets at b-school end up going the consulting route in part I think because it's extremely predictable from both a recruiting timeline/offer standpoint.

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Jul 31, 2017

Thanks for doing this. Were you officer or enlisted?
I'd just add one caveat for WSO: spec ops guys are (rightfully) looked at differently than other vets by MBA programs and Wall St.

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Aug 1, 2017

NP- officer

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Jul 31, 2017

been said before, but thanks for your service. I grew up in a military town and it can't be overstated what the armed forces do.

with that outta the way, I'm curious about a couple things:

  1. any deployments?
  2. do you miss the military? been listening to some interviews of vets and they all seem to miss combat, miss deployment, and miss the military.
  3. why not be a career Green Beret? I'm unfamiliar with the process, so I don't know if you were pushed out or if this was your choice.
  4. what part of the investment world are you working on? all you said was buyside, so I'm curious what sector you're working in and what attracted you to it.
  5. talk about discipline and how it's helped you. very few on WSO have been through the training you've been through, but I'm a firm believer that the reason vets (especially spec ops) have success in the corporate world is because of their discipline, so I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this.
  6. sensitive subject so feel free to pass on this one. I'm curious about PTSD. I've heard everything from it's a bigger issue than we think to it's way overblown. want to get your opinion.

thanks!

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Aug 1, 2017

any deployments?
Yes, a bunch to a variety of places both inside and outside combat theaters in the Middle East

do you miss the military? been listening to some interviews of vets and they all seem to miss combat, miss deployment, and miss the military.
I miss a lot of things about it, but there's a lot of things I don't miss. I miss my teammates and getting to do really cool stuff. I don't miss spending 9-10 months/year away from my wife and kids (well most of the time) and I don't miss working for an large, bureaucratic institution with very mechanical HR policies.
why not be a career Green Beret? I'm unfamiliar with the process, so I don't know if you were pushed out or if this was your choice.
I got to the point in my career where I was about to become what we referred to as a "Former Action Guy". I was about to spend a lot of time in windowless rooms updating powerpoint slides for senior officers.
what part of the investment world are you working on? all you said was buyside, so I'm curious what sector you're working in and what attracted you to it.
I'm speaking elliptically not to act cloak and dagger, but some level of anonymity allows for more candor. I'm at a privately held shop backed by a few well-capitalized family offices with both robust trading and longer term principal investing capabilities
talk about discipline and how it's helped you. very few on WSO have been through the training you've been through, but I'm a firm believer that the reason vets (especially spec ops) have success in the corporate world is because of their discipline, so I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this.
I think discipline is essential, regardless of your background. I don't want to get too dramatic about it though. I guess the way I think about discipline as I've been able to apply it in b-school/work so far is: 1) look at a problem far enough in advance to plan ahead ( or identify likely problems that will arise on short notice) 2) prepare accordingly 3) not panic 4) do what it takes to solve the problem and 5) rinse, wash, repeat. I get that the above are easier said than done, but I would say, everything is easier when 1) you plan ahead and 2) you have a routine.

sensitive subject so feel free to pass on this one. I'm curious about PTSD. I've heard everything from it's a bigger issue than we think to it's way overblown. want to get your opinion.
Way too big a topic to discuss here. Short answer is that its a very real thing but it manifests itself differently in everybody who suffers from it.

On a related note, I highly recommend reading "Tribe" by Sebastian Junger. It started as an effort to figure how to better integrate returning service members but goes a lot deeper into social/organizational stuff that I think a lot of people who aspire to leadership roles would benefit from.

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Aug 1, 2017

thanks for sharing! understand your desire for anonymity.

Aug 3, 2017

Haha, knowing how the military likes its jokes and acronyms, I can't imagine the label "Former Action Guy" was purely coincidental. My buddies who were in the military have some of the best and most hilarious terms and insults. Always get a kick out of them.

Jul 31, 2017

Kurtz83 - I have the same background 11/18 series. I was wondering if I could ping you for some advice? I didn't go to a target MBA program and started working in corporate finance immediately. Think buy-side due diligence, market research, risk management, cost structuring, etc. Looking to transition to IB and was hoping for targeted guidance. Thanks.

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Jul 31, 2017

Nothing to ask, but thank you for your service and sacrifice. Sounds like you will carry on the same work ethic and results in civilian life.

Jul 31, 2017

Must have been an incredible journey, big thank you to you (and your family) for your service.

After 9 years in the military I'm assuming you're +30 (you don't have to be specific with the exact number).
1.) Where do you think you were in your class with regards to age?
1A.) Were you older, younger, around the average?
1B.) How did the age dynamic affect the class?
1C.) Did you find the older students had more to contribute?

2.) Did you find it hard to pick up academics being older and coming straight out of the military?

Why I'm asking: I've been trying to characterize a timeline for myself.

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Aug 1, 2017

1) probably 75th-85th percentile age-wise graduating at 33
1B) Age didn't affect the social dynamics so much as being married with kids did. I had a vet buddy who was a 34 year old divorcee. I promise he got his money's worth from the social scene.
1C) I don't know that the older students had more to contribute. I think students with a broader set of experiences had more to contribute. A lot were older, a lot weren't. For me the big surprise was how little a lot of US students from very prestigious undergrad institutions had traveled or were familier with non-North American/Western European cultures.
2) Academics weren't that bad in large part because I committed the time to them. I think my academic experience was a lot smoother than some of my older and non-quant classmates because I put in some hours ahead of my first semester learning how to manipulate excel and familiarizing myself with basic accounting. Those two things are huge timesavers.
I also think there's value in reviewing basic stats too.

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Jul 31, 2017

Thanks for your service, @Kurtz83 . I have a lot of military family, some green beret, and I know it's tough to get to where you are now.

The combination of your background and username rings another bell, as well. Do you prefer the original, or redux?

http://sites.psu.edu/jmrrclr1b5/wp-content/uploads/sites/744/2013/03/apocalypse_now_58477-1400x1050.jpg

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Aug 1, 2017

Love 'em both. I guess I'd go with the original Conrad. Although I've had plenty of Martin Sheen mornings where the mirror winds up broken. Either way my methods have always been unsound.

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Apr 30, 2018

Pm'd for specifics

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Aug 1, 2017

Definitely have some thoughts. PM may work best for some specifics, but do you have a direction you are leaning with those three?

In general I saw that the non-US banking offices wanted to see commitment to that city and the products they dealt with. It helps if you have a thoughtful narrative for that. If you are going to Houston it needs to involve oil and gas. There's a very strong vets network though which I understand to be very helpful.

I think Chicago can be tough if you aren't at Booth or Kellogg, just because there's a number of strong candidates on the ground who have a leg up just by virtue of proximity.

I know there's a lot of vets in Charlotte, particularly at Wells and a couple of boutiques. I know Wells is aggressively trying to grow vet numbers, so I'd try to leverage that.

Aug 2, 2017

Close friend of mine is a group guy, +1 to you and your success.
I actually enlisted as an 18x, turns out I don't see 20/20 corrected, found out four weeks into Sand Hill, and wasn't a PRK candidate. Sent home with an entry level separation, re-1 after around 120 days in. Reception/SandHill/Holdover/RHU. I always have dreams of getting PRK, finally my eyes have calmed down, and re-enlisting in the Texas NG as a Rep 64 and joining 19th Group.

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Aug 2, 2017

Thanks man- medical review boards can be rough.

If its a serious future consideration though, all it takes is one doc to say yes though. My college roommate originally couldn't join a combat arms branch when he commissioned because he was color blind. He eventually found a way to "pass" the test and spent 4 successful years as a team leader.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Aug 3, 2017

Kurtz83,
Solid job man. I too am trying to do the same as you. I come from the same background, except from the Marine Corps side of the house (all of our Corpsmen are 18D). I've recently taken the opportunity to instruct at our combatant dive school. Starting a year and a half ago, I started college at UMUC. I know its no Harvard or UPENN, but it offered me the Finance major I was after. I've been keeping up with a few of my buddies who got out and are going to HBS or Intern/Full time at a current IB job. My question for you is that recently, through the powers of instructor duty, I was offered the PTAD time required to intern for summer '18 or '19 pending acceptance from a banking institution. With that, considering my background, active duty status and current enrollment as a full time student; do you see someone like myself being accepted into a summer internship program? Or can you offer any insight to a resume that may be somewhat mirrored and how to tailor that to appeal to IB internship programs? Thanks for reading my post and hopefully we can get a beer one day.

Aug 3, 2017

Dive school- better you than me. Volunteered to go, they sent me to free fall instead- can't complain.

Happy to help, looking forward to a beer. PM for specific guidance on the resume, happy to take a look/share mine/etc. Can also connect you to some 18Ds who have made the transition so you can hear how they worded performing DREs to sound like leadership experience. In all seriousness, one of the 18Ds who served with me was a year behind me at B-school and is launching a start-up. I know another 18D who works in LevFin at WF in Charlotte and has been successful helping undergrad vets land internships.

Re: internships, I'm sure you can land something. Not sure how it would work within the banks, but there are definitely people out there who'd be willing to figure it out. I'd pound the pavement with the USMC-specific network as they have some senior folks who are pretty aggressive about helping transitioning Marines. Goldman VIP has typically been the gold standard for vets' internship/transition programs in terms of getting vets into actual front office seats, but I think you may need to have completed your undergrad already- I'd double check that. Over the last year, I believe WF has started really pushing a similar program and has set it up so that those who are still working on undergrad degrees can intern. I'd also look into JPM and BAML-fairly certain they have programs, but don't know the details.

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Aug 4, 2017

Did you have a plan B if you didn't get into a top 10 type school? Was it resident MBA or bust?

Aug 4, 2017

I applied to 5 schools in the Top 10-15 depending on how your rankings work. I had a few close friends 1-2 years ahead of me in the Army recently get into similar programs and I was able to basically compare my application line by line. As a result I was fairly confident I was going to get into at least one.

I also applied Round 1, so I had material teed up if I had to apply to other places Round 2. To be honest, I really hadn't gotten as far in my thought process as what happened if I went to Round 2 and came up dry. I did always have it in the back of my head that I could pull my resignation packet at the last minue if I needed to (not sure if that's true or not).

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Aug 4, 2017

Do you mind sharing of your stats and outcomes (apps, interviews, acceptance)?

Aug 5, 2017

Kurtz83,

Thanks for doing this. How do you guys look at National Guard/Reserve applicants who have regular jobs and only do the 1 weekend/month 2 weeks/year commitment? I'm asking because I'm thinking to applying to T15 schools with around ~7 years service and 1 deployment and 3 years of industry work?

Thank you!

Aug 6, 2017

So at least where I was, military experience and civilian experience were assessed as two different components of the same application by the admissions committee. I can speak less to how our admissions committee viewed civilian experience by reservists.

That being said, my sense was that once you got beyond the 3 year mark with either military service or civilian employment, length of time in the job wasn't important- track record of success relative to peers was. You want your resume to demonstrate that you have track record of being in the top tier of performers and have resume bullet content that reflects that. They basically want you to be an overachiever regardless of the field.

Nov 9, 2017

Thank you!

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Aug 8, 2017

You won't have zero FT experience - the military counts as work experience. The special operations community is looked at favorably by MBA adcoms.

Aug 12, 2017

So my recommendation would be first and foremost to focus on the goal in front of you. I can tell you from personal experience (and I imagine your SEAL mentor would echo the sentiment) that joining (insert service of choice here) and then succeeding at the pipeline for (insert special operations community of choice here) requires you to focus all your efforts on that. I'd be lying if I said that nobody in the history of US special operations didn't succeed at making it when their primary goal was to pad their resume. However, those guys with that mindset that do make it are sniffed out pretty quick by their teammates, generally aren't successful team members and generally don't feel fulfilled by the experience.

Next to being a father, I'm prouder of my time spent on two ODAs than anything else I've ever accomplished. I savored every minute of it and would rewind the clock and play it on loop if I had the option. I doubt I'd feel the same way if I had gone into the whole thing viewing it as a stepping stone to business school. I saw business school as an exit strategy and broadening professional experience when the Army told my time on the ground was coming to a close.

Not to get too sentimental on this, but this is a favorite quote from the community I came from that encapsulates the mindset. I figure this audience would appreciate it.

"Men, Special Forces is a mistress. Your wives will envy her because she will have your hearts. Your wives will be jealous of her because of the power to pull you away. This mistress will show you things never before seen and experience things never before felt. She will love you, but only a little, seducing you to want more, give more, die for her. She will take you away from the ones you love, and you will hate her for it, but leave her you never will, but if you must, you will miss her, for she has a part of you that will never be returned intact.
And in the end, she will leave you for a younger man."
James R. Ward, OSS

Aug 12, 2017
Kurtz83:

So my recommendation would be first and foremost to focus on the goal in front of you. I can tell you from personal experience (and I imagine your SEAL mentor would echo the sentiment) that joining (insert service of choice here) and then succeeding at the pipeline for (insert special operations community of choice here) requires you to focus all your efforts on that. I'd be lying if I said that nobody in the history of US special operations didn't succeed at making it when their primary goal was to pad their resume. However, those guys with that mindset that do make it are sniffed out pretty quick by their teammates, generally aren't successful team members and generally don't feel fulfilled by the experience.

Next to being a father, I'm prouder of my time spent on two ODAs than anything else I've ever accomplished. I savored every minute of it and would rewind the clock and play it on loop if I had the option. I doubt I'd feel the same way if I had gone into the whole thing viewing it as a stepping stone to business school. I saw business school as an exit strategy and broadening professional experience when the Army told my time on the ground was coming to a close.

Not to get too sentimental on this, but this is a favorite quote from the community I came from that encapsulates the mindset. I figure this audience would appreciate it.

"Men, Special Forces is a mistress. Your wives will envy her because she will have your hearts. Your wives will be jealous of her because of the power to pull you away. This mistress will show you things never before seen and experience things never before felt. She will love you, but only a little, seducing you to want more, give more, die for her. She will take you away from the ones you love, and you will hate her for it, but leave her you never will, but if you must, you will miss her, for she has a part of you that will never be returned intact.
And in the end, she will leave you for a younger man."
James R. Ward, OSS

Pretty good quote, bro.

Did you ever try out to be a Tier 1 asset (Delta) or was that too demanding with a family?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Sep 10, 2017

Great AMA, congrats on reaching your goals to-date and continued success going forward! Currently an active duty-O, service academy UG, on deployment, and now considering FT MBA in addition to EMBA programs (Haas/Wharton) in SF. I'll be 33 if matriculating in 2018 to a FT program. Previously only considered EMBA programs due to age while doing another 2 yrs active (plan on doing reserves till 20 regardless). Appreciate insight to any of the following Qs:

  • Why did you choose the FT program versus PT?
  • Looking back, would you have considered say Wharton EMBA v Wharton MBA program while maintaining a military salary?
  • What made you choose finance after the military?
  • Besides GMAT differences, what military applicants "stood-out" from their peers from your admissions exp?
  • From an admissions/mba experience standpoint, any difference from a 33 or 34 first year student?
  • What fields did your fellow vets enter post-mba?
  • Assuming post-mba job on the West coast, is M7 better than USC/UCLA level?
  • What top advantages did your entrepreneur classmates get from their MBA?

Thanks in advance for your insight. I'm happy to discuss specifics via PM if that's best.

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Oct 1, 2017

Again sorry for the delay in reply. Replies in bold below:

-Why did you choose the FT program versus PT? Honestly I didn't think about a PT program- it may have been a better option if I had been able to land a FT role at a firm I wanted to be at long term. I did have a few friends I served with who had made the transition to a FT MBA program at the same career juncture as me, so I had an easy template to follow

-Looking back, would you have considered say Wharton EMBA v Wharton MBA program while maintaining a military salary? I would have certainly considered it if I felt like I could have set up a job in the military that provided me the necessary flexibility. However I don't think I would have qualified for all the VA benefits if I was still on active duty, making it a wash financially

-What made you choose finance after the military? I studied econ as an undergrad and found markets interesting. It also struck me as the path where I'd learn the most relative to my experiences in the military (vs an operations or consulting role)

-Besides GMAT differences, what military applicants "stood-out" from their peers from your admissions exp? All the standard stuff that sets one apart as an overachiever in the military- awards, evaluation rankings etc. Beyond that, taking the time and making the effort to develop a well-thought out, actionable set of transition goals. The guy who says "I want to work as a tech banker at firm XYZ because of recent success with IPO ABC" gets a lot further than the guy who says "I want to go into finance because I like numbers"

-From an admissions/mba experience standpoint, any difference from a 33 or 34 first year student? nope

-What fields did your fellow vets enter post-mba? Very heavy consulting focus (70%) and then an equal mix of operations, finance and tech

-Assuming post-mba job on the West coast, is M7 better than USC/UCLA level? Depends on the industry I think. Geographic proximity makes it easier to develop connections at local offices. Also smaller shops tend to recruit more locally and are more likely to have alumni connections. As somebody who recruited in a city that was a plane flight away, it can be tough to maintain rapport over a distance if the particular city/industry you are looking at doesn't have a strong alumni base. That said, the vets' network is huge if you find yourself in this situation. I attribute my success directly to leveraging that network
-What top advantages did your entrepreneur classmates get from their MBA? This is something I don't have much firsthand expertise with. From the perspective of somebody who DIDN'T go the entrepeneurial route, I think the primary advantage my entrepeneurial classmates derived was the necessary credentials and polish to pitch to investors. That's a very critical skill though and probably justified getting an MBA. Personally, I'm just skeptical that an MBA is going to fully prepare one for running a business the day after graduation

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Oct 2, 2017

Great insight, thanks!

Sep 10, 2017

Thanks for posting this sir. How old is too old when coming out of the military... not only for MBA programs but for landing jobs In IB and consulting? I've always been told that consulting is a bit more open to the idea of older candidates, but both fields love ex Military. I'm asking because by the time I get out of my service agreement I should be in the 35-37 age range... which means I wouldn't be starting a new career until Just under 40. I know that HSW loves candidates young, but what about some of the other schools like Tuck, Duke, Michigan, Yale etc? Just trying to get an idea what the landscape is going to be like, because I always told myself I would go back and get a top 25 MBA.

Dec 7, 2017

I got accepted to at least 1 top 5 school this year at 33, and will be 35 at graduation. I have friends at about the same timeline that have taken Consulting or IB jobs post graduation, so I think age is more of a personal factor shaping what jobs people take and not something companies filter for.

I may sound like a jerk saying this, but I mention it for your own good and because I spent the last 3 years of my flight contract counting the days until I could get out and go to grad school. If you are this focused on what your career will be in 12 years AFTER getting out of the Navy, you will probably hate your life at about year 5. I also have serious doubts about your ability to make it through flight school, let alone get your choice of platform. I would expect a person in your position to be spending their free time on Airwarriors, Baseops, F-16.net and sites like that drinking in as much as you can about military aviation. If you aren't that into the field right now, I think you should take that as a sign.

Feb 19, 2018
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Feb 21, 2018
Sep 2, 2019