Each week, JWMI profiles students and alumni in its new featured series “Winning Voices.” Learn about our diverse community and what sets our program apart from those who have experienced it. For more great “Winning Voices” content, click here.
Former Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
Based out of Lexington, KY, I am currently a Program Manager at Lockheed Martin charged with sustaining U.S. military ground vehicles both here and overseas. I follow the government acquisition regulations to find the parts required to maintain these vehicles. Also, my team and I manage several projects to upgrade the capabilities of existing vehicles and field new ones.
During a portion of my MBA journey, I was also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves as the Operations Officer and then Executive Officer of a 35-person unit overseeing the 13,000 Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve in 13 states in the Midwest. I recently retired after 27 years of active duty and Reserve service.
HAVE YOU EMBARKED ON ANY NEW VENTURES SINCE STARTING YOUR MBA?
Using what I learned in JWMI’s Entrepreneurship class, a partner and I started a small woodworking business, building furniture in my spare time. Now that I’ve graduated with my MBA, I have more of it.
The final project for the class was a business plan, and my research in developing it was directly responsible for my success in securing startup cash and funding. It also provided me with insight and confidence to know what to expect as our small business grows, how to navigate potential pitfalls, and how to expand our efforts in the future.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS LOOKING TO GET THEIR MBA?
Do it, don’t wait! Excuses will always be there and will hold you back—time constraints, parenting responsibilities, or hectic work schedules. Rip the Band-Aid off and just do it.
When I started this program, I had a job that required me to travel frequently, a second job as a Marine Corps Reserve Officer was coaching soccer and just started fostering (later adopting) two toddlers. My wife also started her Master’s program in Professional Counseling at the same time. To say we were busy and stretched thin was an understatement, but we made it work. You can make it work too!
AS A RESERVE OFFICER, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS IN THE MILITARY LOOKING TO TRANSITION OUT TO CIVILIAN LIFE?
Work with your professors; they are there to help you succeed. If you know, you are going to be TDY, in an exercise, or another military event that may limit your communication, work with your professors to ensure you can complete the required work. If you plan to be out of the country for a significant amount of time, you can take a term (10 weeks) off and pick back up again when you can complete the work.
I had my two-week annual training in Ft. McCoy, WI and lived in a barracks for that time. I found limited internet connections to complete my weekly discussion questions and projects. I relied heavily on the Blackboard app on my phone to help with peer responses.
All the professors were very understanding and able to work with me to ensure my success.
WHY WERE YOU LOOKING TO GET YOUR MBA?
Earning an MBA can open doors challenging to open otherwise. In some ways, it is necessary as a “check-the-box” portion of the application process.
In the beginning, I wanted to get an MBA to increase my marketability in the job market. As I researched programs, I realized working towards an MBA would also be an excellent example of goal-setting for my children. I kept this thought in my head throughout the journey, continually striving to be a good role model and demonstrating there are no limits to what you can accomplish.
HOW HAS THE JWMI CURRICULUM HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
The JWMI curriculum was not only applicable to my career but also in my other endeavors. As a Marine Corps Officer for over 25 years, I was amazed that I could apply learnings from my leadership class in my role as a Lieutenant Colonel. Those learnings easily transitioned as I evolved in my role to a civilian leader.
When I embarked upon my MBA, I worked for Tempur Sealy running their U.S. warehouse network. After the start of my MBA, my company recognized me for bringing more value to the organization and awarded me with added responsibilities.
The MBA helped me transition into my new role and company at Lockheed Martin, earning a promotion and salary increase. I am now responsible for almost $30 million in projects and manufacturing efforts. I actively apply JWMI principles and student learnings every day to help my organization utilize the best business practices.
DID YOU FIND THE CURRICULUM WAS IMMEDIATELY APPLICABLE?
It may be cliché, but as you’ve likely read in other profiles, the mantra of “Learn it on Monday. Apply it on Tuesday.” holds. I continually learned skills that I was able to apply at both my work at Tempur Sealy and Lockheed Martin. The instruction is geared towards practical applications to the student’s career, and the instructors are available to help you determine how best to do so.
In one instance, I met with executives and provided information based on research I had done just a few days earlier as part of a JWMI assignment. This information changed the direction of the proposed action plan and saved the company a large sum of money. The ability to make an immediate impact is real and helped me excel in my career.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE INTERACTIONS WITH THE STUDENTS WITHIN AN ONLINE MBA PROGRAM?
Learning from the diverse experiences of others from all over the world in class provided me insights of business practices I would not have regularly been exposed to. The varying student population included people from different industries and roles like government, non-profits, entrepreneurs, high-level executives, and everyone in between. It was a fantastic experience.
WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION OF JACK’S PRESENCE IN THE PROGRAM?
Jack’s presence in the program is both eye-opening and humbling. If a man as busy as Jack Welch has the time to dedicate this much effort into this program, how could I justify not giving my best and contributing to the weekly discussions?
Jack’s fingerprints radiate throughout the program, from his involvement in developing the coursework to his online video presentations and finally to his live Q&A video conferences.
He also brings to the school experienced leaders from notable businesses like Rosalind Brewer (former CEO of Sam’s Club and COO of Starbucks), Robert Johnson (founder of RLJ Companies and BET), and Warren Buffett (founder, Chairman, and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway) among many others with diverse backgrounds and experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed how these “Experts of Practice” expanded on the weekly topics and gave advice on how to implement them in your career.
LOOKING BACK AT WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT AN ONLINE PROGRAM WHEN YOU FIRST EMBARKED, WHAT WAS YOUR OVERALL IMPRESSION NOW? DID IT MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
I started my MBA with another school while still on Active Duty in 2003, but was unable to finish it when I left active duty in 2004. I was quickly mobilized to go to Iraq in 2005 and again in 2007, so I was unable to finish the MBA before my time ran out as the school had no online option.
I was determined to prove to myself that I could complete my MBA goal. I began looking for the best program that would meet my already crazy schedule and work demands. JWMI’s flexibility is what initially interested me as my frequent travels wouldn’t be a significant problem, merely a slight inconvenience. I frequently worked on my discussion questions or assignments in a hotel room at night, some I even completed on my iPad or phone. When home, I often finished my work in the wee hours of the morning as family or job commitments superseded my planned study time. But, being flexible and aware of your obligations and how much time is required to accomplish everything will help you get through successfully.
I observed my wife’s Master’s program. She frequently had to sit in front of a computer during scheduled class hours and listen to her professors read the lecture notes. We called this “death by PowerPoint.” JWMI’s asynchronous format allows the student flexibility to learn on their schedule and was a key benefit of the program.
Despite being an online program, I felt like I was part of a typical class. I was able to participate and learn from my professors’ and classmates’ experiences. The delay in online responses was a benefit as allowed for a more thoughtful exchange of ideas.
HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE JOB, FAMILY, AND WORK? WHAT STRATEGIES DID YOU IMPLEMENT TO GET IT DONE?
Anyone who tells you they don’t struggle on this one is either a brilliant multitasker or a mutant. It is challenging, but not impossible. I took one class my first term to try to figure out how to balance everything and get into a rhythm for work/life/school.
Sometime during my second term, I realized while it wasn’t easy, it was doable. You have to know when to make changes and keep your family, your boss, and your professors informed as “life” happens. My professors were terrific to work with when I gave them notice ahead of time that I had something else that was impacting my schoolwork. They were also very understanding when things just popped up, and I couldn’t give notice ahead of time. With my wife also in her Master’s program, we would trade off on home or kid’s sports responsibilities and work around any pop-up issues like work trips or military drill weekends.
You get what you put into this program. If you put in minimal effort, you will get very little out of the program. If you put in a significant quantity of energy, you will expand your knowledge and experience to a new level. The professors and your fellow students are excellent sources of knowledge and have a vast amount of experience you may never have seen before. Learn from them; maximize the opportunities in front of you.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE IN THE PROGRAM?
Being fortunate to be selected to participate in Jack Welch’s new student Q&A was the highlight of my civilian career (surviving two tours in Iraq was the highlight of my military career).
Learning straight from the master of business in the 20th Century, Jack Welch himself at several points along this journey is a unique experience that no other program can offer.
PLEASE SHARE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW STUDENT EMBARKING ON THE MBA JOURNEY?
JWMI is the best decision you could make!
I did a significant amount of research on MBA programs, and my choices came down to the University of Florida, the University of Kentucky, or the Jack Welch Management Institute. Looking at how each program was set up and the costs involved pushed JWMI to the top of my list even before I knew the level of Jack Welch’s involvement. Realizing this, sold me, and I immediately applied. The admissions staff was helpful, preparing me for what I was about to embark upon.
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