Sep 15, 2014

Female, Veteran, MBA - An In Demand Combination

Jennifer Tietz is originally from Roselle, IL. She graduated from USNA in 2001 with a degree in Mathematics. She served as a Nuclear Surface Warfare officer. Additionally, she served as the Operations Officer in support of CARAT and Humanitarian Operations in the South China Sea, and served one shore tour at the US Naval Academy on the superintendent’s staff and as an instructor in the Mechanical Engineering department. Jen left the Navy in 2013 to pursue her MBA at Tuck, but remains a member of the US Naval Reserve. She spent her summer at McKinsey's London office. In addition to participating in AFAA, Jen started a food group “Tuck Tastes” and is the co-chair of the Tuck Volunteers club.

It was with no lack of trepidation that I left the Navy after 12 years of commissioned service. Multiple head hunters advised me that an MBA was not necessary and that Junior Officers were VERY employable. They showed me portfolios with proof they had placed people into jobs with notable finance and consulting firms. Many of my friends who had left the service went on to nice careers with defense contractors or government agencies. There was a wealth of viable options that seemed ‘safer’ than giving up full time employment for two years while seeking an MBA. Safe is tempting, but I’ve never really been known to take the safe option, and this case was no different.

I initially chose to pursue an MBA for several reasons:

  • I craved a ‘normal’ college experience, having gone to USNA for undergrad.
  • The network you develop in a full-time MBA program is just as valuable as the degree itself.
  • I knew VERY little about business and knew the classes and my classmates at b-school would help me learn enough to hold my own in a non-Navy related job.
  • I really did not know what I wanted to do as a post-Navy career (definitely not anything defense or government-related) and thought the recruiting experience at b-school would help me better understand what options were available and where my skills would be most useful.

Imagine my great surprise when I started the recruiting process for my internship and found out that companies absolutely love female veterans. From finance to consulting to brand management to general management, the appeal seemed to be universal. Most companies now have significant diversity recruiting programs including initiatives for women and initiatives for veterans, among others. Why, you might wonder? I wondered too and asked. Companies seek to hire more women because their customers and clients are women, and the companies recognize the utility in having the diversity of perspective women employees bring. Separately, companies seek to hire veterans, as they typically display a strong work ethic, adaptability, skill at solving complex problems, and capacity to thrive in a stressful environment. The combination of female and veteran, therefore, is incredibly valuable to recruiters.

On my recruiting journey, in addition to discovering how ‘in demand’ female veterans are, I also discovered that the consulting and banking jobs the Junior Officer head hunters had told me about were the very jobs my MBA classmates had left in order to advance to the next level.  It seems, if I had left the Navy and gone straight to one of these companies, it would have been at the analyst level and I likely would have had to leave for the MBA eventually (though I am certain there are exceptions to this at some companies).
The social aspect of business school is vastly different from being on deployment, a fact which I found truly refreshing!  It was initially bizarre to be in an environment where colleagues (classmates) date openly, where women are not worried about whether it’s an okay time to get pregnant, and where PT is done for fun, not out of necessity. Never before have I met so many people in one place who are bright, funny, interesting, and diverse. I admit, it has been wonderful to re-learn how to socialize in a (semi) normal environment!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, b-school has given me the opportunity to gradually transition from the military into business in an environment where it’s ok to ask questions, make mistakes, and show up in the wrong outfit. The skills I have learned have helped me transition from the hierarchy so prevalent in the military, to a more flat organization in consulting. I now enter the business world armed with my veterans network, my business school network, the confidence to succeed in just about any job, and the memories from an absolutely wonderful experience in Hanover, NH where I made lifelong friends, discovered so much about myself, and was able to share my many Navy experiences with an audience eager to express their appreciation for my service.