In honor of Veterans Day, Tuck Women in Business highlights Tuck women who have served or continue to serve in the military. Below, get to know Sarah Blatt T’21 who graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2007 and commissioned into the Army as a military intelligence officer.
The mission of Tuck’s Women in Business Club is to foster a community that enables women to achieve personal and professional success. To this end, WIB provides mentoring, networking, and career development throughout the Tuck experience. We also host an annual conference for prospective and current students, alumni, faculty and staff.
Current Role: Associate, McKinsey & Company
Role in the Military: Military Intelligence Officer, U.S. Army
I chose to pursue an MBA because I felt it was the path to open up options for me professionally and for my family to build the life we wanted. I needed a bridge to level up the skill set I didn’t get from my previous experience in wine sales or the army. I felt like the MBA would give me a network that would make me attractive to employers I otherwise would probably not be on the radar of. I felt that the Tuck MBA would give me a network I could lean on for mentorship and sponsorship for the rest of my career. It was just time for me to learn. I had been in direct sales. I learned a lot about wine. I knew a lot about army intelligence and army aviation. But ultimately, I was ready for a new learning challenge and to get back into a classroom with really intelligent people on subjects I knew nothing about. It was an exciting path to take.
I found out about Tuck from an army reserve buddy in San Diego. So, when I was selling wine in San Diego, I was still in the army reserves. We had a drill weekend once a month, and I came in on a Saturday, and I was just really frustrated. Professionally, I felt like I was waking up every day starting at 0 on 100% commission, which was exhausting. I’m the kind of person who always looks for a solution, and I just didn’t have one. This friend of mine said to me, “hey, I just got back from a program called ‘Next Step’ at the Tuck School of Business” I replied, “oh, that’s cool - what’s Tuck?” He told me about Next Step, an immersive two-week executive education program designed especially for veterans, Olympic athletes, and professional athletes transitioning from those career fields and hoping to get into business. I ended up applying for the program and was accepted.
I came to Tuck for the first time in March 2018. As part of the Next Step program, there was a career day. I was astounded by two things. Firstly, the number of Tuck alums that were incredibly senior at companies like McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, and Kaiser Health and who took the time to come back to campus to talk to us. It really underscored for me how much Tuckies care for each other, even those who have only touched the community for two weeks. Secondly, I saw veterans represented. I saw people just like me who had spent the last ten years of their lives at war and didn’t have any business skills, but here they were. It was then that I thought, if they can do it, I can do it. And the way that they did it was by coming to Tuck through the full-time MBA program. Tuck was the only MBA program that I applied to. I put all my eggs in this basket, and thankfully it worked out. Not a recommended strategy, but I am very appreciative of the fact that it landed.
From my time in the army, there are two things that I go back to when I think about this question. The first one is that as an intelligence officer in the special operations community, I definitely had more days than I would like to remember, where there was just far too much for me to do compared to the number of minutes in the day. Tuck intentionally creates a similar experience to this. It’s designed to make you decide and choose things, so I felt I came into the MBA experience confident in my time management skills. I felt confident saying that I knew there would be things I wouldn’t get to do and that there would be things I would fail at because of prioritizing other things. I know it wouldn’t be an accident and that it was a decision I would make and own. I felt confident in that very early on in the MBA experience because it reminded me a lot of being in the army.
The other aspect is more people. I have to be honest; I don’t feel like I have a perfect way to describe it. I think words like leadership, adaptability, and working well in ambiguous situations are all my experiences in the army. But how that actually came to life in my business school experience? I’m not sure, but I feel like it did. Because of who I am as a woman and a veteran, I formed strong friendships quickly with a diverse group of people. My time in the military helped me be comfortable in my own skin, allowed me to relate to others, and meet them wherever they were at the time.
I was very blessed and honored to be our class graduation speaker. And I put so much thought into that speech trying to answer this question that you have articulated: why would they choose me? Even after that reflection, I still don’t really have the words to describe how much of a blessing my military background is, even the really hard, difficult, painful moments of that background. It shaped who I am.
I was also exposed to loss and losing friends in the military, which kind of makes you grow up. I was already one of the oldest people in my class. But I came into Tuck with a sincere empathy for people. It’s like Harry Potter; they could only see the thestrals pulling the carriages once they had seen death. It’s a nice sort of visual analogy because there is this other tier or layer to yourself that is suddenly available to you. And I think that I was able to connect with people on levels differently than I might have otherwise had I not experienced the things I have.
Well, I doubled down on the time management thing. I didn’t play tripod, which felt sacrilegious at the time. In some ways, being a parent made certain choices really easy since my boundary was clear. I have a daughter and a husband whose lives I want to be a part of. So that means saying no to some things. And it made other things that much more special. I still remember the joy in my daughter’s eyes getting to walk around Stell Hall for the Tiny Tuckie Halloween Parade. And how much she was exposed to getting to know all the other kids whose parents were also in school. I love that she has these memories now.
I will also add I was one of two student moms. We were able to build a community, but it still felt lonely at times. I think the experience helped me even now as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. I’ve had repetition at articulating and giving voice to what it is that I need to be at my best. And one of the things for me that is non-negotiable is that I have to feel connected to my daughter, which means I need to shut my laptop, log off, and be present. Going through the educational process, the recruiting process, and still being a present mom was like two years of training ahead of this lifestyle of being a consultant.
Do it. Sometimes it can feel like you don’t bring anything to the table while sitting around a study group. You’re like, wow, one person was an investment banker, the other worked in consulting, and another has a deep background in biotech and pharma. And you feel like you’re only going to be able to buy pizza for the rest of the group. At least, that is how I felt, but it wasn’t the case. Military experience adds so much value. It impacts you; it affects who you are on teams.
I’d also tell others to commit to the growth mindset. I think we come in and have had extensive leadership experiences, so we know what we know well. But you come to business school to expand the aperture of what you know, so lean into that as much as you can. You are going to learn things that you didn’t even know that you didn’t know.
Sarah graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2007 and commissioned into the Army as a military intelligence officer. She served six years on active-duty service in support of aviation units based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Sarah deployed multiple times including five trips to Afghanistan as a task force member of the Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. In 2013, she transitioned from active duty and moved to California to begin a career in the wine world while continuing to serve in the Army Reserves in strategic intelligence units. In 2019, Sarah decided to pursue a full-time MBA at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. After graduation she will join the McKinsey & Company Boston office. Sarah lives in White River Junction, VT with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Grace. Together they enjoy cooking, movie-quotes, mountains & rivers.