Another MBA question: Military transition

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Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by five2one » Sun Feb 24, 2019 10:38 am

Planning for my post military life and exploring MBAs to improve business savvy.
I’m considering Kansas University as it is local to me and looks like a good value.
I’m a combat arms officer (artillery) and would be a O-5 so a bit older at about 45.
It would be my second masters with my first being in management from central mich university.
At that age, I am very physically/mentally fit and looking for second career.

While I’m undecided about post mil career fields, I’m attracted to something in IT/tech, business development, banking/finance industry, or program management. Defense industry is also an option but I partly skeptical given military~ish culture that can follow given quantity of post mil employees and I’m concerned about institutionalized mentality.

That said, I have some knowledge in the various topics of those fields but no credentials and my banking/finance interest is a passing interest given the tangible/concrete nature of it. I dont have a desire to be office bound and am attracted to personal engagement and relationships aspect of business development. The IT/tech interest is from my current focus where I use various digital computer systems to support operations through analysis, recommendations to leaders, etc. The program management aspect is just from watching others transition with a similar profile. Not opposed to traveling nor relocation but would refuse high-threat areas (Iraq, Afghan, etc.).

The MBA would seek to bolster these currently unrefined skills and help broaden my understanding of business so I can plan a better path in a second career. Ideally, with the MBA, I can land a $90k minimum base (net) in non HCOL area and grow from there with $150+ after a couple years of reputation and experience built. I feel these numbers are conservative as my peer with a similar profile just landed a $120k base without an MBA as a PM.

Thanks in advance, This site has been a tremendous help for my understanding.

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Re: Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by dpm321 » Sun Feb 24, 2019 11:07 am

I retired as an O-6 from the Air Force in 1996, so my experience may not be currently relevant, but FWIW...

When I was job hunting (as an electrical engineer and highly experienced program manager/director), I found the biggest problem was getting non-defense firms to be able to equate military gained skills to commercial requirements. Most of them just can't relate. I believe this is especially true for a combat arms career. After 6 months I gave up on commercial tech firms and concentrated on the major defense contractors. With these firms it wasn't necessary to try and translate my skills and experience.

I, like you, did not want to do defense work. I wanted to work in more current and advancing development areas. Luckily, most of the major defense contractors have large non-defense efforts in various divisions. I was hired into, and eventually ran, a large international commercial business for a top 4 defense contractor, from which I am now also retired. Once you're in the door, your performance will speak for itself and, from my experience, will generally be far better than employees who have not been in the military.

With respect to the MBA my experience, getting hired and as a hiring manager, is that with your age and experience it will add little to your ability to get a decent job. A newly minted MBA will have little value in your case, in my opinion.

Good luck with the search.

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Re: Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by boglebrain » Sun Feb 24, 2019 11:57 am

This doesn’t exactly adddress your question but may help with networking and transitioning out of the military. LinkedIn offers 1-year free premium accounts and various learning programs that might be helpful:

Hope this helps. You can for example look in the Kansas area for firms that are hiring, find former veterans who made similar switches, etc. Note that many many firms will also be looking for people in the Midwest who can travel so searches just on Kansas may be too restrictive.

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Re: Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by warner25 » Sun Feb 24, 2019 11:58 am

I still have a ways to go before I start seriously thinking about post-military retirement as an O4 or O5, but I understand wanting to work in a totally different environment. I expect an uphill climb to get hired though.

Of the retirees I personally know, almost all have ended up in government or the defense industry. A couple guys got hooked up somewhere else through an old service academy buddy who had separated well before 20 years. One of those guys was at a prestigious management consulting firm after doing an in-residence MBA, but even he left for the defense industry after a couple years to get more money and a superior work-life balance.

My plan is just to save enough that I have the freedom to take a job I like regardless of what it pays at that point.

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Re: Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by Traveler » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:56 pm

How is the Master in Management you already have different from an MBA? Is the curriculum that different?

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Re: Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by corn18 » Sun Feb 24, 2019 1:20 pm

I retired as an O5 after 20 years in the Navy. I went the defense contractor route because I was very well connected in that world. Went into BD and loved it. Transitioned to running a division and loved that, too. Stashed right now in a SVP/Strategy/Capture job waiting for the right P/L to pop up so I can get back to running a company.

I have no recommendations or advice visa vie non-defense work. I can tell you the skill sets that are valuable right now: BD (aka your rolodex and its ability to generate revenue), program management, engineering (individual contributor and management) and anything to do with supply chain management and operations (lean 6 sigma and strategic goal deployment).

IT, finance and HR seem to be easy fills these days.

As for an MBA, I'm not sure it would help your resume, but being able to understand how a business works is important and could make a difference. If you can't read a balance sheet or understand the myriad acronyms that the bean counters throw around, you will be lost for a few years and not as effective. And I have found that the hunter/killer approach of a type A retired military officer is tool that has to be deployed in the context of business. Righteous and right alone will not win the day. Talking Orders, sales, EBIT, NFP, CAPEX, IRAD, ROIC, EVMS, CIP, DSO, DSH, RTY, FPY, WIP and everything else that matters to a for profit company can win the day. I don't have an MBA so I have no idea if they teach you how a business works or just how to count beans. If it does the former and it applies to actually running a business, then go for it.
Don't do something, just stand there!

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Re: Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by ModifiedDuration » Sun Feb 24, 2019 1:23 pm

Could Service to School be useful for you?

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Re: Another MBA question: Military transition

Post by mouth » Sun Feb 24, 2019 2:29 pm

I'm now in year five post-retirement from the AF as an O-4 Operations Research Systems Analyst (ORSA). Having been an ORSA meant the translation of my military experience was actually rather easy. But plenty of my transferable skills came from just having been a career military officer with some Staff time.

Your concern for an "institutionalized mentality" speaks to me and was a factor I considered. I had a job offer in hand from another company I knew very well in addition to my current employer. Great company, but too many former military that looked and sounded just like me. I wanted something different but I was worried about how a commercial client company might view my experience.

So I split the baby. I went with a Big-4 consulting firm with a culture built up from a non-military and non-government history that now has a very well established federal and military practice that's still only peppered with former military / civil-service members and a good but not overwhelming current guard and reserve population. Just the right mix to complement the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed undergraduate and graduate campus hires we bring in on a yearly basis.

Bottom line, I love it. I got to leverage 20 years of military experience to get a job but joined a culture that was an amazing breath of fresh air and still support the mission vice making widgets. Nothing wrong with widgets, they just aren't my jam ;-)

As to your question of an MBA, I'd have to see a resume to get a sense if you have enough transferable consultant-like skills to preclude the need for an MBA. But my gut says an O-5, even coming from combat arms vice acquisition for example, is still going to have some experience:

- Managing people and resources
- Driving schedules and deliverables
- Understanding federal rules and IT systems
- Interfacing with C-Suite level leaders
- Have at least rudimentary exposure to some portions of the PPBE process
- Supply chain experience, especially secure supply chain
- An active clearance!!!

All of that can get you a job right now, in this market, in most any Big-4 consultancy, and any of the smaller ones that aren't over populated with former military. Especially as you already have a graduate degree!!!

The real question is what specific skill / exposure are you missing to take you in the direction you want to go.

- You said IT. But are you looking to be hands on keyboard? If you are, then get yourself into a coding boot camp. If not, then you just need to show you know how to manage projects, timelines, expectations, and people. Maybe get some training and certifications on AGILE and a practical understanding of the software development life-cycle so you can manage one.

- You said, Finance / Banking. Are there any graduate certificate programs that can give you the nitty-gritty understanding you need? Any certs you qualify to pursue.

- You said Program management? Go get your PMP. I advise most former military already at my firm to skip the PMP unless there is a specific client requirement (it happens). But for those looking to get their foot in the door, it's a a nice set of letters to have to get that resume noticed. But it won't get you an offer, only the interview.

If you're military career really was just laser focused on being at the pointy end of the spear throwing rounds down range, and you never spent any time managing a program, doing staff work at the puzzle palace, commanding a support unit, serving as deputy base commander, etc, then yes, an MBA from a school with a good reputation for follow-on employment opportunities might be worth it (but I'm still skeptical). I suggest you look closely at their support for and record of post-graduation employment. Being a target school for employer recruitment is an important factor as is support for things like writing your resume and interview prep (beyond what you'll get in TAP) because not all are the same. The difference in preparedness between candidates I interview at George Washington University vs Georgetown is palpable!

But if that doesn't describe you, then an MBA might be wasted given your years of experience, maturity, and first graduate degree.

Or you can do what an O-6 I know did. He worked for about 9 months as a classic government contractor before he chucked it all in, bought a trailer, 5 lawn mowers, a few weed wackers, and started a law care business. He's never been happier!!!

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