A Military Veteran Talks About MBAs and Financial Firms

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We've been writing a few articles lately about the strong link between military training and a career in finance. And while a number of large financial firms are working on initiatives to hire veterans, what support is out there for military veterans looking to make the leap? So to find out, we decided to talk to a vet who left the Marines in 2009 and got his MBA, which is perhaps a first step for many seeking a career in finance. David, who doesn't want to reveal his last name, agreed to share how a military background can be helpful for a role in finance. He left active duty in the United States Marine Corps in 2009 with the rank of Captain. After a short stint at Booz Allen Hamilton, he enrolled in a full-time MBA program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and will be graduating in 2013.

eFinancialCareers: What led you to pursue an MBA after the Marines and how will that fit into your plan to pursue a career in corporate finance?

David: I decided to pursue an MBA after my active duty time in the Marines because I wanted to contribute to economic growth and job creation, and I suspected that an MBA from a top program would give me the tools to further this goal. In the process, I’ve discovered there are a wide range of opportunities for veterans that have earned an MBA. Right now my ideal post-MBA job is one where I can support business decisions by providing strategic and financial analysis.

eFinancialCareers: How do you see your business education building on your military career and benefiting you in a finance role?

David: Military veterans have extensive experience with strategic concepts like risk estimation and mitigation, as well as the ability to understand the intent and priorities of senior leadership and how an organization is structured to achieve its goals. The curriculum of an MBA program provides tools for quantifying the effects of these concepts. The combination of military experience and the tools attained in an MBA program are useful in most finance roles.

eFinancialCareers: In what way does military training and leadership relate to a career in finance?

David: There are many important lessons veterans gain from their military training. I have found that the finance profession equally values the military’s emphasis on integrity, accountability, team work and timely decision making. These traits can contribute to success in any organization and many veterans possess them. Military experience has honed the ability of veterans to make decisions amid uncertainty, which is directly transferable to the finance world.

eFinancialCareers: Why do you think there’s been so much interest in military veterans assuming finance roles, with such programs being initiated by J.P. Morgan or Veterans on Wall Street, the program being backed by Bank of America, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs, to help with career and business opportunities in financial services?

David: There does seem to be a strong interest from many top companies in military veterans. I believe this is because the military produces good citizens that contribute to society even long after they separate from active duty. Military veterans have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and businesses value the character associated with making such a commitment. While a career in the military is incredibly fulfilling and admirable, for those veterans transitioning from military service, the possibility of combining skills learned in the military with business fundamentals for a career in finance is another strong career option.

eFinancialCareers: What advice would you have for other military veterans looking to get an MBA and then on to pursue a career in corporate finance, banking or the investment world?

David: Those who transition from the military to finance are making a career change. I would encourage those veterans to explore the many opportunities available specifically to veterans, such as mentoring programs and career fairs. Many veterans have unique skills and experiences that both MBA programs and businesses value. It is also a good idea to connect with veterans who have already successfully made the transition and request their advice on how to best communicate unique skills on resumes and in interviews.

Editor's Note: The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) Web site offers information on how an MBA career can help to move someone from the military to a business post. The site also offers detailed narratives of veterans who opted to take an MBA path.