Since a young age, Joe Castro has sought out the sense of structure and community he lacked growing up.
“I came from a situation where my parents were largely out of the picture when I was about 13, so I became emancipated when I was young,” he says. With the help of his youth soccer coach and the structure provided by the sport, Castro successfully completed high school and found himself attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) on a soccer scholarship. “What I didn’t realize then, that I could only appreciate several miles down the road, was that that soccer scholarship gave me access to the Merchant Marine Academy, which not only gave me another layer of structure that I desperately needed but also yielded a career and a sense of community that I had previously lacked,” he notes.
With a degree in supply chain management, he went on to serve 10 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as the regulatory compliance manager for all port terminals in New York. “I really cut my teeth during Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York particularly hard. The relationships I developed with outside stakeholders in the port helped us avoid a Katrina-like scenario,” Castro says. Later, in 2016, he was asked to return to USMMA as an instructor and a recruiter for the Coast Guard — an opportunity he jumped at.
While back at USMMA, Castro had the chance to create the “same opportunity vehicle that launched my career,” he says, by starting the school’s first women’s soccer team. For Castro, the experience demonstrated how he could have an impact outside of the military, opening his eyes to the fact that there are other ways to serve. With both a desire to serve and to get to a place where he could influence strategy within an organization, he set his sights on an MBA — with The Consortium as his clear path.
“I think my ambition to get an MBA really mirrors the same motivations that drew me to the military initially, and that was the structure. It’s a very well-paved path. I have a passion for community, lightening the burden of others and solving big problems,” he says. “This is why being a Consortium fellow above all was the most important objective when I was applying to schools last year. My entire M.O. is about giving back.”
Now a Consortium fellow and first-year MBA at the University of Washington (UW) Foster School of Business, Castro has found his community and his stride. Not only is he on his way to achieving the professional life he dreamed of, but in The Consortium, he has also found the opportunity to be of service to others.
“The most important thing for me was to be a part of something, an idea, a mission bigger than myself, more than just getting a job and career transitioning — and that was The Consortium. So, as a first-generation Mexican American, one of the things I’m really looking forward to is being a hyperactive Consortium fellow throughout the rest of my career.” says Castro. “Making a big career change is already nebulous enough; it’s extra challenging when you’re the first one in your family to do it. It’s really rewarding to help others traveling down the same unique path you once took.”
Drawn to Foster because of its small community and its focus on tech, Castro says he wants to learn to make better decisions using data, going beyond the tactical to the strategic — something he believes his military background and knowledge of supply chains have prepared him well for.
“Applying what I learned in the military about making calculated risks, I want to learn more about the quantitative machinations that underpin those decisions at the strategic level,” says Castro. “I want to be better at making strategic decisions with data, using data to guide, but also learning how to interpret the data — particularly [with regard to] correlation versus causation.”
He’ll have the opportunity to do all this and more at the tech giant Apple next summer, when he’ll complete an internship. As a member of the company’s Worldwide Readiness Team, Castro will help drive Apple’s global product launches for 2022.
“The mission’s pretty clear; it’s making sure these products all launch successfully and that we mitigate as many problems as we can, but at the same time, expecting the kinds of questions we’re going to get from suppliers, consumers and retailers, anticipating what those challenges are and getting in front of them before they become a problem,” he says. “I don’t think I’ll ever have a boring day. I’ll be working with some pretty amazing people, at an incredible company that has revolutionized the way we all live today.”
Castro credits his preparation for The Consortium’s Orientation Program & Career Forum (OP) with helping him land the internship at Apple. Advised to select one career track, he chose consulting, tailoring his resume to fit his new focus, with help from career consultants and others at UW. “Because I was so prepared for consulting and practiced so many iterations of interviews over the summer, I think that helped me get noticed by Apple,” he says, “because what Apple ended up doing was pulling my resume out of the OP pile to interview for this one slot. By the time they reached out, it was three weeks after OP, and I had the hindsight of that experience to prepare me even further.”
Castro says the opportunity is a dream come true, as he’s always been drawn to Apple and its values. His goal is to give his all to the company and to ultimately secure a full-time, long-term role there, before one day coming full circle — similar to how he did in the first part of his career — to share all he’s learned by teaching at a business school. “I think that that would be a really rewarding path,” says Castro.
More importantly, though, he plans to be very active with The Consortium as he hopes to increase opportunities for those from similar walks of life — “whether that is going back to coaching in the community, coaching sports, or finding ways to connect with youth to help put them on the right track, because we all need that,” Castro says. “I needed that when I was younger.”
Although his journey hasn’t been easy, he says it’s been worth all of the hard work he’s put in. And, as part of his service to The Consortium, he’s trying to help others realize the many benefits that come from being part of The Consortium community.
“I would say to anybody who’s considering applying to business school, especially folks like me, ‘It is so worth it.’ It’s a lot of work upfront — we all had a stressful summer — but obviously I got an offer out of the deal. But I also got a family,” says Castro. “At Foster, we call each other ‘C Fam.’”