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Military to MBA: How These Consortium Students Are Translating Their Military Skills to Drive Positive Change

With the leadership, communication and teamwork skills they honed in the military, these Consortium MBAs are doing their part to advance The Consortium’s mission and improve the industries in which they hope to work.

Julian Watson

University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Class of 2025

“The most powerful lesson the military taught me is that people always come first,” says Julian Watson. “No matter how impressive, one individual’s talents will never outweigh the talents of the collective.”

The mark of a true leader, this understanding was ingrained in Watson during his nine years and two-year command in the U.S. Army. Now, he is using it to guide him in his MBA studies. A member of The Consortium’s class of 2025 at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, Watson decided to pursue an MBA following discussions with mentors and peers who had done the same.

“[I was looking for] how best to leverage the skills and experience I had gained from the Army to have the most significant impact in the private sector,” he says.

Where Watson hopes to have an impact is in the tech sector, specifically with machine learning and AI platforms. His education, his experience “virtualizing real-world training” for soldiers, and the unique set of soft skills and team-leading experience he gained from the Army have prepared him well, he says. The MBA will be the cherry on top.

“An MBA is an invaluable tool for anyone who hopes to lead any industry in any capacity,” says Watson, noting that he is benefiting from the Army’s deliberate focus on leadership and culture. The knowledge he gained is helping him be a better teammate and contribute to the “larger shared culture that exists around the MBA experience,” he says, “from the identity of each school program to more elite collectives like The Consortium.”

Caroline Smith

University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management

Class of 2025

After making the most of her time in the Army, Caroline Smith decided to go in a new direction and pursue an MBA, believing it would serve as a bridge between the two worlds. Now a Consortium fellow and first-year MBA student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Anderson School of Management, Smith is applying the skills she gained in the military to propel her business career.

“In the military, it was necessary to become an adaptable learner and leader,” she says. “Every time I was put in a new position, it was important to be a humble listener to the experts around me.”

By asking questions and immersing herself completely in any task she faced, Smith became a fast learner during her time in the Army — a skill she believes is also aiding her as an MBA student. Another: being a good teammate.

“Any group or organization becomes more successful when there is a circle of genuine and intentional people not only working toward a common goal, but also helping each other through the process,” says Smith.

While the community aspect of the military can often be difficult to replace, Smith is finding support and solidarity among her UCLA Anderson classmates and Consortium cohort. “Like the veteran community, I have already seen the tangible and intangible benefits of being part of a group that aims to help build each other up,” she says.

Travis Bautista

University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Class of 2025

After five and a half years as an officer in the U.S. Navy, Travis Bautista — though “deeply appreciative of the challenges and growth” he experienced while enlisted — was excited to move on to the next phase of his life and career.

Now an MBA student and member of The Consortium class of 2025 at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, he is working toward his goal of “accelerating the clean-energy transition through climate tech.” Bautista plans to focus specifically on the intersection of equitable transportation, mobility and sustainable city design. For him, it’s all about being part of the solution — and he believes the military has uniquely equipped him to do so.

“How cool will it be to look back over 50 years and say that you were pivotal in revolutionizing our economy by cultivating renewable energy and a cleaner, more equitable world?” he says. “Mission and community lead to the high-performing teams and individuals we see in the military, and climate tech needs those types of people.”

With a focus on teaching individuals to work with diverse groups of people, “sometimes in intense, ambiguous environments,” Bautista says the military prepares people to accomplish specific objectives. Much like in the military or a business environment, The Consortium community is full of diverse people working toward a common goal.

“The Consortium is the perfect organization for veterans because I will be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are also committed to building stronger communities through diversity and inclusion,” he says.

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