Active Duty while earning an MBA

In honor of Veteran’s Day, the Hybrid MBA Program is recognizing our students who have served or are currently serving. Among the Class of 2019, 8% have military experience and from the Class of 2020, 18% have military experience. For many reasons, the Hybrid MBA program is a great fit for those who are active duty or transitioning out of the military. This week we are featuring a few of our students with military experience and they’ll share their background, goals and how they are able to leverage what they learned in the military to be successful in the Hybrid MBA Program. Follow the full series.

James Han, Detachment Commander for the US Army

I commissioned as an Infantry officer and served as an Infantry Platoon Leader and Executive Officer before I reclassified as a Special Forces officer.  I am currently serving as a Detachment Commander.  I had the privilege to serve alongside a wide array of organizations including the Maldivian Marines, Australian Commandos, and Afghan Special Forces in peacetime training and combat.

Why did you choose the Hybrid MBA Program? What about it fit your lifestyle?

UW’s Foster School of Business has a great reputation.  I liked how it offered the benefits of personally knowing my classmates and professors while giving me the convenience and flexibility I needed to continue to serve Active Duty while pursuing my MBA.

How does your military experience lend itself to a mostly-online MBA format?

I think what helped was continuously being forced to learn on-the-job.  Nearly every position I held was largely trained on-the-job and that creates a sense of ownership to ensure I need to self-learn.  The Hybrid Program requires initiative to do the learning remotely.

What are your career goals?

To better transition myself to the civilian sector.  My wife and I decided it is best for the family for me to begin my transition out of the military. Foster gives me the opportunity to network with many different organizations and round out my education so I can best apply my experience to be a leader in the civilian sector.

Can you share a few tips on how you balance active duty with a full time MBA course load?

James Han with his team at the Hybrid MBA Welcome Reception, Autumn 2018

Anyone serving Active Duty knows the long-range schedule is filled with uncertainty.  Uncertain on when and where you will be sent to and whether or not the next place will have sufficient bandwidth for the Foster Live sessions, let alone provide the time needed to finish assignments and readings.  What exacerbates the struggle is if your spouse works or is a student as well (my wife is pursuing her Doctorate at UW) and parental duties.  Timing is everything.  It worked out very well for me since the program started less than a week after I returned from a combat rotation in Afghanistan. That provided me some breathing room and downtime.  I recommend having a conversation with at least your first-line supervisor and your teammates (military co-workers) on the expectations, attendance and work requirements so it doesn’t blindside them if a scheduling conflict arises.  I think any good commander/leader will be supportive of the few scheduling requirements.

I also recommend setting the expectations early with your spouse and Foster Hybrid MBA teammates.  My teammates have been very supportive. On the few team-assignments we had, they picked up the slack for me.  It will not be easy and my child has had way too much TV time on nights I am both being a parent, working, and doing schoolwork.  It is a constant game of priorities and it will not be easy.  However, you will learn to overcome as you always had in the military.

Jason McKay, Lieutenant Commander for the US Navy

Why did you choose the Hybrid MBA Program? What about it fit your lifestyle?

The flexibility of studying when I had free time, and the pro-work schedule led me to choose the Hybrid MBA program.  If I get off late from work, I know I won’t miss anything.  Also, I only had about two years until I transfer to my next duty station, so timing was important too.  The MBA program comes to life due to the world-class faculty at Foster’s.  It always feels like a great privilege to be going here.

Can you share a few tips on how you balance active duty with a full time MBA course load?

As an active duty Naval Officer, I can leverage my time management skills, which I developed earlier in my career for running multiple projects.  I never

Jason McKay networking across cohorts during the Autumn 2018 Hybrid MBA Immersion

procrastinate until the weekend.  That’s how I balance the two: if I focused only on one, I would be overwhelmed pretty quickly.  What I am awestruck by, are the new parents in the program who balance raising an infant with studying.

What are your career goals?

While in the Navy, my major professional goal is to get command of a unit.  Following retirement from the Navy, I will definitely leverage my MBA in a Northwest-based company, or perhaps start my own small business in my community.  I never realized the variety of options to, and the demand for MBAs until now.

Read more from Hybrid MBA students with military experience

Learn more about what makes a strong candidate for the Hybrid MBA Program

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