Diana is a second-year MBA at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
Tell us a bit about your career background and what you’re doing now.
After graduating from college, I attended Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola, FL. I was commissioned as a Student Naval Aviator and went on to complete Primary Flight School in Corpus Christi, TX. Unfortunately, I struggled with air sickness throughout flight training, and I eventually transferred into the Supply Corps. I served for almost six years as a Supply Corps Officer, both onboard the USS Taylor (FFG-50) and at the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Center in Norfolk, VA. In 2012, I left active duty to work for Ethicon, Inc., a Johnson&Johnson surgical device company, as a sales representative. After three years at Ethicon, I left to attend Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. I’m currently a Second Year student in the Full-Time MBA Program focusing on operations and marketing.
What made you decide to shift from serving your country to the business world?
The impetus for my leaving the military was the impact Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was having on my personal and professional life. While DADT was repealed shortly after I left active duty, it was in full-effect throughout my time in the Navy. I loved serving my country, and I was extremely successful in my career. However, it was extremely difficult to stay closeted in my work life and maintain my relationship with my partner at the time. Furthermore, I could never be completely authentic with my shipmates, people with whom I lived and served closely alongside, and I was never fully comfortable with lying to them about who I really am.
Were you out as you went through the business school application process?
Absolutely—in fact, I made a point of sharing this about myself throughout the application and interview process. Not only did I want to gauge schools’ attitudes toward this, but I felt my experiences as gay woman and military veteran shape my worldview and how I relate to and lead others—important factors when evaluating business school candidates!
The comment has been made that as the US Armed Forces go [in terms of policy], so goes the rest of the nation. With the repeal of DADT, how do you think the culture of the Armed Forces has changed?
I can only speak to this from an outsider’s perspective since I left the military before the repeal of DADT, but I feel the policy has not inherently changed military culture. In my opinion, the military is a meritocracy and a true-melting pot of people from all walks of life. It’s been my experience that race, gender, and all the other things that make us different from one another matter very little in the military. Instead, what really matters is competence and commitment to the mission, your unit, and those you serve with.
What did/does your veteran status bring to your MBA experience?
The depth and breadth of leadership experience I gained through my military service enables me to contribute significantly both inside and outside the classroom. I am able to relate the leadership and management concepts we discuss in the classroom to challenges I’ve experienced first-hand as a military officer. My natural desire to lead and serve others has translated to my MBA experience as well, as I serve on the leadership of numerous student organizations, including as President of the Goizueta Pride Alliance.
What advice would you give to someone currently serving their country who is considering pursuing a MBA?
Do not underestimate the value of your military experience to the business school classroom and beyond. Your time in the military has not only given you priceless leadership experience, but it’s also taught you how to cope with ambiguity and how to achieve difficult objectives with limited resources. These skills will influence your success on your MBA teams and in your future business career as well.