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10

Nov 2016

LGBTQ VETERANS: ANDREW JANISZEWSKI, MBA STUDENT – BOOTH ’18

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Andrew Janiszewski is a first-year MBA at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Can you tell us a bit about your career background and what you’re doing now?
After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2006, I served on Active Duty as an intelligence officer for eight years. For about the first half of that period, I was primarily involved in the special operations drone and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) programs, leading teams of analysts that were trying to map out terrorist networks and find their leadership. I deployed twice, once to Iraq and once to the Philippines. After that, I was selected for a unique assignment as a defense intelligence liaison officer to the Canadian government. Stationed in Ottawa, Canada, I was both a liaison officer, helping to facilitate the exchange of defense intelligence between our two countries, and an exchange analyst. The latter role was the majority of my time and responsibility: I was a strategic analyst for the Asia-Pacific region, researching, analyzing, and formulating high-level assessments of regional defense and security concerns for senior government leaders and military commanders. I left the military after my assignment in Canada, and took a couple of years before deciding that business school was the right path. I applied and was accepted to Chicago-Booth earlier this year. Booth is a perfect fit thanks to its flexible curriculum and its discipline-based approach to a business education. Coming from a non-business background, I’ve found both of those qualities to be immensely valuable. I’m now looking to transition my passion for problem-solving and innovation into a position in strategy consulting or in the tech industry.

What made you decide to shift from serving your country to the business world? Were you out as you went through the business school application process?
In 2014, when I reached the end of my assignment in Ottawa, I decided to separate from Active Duty to pursue a career in medicine; I was looking for a chance to help make the world a better place, but in a different way than what I had been doing in the military. I spent a year in a pre-med post baccalaureate program at Columbia University when I realized that I had stronger interests in the problem-solving and innovation happening in the health care industry. I was more interested in the digital realm of health care than I was in the actual practice of medicine. Business school was really the better fit. After leaving the postbac program, I joined Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as a full-time volunteer policy analyst while applying to business school (I wouldn’t recommend trying to do both at the same time!). It was an amazing opportunity to analyze problems and create policy solutions – my work was mostly in the foreign, defense, and veterans policy areas. That experience furthered my drive to pursue an MBA, which would give me the opportunity to learn fundamental skills and tools that are necessary to understand and operate in the global economy. I was out and proud throughout the business school application process, and the connections I made through affinity groups – both LGBT and veterans – were incredibly helpful and valuable. And even after arriving at business school, the friends I’ve made through those groups are some of my best friends at Booth.

Tell us a bit about being a member of the LGBTQ community while serving your country. Did DADT impact your experience?
I served both during DADT and after its repeal. Honestly, serving under DADT was difficult. I think coming to terms with one’s sexuality is often a difficult experience even in the most welcoming of circumstances. I went to a military academy for undergrad, was stationed in some pretty conservative parts of the country, and for a long time felt like I couldn’t talk about my struggle with even my closest friends.

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? How do you think the culture of the country has changed?
I was assigned as a defense liaison and exchange officer in Canada when DADT was repealed. The Canadian Forces have allowed LGBT people (yep, T also!) to serve openly since 1992. Day-to-day I sat and worked alongside Canadian military members and defense civilians. So, my view on how the culture in the U.S. military at large has changed is a bit insulated. That said, I do believe that the military has broadly and positively adapted to the repeal of DADT. I began coming out to friends and colleagues while I was stationed in the U.S. before DADT had been repealed, and even then I found people to be largely supportive and appreciative that I’d been willing to show them my “true self.” People were far more concerned with my character and how good I was at my job rather than who I was dating. I’m concerned but hopeful that the country will continue to move in the same direction after the election.

What did/does your veteran status bring to your MBA experience? Your LGBTQ MBA experience?
At first, arriving at Chicago-Booth I felt a bit intimidated by my lack of business experience when I started meeting my classmates and learning about the amazing careers they’d had in consulting, finance, and industry. But despite my lack of business-specific experience, my veteran status still inspired a significant amount of confidence from my peers, not only in my leadership skills, but also in my judgment and ability to organize and prioritize groups to get things done. LGBT veterans in business school are like unicorns – there aren’t very many of us! In seriousness, one of the most incredible things about getting an MBA is the opportunity to go to school with an amazingly intelligent, successful, and motivated group of classmates. And the diversity of that group only serves to enhance the richness of the experience. I helped organize Booth’s National Coming Out Day celebration and, as part of that, shared my story of serving and coming out under DADT. I hope that in some small way I’ve helped enrich my classmates’ experience by facilitating conversation and understanding about the struggle many LGBT people face.

What advice would you give to someone currently serving their county who is considering pursuing a MBA?
Definitely spend a good, long time thinking seriously about what you want to do after separating from Active Duty and how an MBA might (or might not) figure into your future career goals. An MBA can open a lot of doors and offer a lot of benefits, but it has costs: it might be expensive, it might force you to relocate, and it might preclude you from earning a full-time salary for two years. A lot of those benefits and costs might seem unclear while you’re still in the military, so definitely reach out early and often – to veterans and others — to make an informed decision. You don’t have to have all of the exact answers, but you owe it to yourself to at least think through these considerations.

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10

Nov 2016

LGBTQ VETERANS: ANDY BLEVINS, MBA STUDENT – ATKINSON ’18

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Andy Blevins is a first-year JD/MBA at Willamette University’s Atkinson School of Management.

Can you tell us a bit about your career background and what you’re doing now?
I served as a Cryptologic Technician while in the Navy and decided, as exciting as that was I wanted to get as far away from it as possible when choosing my civilian career; so, I applied to work at the White House. I worked for the Office of the First Lady for some time, before leaving and getting some solid experience with a few national nonprofits, focused in advocating for the LGBT military community. I quickly learned if I wanted my career to progress on the trajectory I intended, I needed to go back to school. Currently, I am enrolled in Willamette University’s JD/MBA joint degree program, with focuses in civil rights, military/veteran, and business law.

What made you decide to shift from serving your country to the business world?
While I am no longer in the military, I have decided to dedicate my professional career to serving those that are. I currently work for the legal department of OutServe-SLDN, an organization that provides pro-bono legal services for LGBTQ military veterans, service members, and their families. I would like to continue focusing on this demographic after graduation. Many military families are opening their own businesses to supplement the income the receive from the DoD. Pursuing my MBA in tandem with my JD seemed like the best solution to ensure I had the requisite knowledge in my toolbox to consult and advocate for my clients in all aspects of their lives. Additionally, I am finding the skills I am acquiring in this program will be extremely beneficial when the time comes for me to lead a legal department or practice of my own.

Were you out as you went through the business school application process?
I was out during my application process. Currently, I am one of two “out” students at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. In an effort to make AGSM more inclusive and welcoming to queer students, the two of us are in the process of founding a genders and sexualities alliance open to queer-identified students and allies.

Tell us a bit about being a member of the LGBTQ community while serving your country. Did DADT impact your experience?
I can think of nothing I have done that I am more proud of than serving my country. My story is not much different than others’. I joined the military out of high school and came to terms with my sexual orientation while on active duty. Coming out of the closet is an intense experience for most already; being unable to confide in, or ask questions of, anyone only enhanced that experience. I actually ended up trying to go through a conversion therapy program at my local church — it didn’t work. So, I continued hiding a crucial part of my identity so I could continue serving. Thinking back, I think the most difficult part of doing so was knowing that the country that I loved and I vowed to protect did not think I was worthy enough to do so. I took extreme precautions to ensure that “gay Andy” and “military Andy” never crossed paths — two cellphones, two PO boxes, distant relations with peers in my unit. Many times I contemplated “telling,” but I could not reconcile putting myself above the the duty I owed to my country. I am grateful that LGB and now T folks throughout the country can serve this great nation without having to go through those same experiences.

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? How do you think the culture of the country has changed?
Still working with members of the military, I have seen first hand how the culture with the DoD has changed for the better. Service members no longer have to compromise their personal integrity by lying to serve the country they love so dearly. Units are being pulled closer together because service members are choosing to confide in each other. Respect for all is skyrocketing because we are acknowledging the idiosyncrasies that make up each of our service members. There is still work to be done, but I am proud to see the positive manifestations of changes that have been made culturally and politically.

What did/does your veteran status bring to your MBA experience?
Serving in the military gave me many opportunities to serve in a leadership capacity, which impressed on me many of the skills we see in the MBA program. As a veteran, I am able to bring a perspective to the conversation that most of my peers do not have experience with. This platform also gives me the opportunity to talk about how veteran employees think and operate differently than their non-veteran counterparts, which has become particularly important as we learn about different managerial styles.

What advice would you give to someone currently serving their country who is considering pursuing a MBA?
The MBA is one of the most universally applicable graduate degrees you can pursue. As I mentioned, serving in the military has given you the leadership experience that companies are looking to include in their pool of employees. The MBA can help you enhance and refine those schools, making you the very best version of YOU, possible. I strongly encourage all veterans to apply for their MBA. If you want to talk about it some more, shoot me an email!

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10

Nov 2016

LGBTQ VETERANS: SHAWN GOODIN, MBA STUDENT – SLOAN ’18

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Shawn Goodin is a first-year MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Can you tell us a bit about your career background and what you’re doing now?
I served in the Army for eight years as an engineer officer. Although I studied civil engineering in undergrad, I was a combat engineer in most of my assignments. The combat engineers I had the honor of serving with are like infantrymen, but specialize in explosives. They take great pride in being called Sappers, which goes back to the days of breaching castle fortifications in pre-modern warfare. During my first deployment, I led a platoon in Iraq, where our mission was to find and neutralize the threat of IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, on key mobility routes. During my second deployment, I led the United States effort to improve infrastructure and build new police stations for the Afghan National Police in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. During my third deployment, I was fortunate to serve as the aide-de-camp or military assistant for the senior engineer general officer in Afghanistan. I culminated my service as the company of a route clearance unit where I was entrusted to ensure that my 125+ soldier unit was prepared to deploy around the globe when called upon. I am now a candidate for my MBA at MIT Sloan, with a focus on finance.

What made you decide to shift from serving your country to the business world? Were you out during your business school application?
I decided to transition from the Army because I wanted to continue to serve the country with optimal flexibility to determine what that service might look like. As I transitioned from service, my peers, my leadership, and most importantly, my soldiers knew that I was gay. During the application process, I openly identified as gay. I found self-identification to be a very unique part of the application process because I was never asked to formally declare my sexual orientation in the Army. In the military, you are part of a uniformed service, so you do your best to fit the mold. All of a sudden, I was being asked to say what made me unique and different. Nevertheless, I found that the story I told was more so about my professional experiences rather than the struggle of being gay or black. When I started the MBA program, I was looking forward to enjoying the professional LGBT experience that I never had. Members of our club do a great job of socializing and diversifying our associations across the school. I believe that this is a testament to the profile of students that Sloan assembles and the spirit of equality that Sloan and MIT embraces.

What are your thoughts on DADT and the recent repeal? How was your experience impacted?
I am amazed at how far we have come from DADT. The Army now has a gay Secretary of the Army! As a company commander, I never heard that any of my soldiers had an issue with my sexual orientation. In fact, I found them to be very supportive and defensive of me in at least one instance. When I was at West Point, it could be difficult at times because college is typically the time in your life when you try and understand more about yourself. My exploratory phase was confined to a world where I felt like I was the only gay guy at the Academy, although I knew better. Looking back, I think the experience made me a bit more reserved than I was growing up. When you’re afraid that fellow soldiers will find out about your sexual orientation, which might result in your discharge from the service, it’s easy to be a little withdrawn—sometimes the less you talked or socialized, the more protected you were. This is counter to the Army culture of forming cohesive teams that are in effect small and large families. I am so proud of our country for correcting this injustice.

 

What did/does your veteran status bring to your MBA experience?
Finance and accounting may be keeping me up at night, but I feel pretty confident that I know how to connect with individuals on an emotional level and create environments that are conducive to professional development. The Army is a people business. Folks assume that the Army is about trucks and weapons, when in reality, the Army’s greatest asset is its people. I am always looking for opportunities to share my experiences with my classmates. I was talking with a friend in another MBA program about the MBA experience and we were amused because we realized that the thing that frustrated us the most about the Army was the thing that was allowing us to cope with all of the MBA requirements. In the Army, the tendency is to “bull-through” any problem set or challenge despite the number of constraints, such as available resources, personnel, or time. The understanding is that the mission is first, any deviations are in most cases unacceptable. So, I’ve come to the realization that when it seems like Sloan has filled my ruck-sack and latched on a couple additional requirements, I know that I can “bull-through”. The irony is knowing that something once so frustrating has become such an enabler.

What advice would you give to someone currently serving their country who is considering pursuing a MBA?
Many of us in the LGBT community spend so much time doing what or acting like what we think is required of us. I learned that when it’s all said and done, you are ultimately responsible for your experiences in life. If an MBA program is something that you’re interested in, you should not hesitate. There are many ways to serve our great country, and with an MBA, you have the potential to contribute to our national defense, be an external voice for our troops, or facilitate a service or product that can either improve the lives or better protect our service members and their families.

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