Veterans connect military and business

Five SOM students served on the panel of the annual Veterans day discussion.
Five SOM students served on the panel of the annual Veterans day discussion. Photo by Sarah Eckinger.

Military training prepares soldiers not only for battle but also for careers in business, according to School of Management students who spoke at the school’s annual veterans’ panel Thursday.

Five veterans on the panel, who are all current School of Management students, spoke to about 30 of the SOM students and faculty members at 55 Hillhouse about their experiences in the military. All panelists agreed that the skills they learned while serving in the armed forces have helped them to be successful in business school.

“There’s a lot of overarching principles in terms of leadership, pursing a mission together,” said Jared Jonker SOM ’13, who sat on the panel.

Matt Schmitt SOM ’12, a panelist who served in the United States Army, said attending the SOM provided him the chance to “lock in the experiences [he] had in the military.” He said the military taught him to make decisions often with incomplete information, which will prove useful in his business career. Military personal regularly have to take action before without having access to all the relevant intelligence, he added.

“You hit the ground running and go on your mission,” Schmitt said. “There’s a rush from that,” he said. “It’s fun.”

Another quality the military teaches that would help them in the business world, panelist Dor Zaidenberg ’13 said, is the confidence to speak with all types of people. The military teaches people to “to defend [their] ideas and points of view,” he added.

“You really are toughened up, you learn to stand up for yourself or people will walk all over you,” Zaidenberg said.

Panelists pointed to the similarity in teaching methods used at West Point Military Academy and the SOM as evidence of the strong connection between military and business training. Both schools place an emphasis on practical experience, Perez said, which benefits students more than “sitting in a room and talking about our feelings.”

Still, Jonker said he drew a distinction between business leadership and military leadership, which is more focused on strategic decision making.

“Business leadership is about inspiration,” he said. “It is about getting people to do what they do not want to do.”

Though each panelist made it to the Yale School of Management, they pointed out that not all of their colleagues have similar opportunities. Schmitt said veterans often “undersell themselves” when applying for positions in the workplace.

“They don’t know how to translate their experiences in terms for potential employers,” he said.

At least nine veterans currently attend the SOM, according to Perez.

In response to a question from the audience, each panelist gave different reasons for leaving the military and returning to school. Zaidenberg chose to leave the military because he wanted a degree, he said, something that would have been difficult to obtain if he stayed in the military. Matt Iames SOM ’12, who served in the United States Air force, said that while he always knew he wanted to serve in the military, he also knew he did not want the military to be his career. For Chris Kennedy SOM ’13, the bureaucratic system of the military prompted his departure, though he said he struggled with his decision.

Jonker, on the other hand, will continue his service in the Navy Reserve throughout his time at the SOM.

Schmitt will speak at a ceremony to commemorate Veterans Day on Beinecke plaza at 12:15 p.m. today.

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