LCDR Adrian Arvizo received his commission as a Cryptologic Officer through Officer Candidate School (OCS) in 2002 via the Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program (BDCP). In 2010 he lateral transferred to Information Professional. He currently serves at the Naval Satellite Operations Center as a member of the Space Cadre and is attending the University of Michigan’s Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife Lany, training for the Santa Barbara Marathon, and photographing the world around him.

Since beginning my MBA journey, I have been asked by many people why I am pursuing an MBA and what I plan to do with it. That is a fair question since the typical student is seeking career advancement or a career change. Those of us in the Information Dominance Corps (IDC) know that an MBA degree certainly has no direct impact on officer promotions. Additionally, a career change is not in my immediate future as I still plan to contribute many years of service. What possible benefit could this degree provide?

The Supply Corps has a program for officers within that community to attend a top 30 MBA program with the goal of graduates gaining “an understanding of the operating processes and concepts of the private sector and the ability to apply these processes and concepts to the military environment.” This is a great objective and one that I believe would be beneficial for all designators. In addition to that high-level goal, I plan to focus on the following areas:

Leadership Development

I have been an officer for over 11 years, yet I cannot recall ever receiving formal leadership training. My leadership skills have been learned through trial and error. While on-the-job training is a great way to learn, I want to hone my skills by receiving customized advice from experts in the leadership field. The top EMBA programs place significant emphasis on leadership development via professional development workshops and executive coaching sessions. (Naval Academy graduates receive some formal training and hands-on leadership experience prior to commissioning, but I cannot comment to what extent.)

Diversifying Perspective

Since joining the Navy, the majority of my exposure has been limited to others within the defense industry. I feel my leadership and problem solving skills would be greatly enhanced by interacting with people from outside the defense bubble. My classmates are from a variety of industries including: high-tech (Hitachi), performing arts (LA Opera), entertainment (Imagineering), medical (Mayo Clinic), motion pictures (Fox), music (Interscope), biotech (Amgen), finance (Morgan Stanley), and others. These are high-performing executives (average age of 40) within their industries who will provide me with a new perspective towards leadership and innovation.

Strategic Thinking

With increasing rank, we in the military find ourselves in positions where we must look at the bigger picture and think strategically vice operationally or tactically. Leaders in the corporate world find themselves in a similar situation, which is why EMBA programs place an emphasis on developing strategic thinking skills. Several courses in my curriculum are taught by strategy experts with a proven track record of success. While corporate leaders use strategy to increase shareholder value, we can leverage the same skills in the military to enhance organizational performance and efficiency.

There is always room for learning and growth no matter how much experience you have or how many promotions you have received. If you feel the areas described above would benefit your professional development, perhaps you should consider pursuing an EMBA. If you do, I highly recommend thoroughly researching the available programs. The top programs require more effort for entry, but the return on investment is also much greater because these programs provide access to professors who are leaders in their disciplines and fellow students who are movers and shakers within their industries willing to go the extra mile for admission.

The best EMBA programs cost well over $100k, but thanks to the Post-9/11 GI-Bill, service members can attend several of them for free or at a substantial discount. EMBA programs are designed for working professionals and are formatted accordingly. Some require attendance a couple weekends per month while others may only meet one weekend per month. Of course, there will be plenty of reading, group projects, and assignments to complete in between residencies. The time commitment is significant, but everything worthwhile takes time.