2017 Best MBAs: Joshua Rodriguez, University of Washington (Foster)

Meet Joshua Rodriguez, a member of Poets and Quants Best and Brightest and Foster graduate. “Cavalry Commander turned MBA who equates trust, authenticity, hard work, and motivation with limitless success.”

Joshua Rodriguez

Foster School of Business, University of Washington

“Cavalry Commander turned MBA who equates trust, authenticity, hard work, and motivation with limitless success.”

Age: 32

Hometown: Killeen, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: Take your pick: (1) This May, I’ll have been married to my high school sweetheart and mother to 3 girls for 10 years – we went to high school in Rota, Spain on a Navy/Marine Corps base. (2) I was featured on an episode of Deadliest Catch: The Bait. (3) My step-father’s uncle created the Contras in Nicaragua and overthrew the government. He was known to the CIA as “Command Zero.” Yes, the same Contras that Nintendo made a video game after.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Military Academy at West Point – Bachelor of Science (Russian and French Double Major)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? U.S. Army – I was a Cavalry Officer so I held multiple roles, but my last was Troop Commander of a Cavalry Reconnaissance unit.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Goldman Sachs, Seattle office

Where will you be working after graduation? Goldman Sachs, Associate in the Investment Management Division

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

* I’m an Assistant Prof. of Military Science in the ROTC Department at UW and was nominated to compete for Instructor of the Year for the Army Reserve

* Selected as 1 of 8 MBAs in the country for the Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship and now serve as a Campus Ambassador for the firm

* I was fortunate enough to be selected this last November to speak at UW’s Veteran Ceremony event

* Veteran Outreach Coordinator for Foster’s Admissions Team

* Fritzky Leadership Fellow mentoring nine first year MBAs in the program

* Selected for the Albert O. Foster Scholarship

* VP for the Finance Society and Diversity in Business Club

* Created and oversee the “Kids Zone” at our monthly MBA parties so that student parents can celebrate the occasion as well

* President of the Foster Veterans Association:

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Creating the Edward Hwang Leadership Award. Eddie was the Foster Veterans Association’s (FVA) first president (class of 2013) and died suddenly at an early age in the spring of 2016. I went to his service and his family and friends emphasized how proud he was to have started the FVA. I thought it tragic that no legacy existed for him at the school and so we very quickly fixed that. This spring, Eddie’s family will come to Foster to award the first annual Edward Hwang Leadership Award to a veteran or veteran ally and leader who has “significantly contributed to the veteran community.” The Foster program office has been gracious enough to collect donations on our behalf so we have a few thousand dollars on hand to make this a first-class event.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Bringing my infantry reconnaissance platoon home alive after the Taliban attempted to overrun my remote observation post in Kunar, Afghanistan. We had nine U.S. Soldiers, one Latvian officer, and no more than 10 Afghan National Army Soldiers in defense. The enemy had approximately 80 fighters that had committed to penetrating our defensive perimeter and ending our lives. They had come within eight meters of the closest U.S. soldier, but after throwing 40 of our 43 grenades and numerous individual acts of valor that night, we all made it through the fight with minor injuries. We left the mountain with two Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals for Valor, and one hell of a story.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it?  Core Finance. This was a tipping point for me. I was a career changer and had no intention of considering a life in the financial sector; yet I found that at every turn, you’re not getting away from finance if you’re going to be a businessman or woman. I decided to embrace it rather than just get through it and realized that I loved it.

Why did you choose this business school? The school is filled with a hunger to win. There are no real barriers to success in this program. You want to go into IBD? We have a first year who scored an internship before her first day of class. You want to go to a top consultancy? We have folks that got offers at two of the top three. You want to go to finance? Come with me, I’ll introduce you to Thomas Gilbert and Chris Hrdlicka, two professors that rival any other in the country. Interested in tech? This is Microsoft and Amazon University! We have a home-field advantage that never goes away. Almost 20% of the graduating class went to Amazon last year and about 10% went to Microsoft. This school owns the Pacific Northwest and is always branching out further. Plus, an MBA student at this school is learning about business in a city that is rapidly growing with no signs of slowing, as evidenced by the numerous cranes that dot the Seattle skyline. Why wouldn’t this be my first choice?

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Building real relationships with leaders in the private sector. This includes my classmates as well as businessmen and women already in the workforce. I enjoy surrounding myself with leaders who inspire positive outcomes of consequence. Learning from these leaders has been encouraging as I aspire to make a meaningful impact in people’s lives post-MBA.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I’ll say what I always say as a student admissions team member: If at all possible, ensure you participate in any shadow days, class visits, prospective student events, etc. Decide early on what it is you are looking for in an MBA program and write it down. Refer to that document throughout your research online and/or in person.

Try to make a connection or multiple connections with current students you might enjoy as classmates. Listen to as much of their advice as they’re willing to provide. What do they constantly talk about? Camaraderie? Faculty? Opportunities that have opened up [for them] as a result of the program? Decide which of their answers are most important to you. They should show the same level of commitment to every program they’re applying to, Foster or elsewhere. If you find that you can’t put the same amount of effort into a school’s application, then why are you applying?

What is the biggest myth about your school? “Foster is mainly a school for folks that want to go into marketing.” Glance at our employment stats and you’ll see there’s a good mix of everything here. The easiest way to counter this is looking at where I landed. I came to the program not looking at marketing, but at consulting, then landed in finance. Just like every program out there, if you’re open to exploring in a real way the sky’s the limit.

What was your biggest regret in business school? This one is tough because I don’t tend to dwell on the past too much. I learned that wasn’t very helpful after some tough situations overseas. Getting past regret builds resilience. That’s not to avoid the question, I’ve just pushed beyond it. I’ve had an incredible experience. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ah, this one is easy. Mike Greene, my closest friend in the program. He spent time on Wall Street as a bond trader, got bored and worked in the intelligence community in D.C., got bored and crushed it as a consultant, decided to move out to Seattle and conquer the West Coast and gets every job that someone at a Top 3 school would dream of having. And all the while, he spends time to mentor me, my classmates, and is relentless in his efforts to promote and help build out the program. It doesn’t matter where you go to school or what your internship was, if you’re in a room with Mike Greene, he’s probably going to outshine you while still maintaining an impressive level of humility.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I found myself in a beat up Toyota Hilux in Kandahar holding four duffle bags of money and a contract translated into three languages. We had finally negotiated a deal with the village elders that would ensure the Afghan National Army would be allowed to continue providing security against the Taliban for the foreseeable future. I found out closing deals is a damn good feeling.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…off to the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, KS in preparation to take the next role as a Major on the active duty side of the Army.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Leverage the students more to share the incredible opportunities the program has to offer. I think we could do a better job here—the website only goes so far and Foster Alumni are doing incredible things after graduation.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to add more value to my firm and its clients than they can give to me. I think all good things that I could hope to accomplish will derive from that goal.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? That would be my wife. Michelle has experienced the best and the worst of the Army, where I learned some of the hardest lessons leadership can offer. She’s had to endure reports on CNN that cover stories explaining why my unit was suddenly blacked out on communications without knowing if I was alive or dead, all the while taking care of our kids, getting a Master’s degree, and working full time to maintain career progression for herself. No matter what I do in the future, I don’t know that I’d ever perform at the same level she has for 10 years now.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?  I’d want to be known for being a great person to everyone and for making a positive impact in the lives of those who need it most.

Favorite book: The American Crisis – Thomas Paine, 1780

Favorite movie or television show: Romeo and Juliet – Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version only

Favorite musical performer: Maria Callas….who else is even out there? Bieber?!

Favorite vacation spot: Southern Spain, anywhere in Andalucia, but especially the province of Cadiz where I graduated high school.

Hobbies? Typical family-of-five type stuff. Spending time with my wife and kids, teaching them about, and showing them, the world.

What made Joshua such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“I have rarely seen a student give back to the community to the extent Josh has done these past two years. In his first year in our program, Josh served as an ambassador managing outreach to prospective students. He took time to talk to any prospective student, but he worked especially hard to inform and encourage candidates from under-represented backgrounds like himself and former military students anxious about re-entering civilian life. Candidates told me he would respond to their emails within 15 minutes and happily have phone conversations at 10pm or meet them for coffee at 7 a.m. Josh also serves as a leader in the Foster Veteran’s Association, helping classmates with challenges both academically and with issues like accessing veteran’s benefits in the Seattle area. He has engaged with alumni of both Foster and the UW from a wide range of backgrounds, bringing former students back to mentor and inspire current students at programming like our FOSTERing MBA Access events aimed at under-represented students. Further, through everything he does, he connects with and involves other units of Foster and the UW working on similar goals to insure what he does is coordinated with their efforts.”

Dan Poston
Assistant Dean of Masters Programs

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