2017 MBAs To Watch: Michael Sarraille, University of Texas (McCombs)

Michael Sarraille

The University of Texas at Austin – McCombs Business School

“Too damn stupid to quit and too damn stubborn to accept the status quo.”

Age: 39

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve read all the Harry Potter novels. Please don’t tell my former teammates.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Texas A&M University – BBA in Marketing (2003)

Stanford University Graduate Business School – Ignite Program (2015)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I served in the United States Marine Corps from 1998 to 2003 as an enlisted Marine. I accepted a commission in the United States Navy in 2003, where I have served as an officer ever since. I retire after 20 years of service in the spring of 2018.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? A team of four highly motivated Veterans in the Full-Time UT MBA program worked on the development of a non-profit start-up, the VETTED Foundation, aimed at disrupting the veteran transition market space. The idea came from an independent research study gauging the veteran transition experience that a team of 12 veterans worked on in our MBA program. We spent the summer on the business model generation and development of the VETTED Foundation, forming key partnerships and collaborating with Texas Executive Education at UT Austin and Texas A&M Mays Center for Executive Development to create a truly innovative executive education course, the Veteran Accelerated Management Program. The Executive Education course targets senior military members transitioning into the private sector. We have successfully created the first State veteran transition platform – starting in Texas.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will continue my work with the VETTED Foundation to enhance and scale it across the country as the nation’s optimal veteran transition platform. Additionally, I am working on an organizational and leadership development firm with a few former teammates to disrupt the executive leadership development sector.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: During my MBA, I have served as a UT Austin Navy ROTC instructor and board of advisor to the Texas Enactus, a community of undergraduate students, academic, and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better more sustainable world.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Without a doubt, my proudest achievement is starting the VETTED Foundation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time in the military, I served with some of the best women and men that this country has to offer. During the very worst of times, I saw the very best in man. Their sacrifices and dedication protecting the country they love has been a source of perpetual humility for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Professor John Doggett. He has a reputation for being feared amongst the MBA students. The fear is derived from his rather direct method of holding students accountable in class. While he is a very intense man, I’ve never met a professor more determined to prepare his students for the rigors and challenges of the private sector. If he has any faults, it is that he cares too much about his students and their well-being beyond the walls of McCombs.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Performance Management and Control taught by Professor Brian Lendecky. It reinforced the importance of cost accounting, profitability performance, and the need to implement a balanced scorecard performance management system in all industries. It was by far my favorite class, though I still disagree with the grade I received.

Why did you choose this business school? UT McCombs has one of the largest distinguished networks of business alumni in the nation. Given the school’s track record of consistently producing leaders and pioneers in the private sector, I knew McCombs would provide a challenging educational environment to improve as a former military leader and business practitioner.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My fellow students. I am not one to pass on compliments lightly, but I was continually impressed by the caliber of my peers and their inclusivity. Highly intelligent, highly passionate – I am truly excited to watch the achievements of the McCombs MBA Class of 2017 in the coming decades.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Coming from the military I was absolutely shocked at what I didn’t know about the complexity and art of business. While the military arguably produces some of the greatest leaders in our nation, we don’t leave the military with innate, built-in private sector skills. We don’t do accounting, finance, or marketing — and operations management has a different vernacular. I consider myself fortunate that I received the opportunity to obtain my MBA in my final years of service to facilitate my transition after retirement.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  The best question you can address prior to writing essays or preparing for interview questions is, “how do I differentiate myself from the pack.” Convince the admissions staff that your past performance qualifies you as a worthy candidate, who will positively impact the school and your fellow peers.

What is the biggest myth about your school? As an incoming first-year student, the second year MBA students love to put the fear of God into you concerning the rigors of the first semester core classes. Albeit, the first semester was the most difficult and challenging experience I’ve encountered in both my undergraduate and graduate experience. There is a method to the design of the curriculum — it requires your full attention and effort for three and half months but absolutely engrains the basics in all business functions or verticals, preparing you to excel for the remainder of your MBA experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I could have spent more time engaged in extracurricular activities with my fellow students. Serving as an active-duty officer and pursuing a start-up during your MBA truly challenges your time management skills and prevents you from enjoying everything an MBA program has to offer. However, my peers fully understood the gravity of my social venture and my desire to change the lives of veterans transitioning out of the military. I received countless emails from McCombs students offering both support and access to their networks to accelerate my efforts.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Without a doubt, it is Launa Wood. I think everyone in the Class of 2017 would agree Launa goes above and beyond in every pursuit she undertakes. She takes ‘due diligence’ to a whole other level. The creativity and thoroughness of all her MBA projects have become the gold standard for students to replicate. I consider Launa a dear friend, and I am excited to watch her excel in her future endeavors.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I completed a Leadership Exchange to Silicon Valley to meet with an A-list group of Business Executives (Bill Campbell, Larry Ellison, Ben Horowitz, Carol Bartz, Jeff Weiner, Sergey Brin, etc.) to discuss organizational culture and leadership. It was eye opening to experience the ability of these leaders to run innovative, disruptive organizations. I consider them warriors within their respective professions.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… I would have continued my service in the military. Without McCombs, I would not be nearly as prepared to transition into industry as I am today. It is now my duty to provide that opportunity to military members, who do not have the time or access to an MBA program.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? The dean’s day at the bar! I fully expect Dean Hartzell to host an open bar event between himself and the MBA students to show his lighter side and get to know the students in a more open environment. I also fully expect the students to run his tab up.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I intend to establish the nation’s largest, for-profit Veteran Incubator in Austin, Texas. Veteran entrepreneurship is at 4% today, down 44 percent since World War II. I intend to replicate the Y-Combinator model for veteran start-ups, raising a fund to encourage our veterans to engage in new venture creation. We spent the better half of our youth protecting free enterprise, when we exit the military it’s our turn to participate in it.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would thank a fellow teammate and his family, whose names I will not mention. I would not be here today had he not given his life to save me and two other teammates. We live our lives to the fullest in his memory.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Didn’t take himself too serious and treated everyone with respect.

Favorite book: Once An Eagle by Anton Myrer. It is required read for anyone aspiring to be a servant leader.

Favorite movie or television show: Caddyshack. It is my lifelong dream to spend one day joking around with Bill Murray over a bottle of whiskey, or two.

Favorite musical performer: Lindsey Sterling

Favorite vacation spot: Key West, Florida

Hobbies? Gym, time on the water, skydiving, and spending time with my kids.

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

“It is difficult to overstate Michael’s impact on his class, our community and our country. When I asked students about the most influential people in their class, Michael Sarraille tops the list. Michael came to McCombs as a highly-decorated Navy SEAL with over 19 years of service to our country.

Michael decided to use his time in business school to give back to the veteran community by creating the Vetted Foundation. It is common for students to bring us impactful ideas in business school. It is rare, however, to find the level of passion, purpose and commitment that Michael brought to the table. As founder of the VETTED Foundation, Michael has created the optimal veteran transition platform that transforms proven military leaders into tomorrow’s industry leaders and entrepreneurs. This initiative has drawn upon all of his MBA knowledge and experiences, and his world-class leadership abilities to not only build a professional development program from scratch but to also coordinate across multiple educational institutions (UT Austin, Texas A&M, Wharton) as well as various government and business leaders across the country.

Michael has spent his time in school committed to his studies and dedicated to VETTED, all while serving on active duty and serving as an instructor for the UT Austin Navy ROTC. Additionally, Michael is a board advisor to Texas Enactus, a community of undergraduate students and academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.”

Tina Mabley

Assistant Dean



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