Harvard | Mr. French Economist
GMAT 710, GPA 15.3/20 in the French grading system 3.5-4.0/4.0 after conversion
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Healthcare Worker
GMAT 670, GPA 4
Yale | Mr. Hedge Fund To FinTech
GMAT 740, GPA 61.5
Tuck | Ms. Women-Focused Ventures
GRE 321, GPA 2.89
Stanford GSB | Ms. Independent Consultant
GMAT 750, GPA 3.5
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Bangladeshi Data Scientist
GMAT 760, GPA 3.33
Stanford GSB | Ms. 2+2 Tech Girl
GRE 333, GPA 3.95
Ross | Mr. Automotive Compliance Professional
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Mr. Digi-Transformer
GMAT 680, GPA 4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthcare Operations To General Management
GRE 700, GPA 7.3
Chicago Booth | Ms. CS Engineer To Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.31
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Engineer In The Military
GRE 310, GPA 3.9
Chicago Booth | Mr. Oil & Gas Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 6.85/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seeking Fellow Program
GMAT 760, GPA 3
Wharton | Mr. Real Estate Investor
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Chef Instructor
GMAT 760, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Climate
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. New England Hopeful
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65
Harvard | Mr. Military Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 3.9
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Chicago Booth | Mr. Private Equity To Ed-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Gay Singaporean Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Electric Vehicles Product Strategist
GRE 331, GPA 3.8
Columbia | Mr. BB Trading M/O To Hedge Fund
GMAT 710, GPA 3.23
Columbia | Mr. Old Indian Engineer
GRE 333, GPA 67%
Harvard | Mr. Athlete Turned MBB Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Ross | Mr. Civil Rights Lawyer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.62

My Story: From The Arab Spring To Wharton

Alec Emmert has visited 45 countries — and counting. Courtesy photo

You were in Bahrain when it became one of the first countries to experience the Arab Spring in 2011. Talk about what it was like to be there on the ground.

At the time, I was a watch officer in the Navy, which meant that I supervised or oversaw all the ships operating within the Middle East — aircraft missions that were going on, and also any issues that were going on on-shore. We started getting reports about demonstrations in Egypt, nothing to be alarmed about, just a bit of civil unrest. Then out of nowhere these news reports started coming in that Tahrir Square (in Cairo) was over-run by demonstrators, and the next thing you know Hosni Mubarak, who had been the president for over 30 years, was deposed. And then in Bahrain they had this thing called the Day of Rage, and they started having demonstrations that basically escalated into full-on street violence. The Saudi military ended up coming over the causeway to quell them.

It happened so fast, and we had to stand up a crisis response cell, and I was a part of that. We just wanted to make sure that all U.S. personnel were at all times accounted for, that their neighborhoods were safe, that there was no risk of loss of life to them.

You had a varied and impressive career in the Navy. Why did you leave to join the private sector? 

A lot of times, as a military officer’s career progresses, you reach an inflection point at the seven- to eight-year point. For Naval Academy graduates it’s around the five-year point when your obligated service is up and the eight-year point where you have to sign on for more time, and you have to make a decision whether you want to make it a career or you want to have done you time and have served your country and move on and find other options. For me, at the time, I had done so much in the Navy — I had served on a ship as a nuclear officer, I had deployed to the Middle East a couple times, I had served over there, I had done international exercises in Ukraine — and I was just really happy with what I had accomplished and I wanted to move on to another challenge. I wanted to get into the private sector.

I wanted to have some more say over my destiny, because in the Navy you can put in your preferences — you can say I want to go to this coast or that coast, this port or that port — but at the end of the day you go where Uncle Sam tells you to go. And for me I just wanted to have that autonomy over my own life and make my own decisions, if I wanted to change careers, if I wanted to move to a different city, to be able to have that.

All the same, you got called back into the Navy at one point. What happened there?

I got called back as a reservist. That was actually a very exciting opportunity and something I don’t regret at all. I was called back to work as a maritime planner for a Special Operations task force and that showed me a whole new side of the military work. I had previously done maritime operations as a submarine officer, which is the conventional route — conventional deployments and things like that. Whereas this was how to deploy these naval ships and aircraft in an unconventional role, which was supporting Special Operations forces in the Middle East. For me, that was really cool, because I got to see how that operated in such a dynamic environment. To oversee those operations was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

You’ve certainly made the most of your brief time in the private sector. What was it like to work at The Daily Show?

Alec Emmert as a submarine officer. Courtesy photo

That was an incredible experience for me. When I got out of the Navy I just wanted to do the most un-military thing I could possibly do. And that was living in New York City and working on The Daily Show. It was a fantastic opportunity that got offered to me through the Veterans Immersion Program run by American Corporate Partners. To his credit, Jon Stewart pushed this — he said, “I want to get a group of veterans who are interested in television news to come to New York ands how we do things on The Daily Show.” And he wanted to get our perspectives from our military service and to see what we thought about current events and current issues, so it was kind of a two-way street. There were about 20 of us, and we learned about all facets of television news production, and we go to meet with Jon Stewart regularly, John Oliver regularly. This was in 2013 before Trevor Noah took over. It was just a really, really cool experience.

It was funny, coming directly from the military where everything was very formal and I had to swipe my badge five different times to get into my office, working at The Daily Show I got to grow out a beard and show up to work in a hoodie and jeans, they had dogs running around everywhere because they had a bring-your-dog-to-work type of thing — it was just 180 degrees from what I was used to, and it was such a cool experience that I’m really glad I did.

Then you got called back to do another stint in the Navy. Was it during this second go-round that you began to think about business school, and specifically an MBA, as part of your future, or was that later when you began work as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton in Saudi Arabia?

It began in the Navy but it really began to take hold in Saudi Arabia because for me — and this is why I really want to tell my story, not just for veterans but for other people considering getting an MBA — I’m 35 years old, and the average age for admission at Wharton is 27. I think I’ll probably be one of the oldest guys in my class. But I’m living proof that you’re ever too old to get in.

There’s this lockstep mentality in the military: I’m going to do my tour, I’m going to get out in my late 20s, go to business school, and then get a job. But for me, I got that whole private sector experience already, and I feel like I’ve been fairly successful in my job. I’ve been working here in Saudi Arabia doing fairly high-level work, and about a year ago I started doing a little soul-searching: I said, “What do I really want from life? I can stick here in the consulting firm, I can make partner, but what do I really want out of life?” And I thought about my experiences in the military and my experiences growing up in Brazil, where I saw poor kids every day, kids on the street. And the experiences I had in Bahrain and Yemen and also East Africa with the piracy situation they had there, and I  just said, “I want to do something to fix this.” As a military officer you’re kind of in reactionary mode — you deal with the pirates, you deal with the terrorists. But you don’t necessarily attack the root cause. And to me, that root cause is poverty.

If you look across the board, everything from crime to terrorism, poverty is the driving factor behind both. That’s what I want to use the rest of my life to fight — global poverty.

DON’T MISS MY STORY: FAITH, LAUGHS, AND MOTIVATION AT STANFORD & BEYOND and MY STORY: FROM TANZANIA TO THE OLYMPICS & STANFORD GSB

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