“National security professional by day; punk musician, cat lover, and historic homes junkie by night.”
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Fun Fact About Yourself: Outside the office, I love to drum – I’ve been playing since I was a kid and have been on several US and international tours playing in punk bands. These days you can catch me with a couple of local Pittsburgh groups.
Undergraduate School and Major: DePaul University; History and International Politics
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Business Executives for National Security (BENS); Director, Chicago Region
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I successfully launched BENS’ first-time Chicago satellite office, where I quadrupled its regional donor base, grew office revenues from $200K to $750K annually, and cultivated strategic relationships between the Midwest business sector and the U.S. Department of Defense, FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and U.S. intelligence community.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Everyone’s clear professional direction has been the best quality I’ve noticed thus far. Their goals, which have been as unique as they are specific – like wanting a career in cricket sports management or to be an executive for remote Chinese tourism – has added to the fun in getting to know my classmates.
What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Katz’s joint MBA and MPIA in Security and Intelligence with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs made this program the right fit for me. The threat landscape society currently faces is one not only focused on post-9/11 trends like terrorism and violent extremism but now includes cyber threats, infrastructure security, supply-chain vulnerabilities, emerging technologies, international financing, etc. – key issues that overlap both business and security realms. By offering this joint program, Pitt is on the forefront regarding the future security challenges confronting the world.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m looking forward to making the most of graduate internship opportunities. It is important to demonstrate to future employers the tangible skills that a candidate has learned apart from classroom studies, and internships provide this type of concrete work experience. Aside from the practitioner’s perspective that internships can offer, they are also a critical foundation to one’s professional network.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? During my in-person interview, I was asked to identify the business leader whom I view as a role model. Up until that point, I had considered myself a professional in the national security sector rather than business and saw an MBA simply as a method to further specialize in the security realm. Because I didn’t see my path as being specifically business-oriented, it frankly hadn’t occurred to me to identify individuals in the business world to look to as role models. This question challenged my thinking and broadened the value of business school. No longer was the MBA solely a supportive element to my career in national security. Instead, it became a pillar of my trajectory in its own right.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? To be honest, an MBA was never part of my original plan. I believed that a meaningful and robust work experience alone would enhance my career. When it became apparent that my career trajectory with a bachelor’s degree had reached a plateau, I sought out feedback from my mentors. With their guidance, I decided to pursue a graduate degree.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? None—I only applied to Pitt.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? I knew I wanted to pursue a dual MBA and Masters in Global Security Studies so I would be well prepared for a career in geopolitical risk management, cybersecurity, and due diligence and compliance. The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) provides a search function where Masters candidates can specifically filter for graduate schools that offer an MA in international relations with a joint MBA degree program. This narrowed the field considerably. From there, I also prioritized location – I knew I wanted to stay near the Midwest, in a city where I could see my family making our long-term home.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Being hired as BENS’ first director for the Chicago region in 2015 was a launchpad for my career. Very few employers would give a full charge to a then-twenty-six-year-old to take an organization’s distinguished thirty-year legacy and establish a new presence in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. It was the ultimate ‘sink or swim’ experience. When addressing a C-suite audience, I learned that I had a precious two-minute window to demonstrate my expertise and to alleviate any skepticism towards my age. This showed me the value of not counting oneself out of an opportunity, even in the face of imposter syndrome. While you can’t control whether others say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ the important thing is to throw yourself out there.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? I’m going to take this question literally because my wife and I are excited to make Pittsburgh our new home. Pittsburgh is an essential part of our ‘ten-year plan.’ With the area’s relatively low cost of living, the offer of a city lifestyle in proximity to nature, and historic neighborhoods built along the hills, we see ourselves staying here post-graduation. Pittsburgh also appeals to my professional aspirations. With its emerging cyber and technology sector, home to a large contingency of the defense industrial base, and its military and law enforcement regional presence, Pittsburgh has a growing job market for those with a specialty in national security and business.