Berkeley MBA Studies Help Military Servicemembers Take Flight

By Morgan Bernstein

Teamwork and leadership skills become second nature when you serve in the military. How to use a spreadsheet or a financial model . . . not so much. That’s why Kelly Deutermann and Mike Christman—who happened to meet first in flight school—consider it a good career transition point.

Here’s what these Berkeley MBA students had to say about why they chose business school, where their careers are headed, and why they recommend it to other vets.

 Kelly Deutermann

Berkeley MBA student and US Coast Guard search and rescue pilot Kelly Deutermann
Her military career:
Kelly remains an active duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard as a maritime search and rescue pilot. Before starting her studies, she was posted in Humboldt Bay, California and earlier in Miami, Florida. In both postings her duties also encompassed law enforcement, notably drug smuggling and migration.

 Her decision to go to Haas: “When I was researching programs, I got the strong impression that, as an institution, Haas really knows who it is, what it values, and how it wants to serve the community.  The school’s sense of self meshed beautifully with mine.”

 Her future: “The Coast Guard is sponsoring my studies, so I’ll continue in the service. My next posting will be in a new arena, one that takes advantage of my new skills in financial analysis. I’ll be in Washington, DC, helping to craft the Coast Guard’s budget. Knowing what comes next gives me even more freedom to explore the opportunities business school offers without the pressure of looking for a job.”

She recommends business school to other vets because: “I’ve seen too many senior officers leave the military only to feel lost in the civilian world. I think of business school as a professional incubator. It gives you two years to explore your options and try new things while you’re learning a whole new skill set. This is a no-threat environment to test your wings.”

 Mike Christman

Berkeley MBA student and former US Marine helicopter pilot Mike Christman
His military career:
During his nine years in the US Marine Corps, Mike flew more than 300 combat hours as an attack helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. He also organized and led the grassroots “Combat iPad” effort to bring that technology into the cockpit.

His decision to go to Haas: “I was struck by how closely aligned the Haas Defining Principles are to the values that guide the military services. The idea that the school and its students are here to serve others resonated with me. Berkeley-Haas attracts the kind of people who wants to do things bigger than themselves. Plus, the vets’ community here is super tight.”

 His future: “My academic background is in engineering. The technical problems we faced in the Combat iPad project were easy compared to getting people organized. During my internship at Apple last summer, I learned that herding cats is the essence of product management. I don’t know yet where I’ll end up, but it’s likely to be something more related to motivating people than analyzing data.”

 He recommends an MBA to other vets because: The full-time MBA program gives you two years to try things and make mistakes without consequences. You learn a whole new language of business—one that doesn’t include the f-word as much as you’re used to. The skills and knowledge you gain will set you apart from other returning veterans, and you leave with an entirely new network to rely on.”

Interested in two years of exploring options and building new skills? Learn more about the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program.


 Explore Your Options: The Full-time MBA Program at Berkeley-Haas



Posted on November 9, 2015
Morgan Bernstein
Morgan was the Executive Director of Full-time MBA Admissions at Haas from 2016-2019 as well as a graduate of the program. She enjoys making personal connections with prospective students and guiding them through the MBA admission process.