Former Marine translates MBA to new career in finance and consulting

By Eileen Jacob

Ben Vickery, MBA 19, knows a thing or two about transition and translation.

During his military career, he worked in the Marine Corps as a cryptologic linguist. Fluent in Pashto, he was sent to Afghanistan to do signals intelligence for the National Security Agency. The job taught him about teamwork and leadership. 

After five years of service, Ben transitioned to civilian life, studying finance and economics at Columbia University. Upon graduating, he joined Google as a general financial associate, building and refining internal processes for compliance. That job cultivated analytical skills—managing risk, increasing efficiency, and reducing outsourcing needs. 

He loved working for Google. But he found himself craving a role with more input into strategy. He wanted to translate his hands-on skills to big-picture thinking. To help make that transition, he applied to the Evening & Weekend MBA Program at Berkeley Haas. 

“It was an opportunity to further bolster some of the leadership qualities I had gained in the military and combine them with analytical abilities I had honed working for Google,” he says. 

As an evening & weekend student, Ben found himself able to take what he was experiencing on a day-to-day basis at Google and bring it into the classroom. From case studies that paralleled work initiatives to rethinking forecasting models, the curriculum mirrored many of the things he dealt with every day on the job. 

After two semesters at Haas, he transitioned into a new role at Google, focusing on strategy and operations. Again, his classes translated directly to his new job. 

“A big part of the curriculum is making decisions not just for immediate returns but for long-term gains,” he says. 

Ben plugged into campus life by joining student clubs like the Consulting Club, which puts on an annual “firm night” to give students face time with firms like Strategy&, Bain, ECG, McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture, and smaller boutique firms. “You learn about the culture of each firm, the people who work there, and what they’re looking for in new hires.” 

Through the Finance Club, Ben became a principal for the Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund, a student-run fund that manages around $3 million. The wholly owned fund helps finance the Center for Responsible Business, part of the Institute for Business & Social Impact at Haas. “The idea is to prove we as students can manage a fund with an eye on companies that are doing well—while doing good.” 

Ben even had time to volunteer for VetNet, a group that helps military veterans transition to civilian careers. He teaches Four Block, “a career transition boot camp where we work on everything from resumes and networking to interviewing skills,” Ben says. “Many people had helped me through the same process—it was important for me to pay it forward.” 

Before graduating, Ben managed yet another career transition for himself, this time from Google to consulting. 

Through an interview facilitated by the Haas Career Management Group, Ben decided to join Strategy&, the consulting arm of PwC. It was an instant match. “I interviewed with them and had an offer the same day,” he says. 

As a senior associate in private equity value creation, he now consults with private equity firms, guiding his clients through the M&A process. The work is fast-paced, and the firms he advises range widely across industries. “I could be working on a CPG company one day, a software company the next, and the following day something in energy or life sciences,” he says. 

You could say his education translates as well as Ben does to an ever-changing world.

Learn more about the Evening & Weekend MBA program

Posted on November 7, 2019
Eileen Jacob
Eileen was Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2017-2019. She enjoyed meeting prospective students and helping them explore the benefits of an MBA, and hopes these blog posts provide valuable insight into the Berkeley MBA experience.