Andrew Macneil transitioned from the military in 2016. As he transitioned to civilian life, he was inspired and motivated to continue helping people. He believed technology and digital transformation would help him achieve his career goals. However, the journey is far from smooth at the beginning.
How His Haas MBA Acceptance Jumpstart His Career
After leaving the service, Andrew struggled to secure interviews and realized he needed something to jumpstart his career in technology. Even though he knew he possessed strong leadership and organizational abilities, there is still a lot to learn when it comes to gaining an understanding of the tech world. Having grown up in the Bay Area, he was familiar with UC Berkeley and its deep connections to the tech ecosystem. Having gone through a rigorous interview and admission process with Haas, he was accepted into the Executive MBA program class of 2017. But how did his MBA help him get interviews at big tech companies?
“It’s funny because business schools, I think, recognize the leadership that you bring, from a military background, but it’s actually very hard to get someone in technology to hire you. Out of the military, I struggled very much trying to just get an interview. And the funniest thing about it was as soon as I got the Berkeley acceptance, I popped that thing on my resume and I got an interview with Amazon. And no one was giving me the time of day before that. So, it’s so funny. It was just a testament to that, once Berkeley’s willing to sign off on you, you have the street cred.”
What’s the experience of working at Amazon like from a former Green Beret Captain?
Going into Different Mission to Learn
During his five years in corporate America, Andrew credits Amazon with giving him many opportunities to take on different roles each year. During his tenure at the company, he was exposed to a number of fields, including vendor management and highly technical roles.
“What’s great about that is when you come in [at Amazon], a person like me that recently transitioned out of the military, you have an opportunity to go and take a bunch of different roles every single year. You can move from what I would call vendor management partnerships to program management, to a highly technical product interaction role. So, I was able to get different exposure to the business and saw some things that were interesting to me. Then, there are some areas that I probably wanted to shy away from. So, it was a great, great, great opportunity.”
However, despite all the experiences he has had in corporate life and the organizational background he has gained from the military, Andrew cannot resist the desire to move from big tech to a smaller operation. He drew parallels from his military experience when there were numerous organizations and lots of bureaucracy. Rather than moving to a large team, he sought a smaller team with more autonomy where they can handle more complex problems. Just like working in special forces. After working at Amazon for two and a half years, Andrew transferred to WeWork.
Short-lived Autonomy and New Challenges
During his time at WeWork, the company experienced rapid growth. In fact, the growth they experienced is that of a 30-year-old company but compressed in a 1-year time frame. But, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for this start-up. Soon, the ill-fated company experienced a swift collapse.
“ It was a great opportunity still for me to just see that, you know, not every business is Amazon, right? Not all business is going to be hyper-successful. Not every leadership team has a four-star general equivalent, right? So, it was a great opportunity for me to learn some valuable lessons about how to run an organization and how not to. How to be responsible with investor’s money, and you know what that looks like when you’re not.”
Being the soldier that he was, Andrew became motivated by the need to help his unit find new employment — a 50-man team of WeWork free agents with amazing tech backgrounds. Their great camaraderie and teamwork allowed them to pitch themselves as a group to tech companies. With his army experience, they bootstrapped their way into getting hired as a group.
“I think we felt a level of personal responsibility to put ourselves out there and said, ‘this is working. Because from our perspective, it was working. The technology was working. There’s a lot of reasons why things happen, the way they happened from a corporate strategy perspective. A lot of stuff was working. And so, we brought these people over, and we were holding recruitment events. We were tapping our networks, and we were actively marketing positions.”
Soon, the pitching process bears fruit. After bravely approaching Flexport’s executives, he and his colleagues were granted an opportunity.
“And I thought that was even a testament to Flexport’s leadership. To be able to think outside the box and look for an opportunity, to essentially hire a whole 50-person high-performing team”
The Heart for Helping and Going Back to His Roots
After recent military withdrawals in conflict-ridden Afghanistan, Andrew recognizes the need to return to his roots and give back to his Afghan comrades. During his assignment in the country, he formed friendships and relationships with their military counterparts and with civilians he met. Currently, Andrew is actively participating in initiatives meant to help the people he worked with within the country, even though he has moved on to civilian life.
Several news channels and platforms gave him the opportunity to talk about the situation. In this episode, he talks about the relationships and friendships he built with Mirwais, a local soldier he met while serving in the Middle East for two years.
Mirwais’ family is now in imminent danger from the Taliban. One way to help his family is to fund the need for special visas and travel costs to flee the country. And the funds are critical to ensuring they can afford all the evacuation expenses for his family.
The call for help doesn’t end there.
An Update on Mirwais, and How Else Can You Help
Currently, Andrew is encouraging everyone to keep the questions and conversation about Afghanistan going. Continuous discussion means continuous awareness about the situation. He sends his thank to everyone for their donations.
Today, Mirwais and his family, a total of 39 people, successfully escaped Kabul in the final days before withdrawal, and have landed safely in Bahrain. They will now be flown to the U.S. to a temporary staging area before they are then relocated to a more permanent home.
Ultimately, the best form of help is to donate and help evacuate as many civilians as possible. Please access this Go Fund Me link at Donate to Flyaway: Emergency Afghan Rescue Mission.