Our guest today is Andrew Zellman, an Associate at McKinsey and Company. He is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and a former officer in the US Navy.
Andrew’s passions include ultimate frisbee, climate, sustainability, and leveraging his technical background to drive impact and insights in his work.
In this episode, Andrew talks about how he ended up going to a service academy and his experiences as a US Navy officer. He also tells us why he decided to transition out of service, get an MBA, and pursue a career in consulting.
Words of Wisdom:
For people who would like to get into consulting
“If you’re intent on getting into consulting, you should know what you want to get out of it and make sure you actively work towards that. Make sure you advocate for yourself and your goals. I think that goes for life too, but especially consulting because if you’re not diligent and kind of present-minded about it, it’s really easy to get swept away.”
For folks transitioning out of active duty or military service
“Stay humble. There’s going to be a lot of things you don’t know. Asking for help can get you really far. Obviously, you have all the things that you have worked on to develop skill-wise, leadership-wise that are really important, but the onus is on you for articulating that to employers.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00] Chris: Welcome to the OneHaas Podcast. I’m Chris Kim. Today, we have Andrew Zellman, Berkeley Haas Full-Time MBA and incoming associate at McKinsey & Company. Andrew is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former officer in the U.S. Navy. Andrew’s passions include ultimate frisbee, climate, and sustainability, and leveraging his technical background to drive impact and insights in his work and beyond. Andrew, welcome, and great to have you on the show.
[00:30] Andrew: Thank you so much, Chris. I’m very flattered to be here.
[00:33] Chris: Andrew, I’m super excited to have you on the podcast today. We usually start with people’s origin stories. Where did you grow up? Where did you spend time as a kid? So, would you share a bit about your background? And did you know you’d be where you are today when you were a kid?
[00:45] Andrew: Definitely not. I love the word, “origin stories,” by the way. It makes you think of super cool stuff. Yeah, but no, definitely not. So, I don’t know if I’m a super California native, but that’s how I guess I like to think of myself. So, actually, I was born down in Southern California, but a little outside of San Diego. Moved up to Northern California, maybe the first grade. It’s either in between the first grade and kindergarten, I think. But we lived in Ukiah, California, which is about two hours north of San Francisco. It’s a small little rural town, like 16,000 people. But, yeah, very different than SoCal.
So, I had one older brother, Peter. He’s about two and a half years older than I am. So, we got to run around the foothills of Ukiah quite a bit. So, I got to get poison oak a lot. But I’ll also be outdoors a lot, which I think was probably somewhat formative. While I was growing up I was in Boy Scouts, played a decent amount of sports, did basketball and soccer through middle school, then switched over to cross country and track in high school. And what else? Also, I played a lot of ultimate frisbee with my dad. That’s my true favorite sport. My dad taught both my brother and I when we were in middle school. But middle school doesn’t have an ultimate team. Our high school didn’t have an ultimate… Had to do more formal stuff. But yeah, lots of being outdoors, either backpacking or camping with my brother and dad, either through Boy Scouts or on our own, or just playing a lot of sports and running around.
[02:05] Chris: That’s awesome to hear, Andrew. One of the major inflection points for folks at the business school is that first step of going to college or even applying to college. And in your case, you ended up going to a service academy, which is really a prestigious experience. Could you just explain the background? Did you always know you wanted to go into the military as a kid? Or, what was that process like for you as you were planning to apply and then eventually get accepted to Annapolis?
[02:29] Andrew: Yeah, that was a big plot twist, how I think about it. Because being from Northern California, just like Ukiah, I think California in general is… well, liberal does not equal, does not like the military. Definitely, that wasn’t in the life path of many of my peers. It wasn’t something I was strongly considering. My grandpa was in the Navy a little bit after World War II. But other than that, I didn’t feel any close attachment to the military.
And in fact, most of the schools that I was looking at and applying to were small liberal arts schools where I could run DIII cross country. And I felt like liberal arts would be the best thing because I get to be so well-rounded and stuff. But right before junior year ended in high school, I got a postcard about a program that the service academies will put on—so, the Naval Academy has one, Air Force Academy West Point has one—called summer seminar, which is where they bring out rising seniors for a week and, I would say, hangout. But it’s you do a bunch of military. It’s like a little mini boot camp. You’ll do a lot of physical activity or team building stuff and you get to stay in the doors that they have on campus.
And you have to apply for it. And when you apply for that, that also starts your application for the school. And I’d never been to the East Coast before. I’ve pretty much spent all my time in California. Maybe, I went to Oregon once when my brother was visiting colleges and stuff like that, and then Nevada once. But pretty much just a West Coast person. So, I was like, “I’ve never been to Maryland. This seems like a relatively cheap way to be in Maryland for about a week. So, I’ll apply to this and see if I get in.” And I applied. I was able to go. And I actually had a really great time, strangely enough. Also, at that time, I just had this huge head of hair. It was probably pretty close to a [crosstalk 00:04:13].
[04:14] Chris: Oh, my God.
[04:15] Andrew: It was just very blonde and was definitely not the typical haircut. It was running around the Naval Academy. But applying for that summer seminar program actually just started my application for the school. And I thought, you know what? I would never go to the Naval Academy because that’s crazy. I don’t want to be in the Navy. But I’ll just finish the application and have it as something that’s there for me. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to go elsewhere. Because I think Williams was one of the schools I really wanted to go to. I think there was Carleton because they had a beastly ultimate team, was also up there. But just service academy was not high up the list.
[04:49] Chris: So, Andrew, what sold you? What sold you on this goal?
[04:51] Andrew: So, they do a rolling application process.
[04:55] Chris: Oh, interesting.
[04:56] Andrew: I learned I got in in January. So, way before all the other colleges. And at that point, that’s when I started thinking it’s more of a real possibility. And I started viewing it as, you know what? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s not my entire life, either. So, if I end up not liking the Navy, I’ll just get out after my five or six years or whatever. If I do like it, I’ll keep doing it. So, I think it’s attractive from being a very unique experience. And I think one of actually the second parts, too, was that I didn’t feel completely opposed to the idea of being in the Navy or being in the military. And I know not everyone feels that way. And if I’m okay with it, then maybe I should do it, because I know there’s some people who aren’t okay with it. And that’s fine that they’re not, but if I’m okay with it, maybe I should do my part and serve for a bit. And again, it doesn’t have to be forever. And then they also… the different service communities that I could join. One of the big polls was either trying to be on an aircraft carrier or a submarine, to learn how to operate the nuclear reactors at the airport, because I was still a bit of a nerd in high school.
[05:59] Chris: Holy moly.
[06:00] Andrew: Probably, now too. And that was attractive. So, I think those are the reasons.
[06:02] Chris: That’s awesome. So, you got accepted, and then you ended up going. What was it like when you first stepped on campus at the academy, Andrew? And on the book end, what’d it feel like when you were graduating?
[06:13] Andrew: So, that is definitely a crazy experience. So, the first day is called induction day, or I-day for short. And especially, coming from… I think the most formal thing I did at that point was Boy Scouts. But they have a uniform and stuff. But it’s definitely, you’re getting yelled at on I-day. It’s chaos. They shave your head down. They give you a short buzz cut. [crosstalk 00:06:32].
[06:32] Chris: Did all the hair come off at that point? Oh, man.
[06:35] Andrew: Oh, yeah, the flow was gone. I think that barbers also take pride in just taking the clippers and doing these huge cuts. Yeah, that was a big twist. I think doing that, like the first taste of going into, “This is crazy. I’m just going to go into grind mode. It’s either blinders on or just focus one step at a time and get through Plebe Summer.” And then it felt like the Navy is like this in general. Plebe Summer is this, maybe, two-and-a-half-month time where it’s, okay, this is granted. Just got to get to the next thing. Then, it’s plebe year, which is basically freshman year. And it’s like you thought Plebe Summer was hard, but here now, there is this new challenge, which is even longer. You’re constantly learning of, how do I get through these next steps or these next hurdles?
And then graduation is crazy, a little bittersweet, too, because you live with the same people, your company mates, which is around 40 of your classmates for four years. And then, at the end of graduation, you all go to separate places. So, that was a little bittersweet that you have all these friends that you’ve lived with for so long in the same dorm rooms, going through the same random stuff that the academy puts you through. So, that was a little bittersweet, but also it’s, “Wow, I’m an adult now.” People are saluting you. You’re actually expected to know what you’re doing to have responsibilities. That was a big twist.
[07:46] Chris: Andrew, we’ve had a couple of folks who have gone to service academies, but we haven’t talked a ton about how you choose your job after you graduate. So, what was that process like for you? And I know you ended up going the nuclear route, submarines and all. What was that like, going through the process of deciding and then eventually getting that job?
[08:03] Andrew: So, each summer, basically, service academy students don’t have a full summer off summer vacation. They’ll only end up getting three to four weeks. And during the rest of the summer, you actually have these training blocks that you have to do. So, each summer, they try to expose you to a different facet of whatever branch you’re in. And so, for example, at the Naval Academy, you can do trainings or you have to do the trainings on surface ships. So, that might be a destroyer, or it could be in an amphibious ship. You’ll end up having to do trainings with the Marine Corps for at least a week, sometimes more. Sorry, my cat’s having fun on my desk. And so, sometimes, you get to do trainings with either that aviation group, which could be helicopters or it could be fixed wing.
So, they really do a good job of exposing you to the different service communities you could join. However, sometimes these events get canceled. And so, actually, there was a week where I was supposed to be training on a submarine, but it ended up getting canceled because there was a hurricane and we couldn’t fly down to Georgia to get down to the submarine.
But they also give you briefs or, basically, presentations trying to describe what each communities do. At the beginning of my time at the academy, I knew I wanted to either be on carriers or submarines because I think it would be really interesting to learn how to operate the nuclear reactors. And then, at some point, I decided I was too much of an introvert to be on an aircraft carrier, which will have 5,000 people.
[09:20] Chris: Oh, my gosh. Wow.
[09:23] Andrew: And actually, the missions that submarines do are pretty interesting and pretty cool. And I was like, you know what? The missions that submarines do, more interesting, fewer people, tighter-knit community. I want to go on submarines. I briefly considered being a Marine, but that’s also a lot of work. And do I really want to do that? I don’t think I would 100%, that wouldn’t be a full body yes. I was like, you know what? Submarine sounds better. And there was actually an early application process. You can be either a carrier or a submarine officer. Normally, it happens during senior year. But during early application, you can do at the end of junior year. And I did that. And then there’s technical interviews that you have to do with these really scary engineers, that was intense. Casing for business school can seem a little intimidating. This is a whole nother level, where you’re just getting these death stares or asked these piercing questions that make… Always, they try to make you seem like an idiot, and you’re just like, “I’m pretty sure this is right,” but yeah.
[10:13] Chris: That’s awesome. So, Andrew, you graduated and then you became an officer. What was it like on your first day? My understanding is that you have this qualification period as soon as you become an officer. So, you start your job, but then you’re also automatically starting to test for your job. What was that experience like? And can you describe a bit about what that pipeline looks like for someone typically coming in that area, the nuclear submarine area?
[10:35] Andrew: Yeah. I would say, with submarines, it’s pretty intense. I think, probably, all communities have this, but just some communities at schools are a little bit shorter. So, even before we even step foot on a submarine, they send us to what’s called power school down in Charleston, South Carolina. And so, that’s the Navy version of graduate studies when it comes to thermodynamics, power systems, reactor physics, all this crazy stuff. And so, you’re sitting in a school room for a minimum of 10 hours a day, just getting this fire hose of just academic material. And that’s for six months.
Then there’s another six months of school where it’s called prototype. And there, you’re actually operating land-based nuclear reactors. But it’s still like the same thing where you’re just getting this fire hose of information. There is this qualification process where you’re given a big book. They call it qual card. But it basically has these different topics where you have to do little mini-interviews with instructors and demonstrate knowledge on these topics. And in order to do that, you have to study in the books, either the technical manual or something that’s more like a textbook to learn all that stuff.
And that’s also a really big shift. There’s this whole learning curve. I can imagine this happens with most jobs in general, too, where it’s not only do you have to learn the material. The meta is you have to learn how to learn the material. So, what’s the most efficient way to ramp up on all this knowledge? Or, at what level of knowledge is it okay to say, “You know what? I’m going to go for this checkout,” which is a little mini-interview. And I will know some stuff, but they won’t say no to signing off the qual card. That was an intense process.
I think that’s actually a pretty good leadership teaching tool, too, because it’s like you have all this knowledge that you’re supposed to know. And it super helps to come into that with humility and knowing what you do know and what you don’t know and not being afraid to ask for help and not thinking you’re the smartest person in the room, because there’s this interesting, or maybe not interesting, but there’s this dynamic where, yes, I’m an officer who technically out-ranks enlisted. But there’s enlisted who have been in the Navy for way longer than I have and have forgotten more than I’ll have ever learned about different topics, especially when it comes to specific plant operations.
And so, just because you are an officer, I was an officer, I can’t go in there with an attitude or I can’t go in there thinking, “I know more than these people,” or, “I’m better than these people,” because they’re the subject matter expert. And so, being willing to say, “Hey, can you actually teach me this?” Or, “This is something I didn’t understand.” So, it’s a lot of learning how to learn, and then also cultivating relationships with the people who are the subject matter experts that can teach you the most. Some are super willing to teach and mentor. Then there’s others who, they’re punching in there 9:00 to 5:00 and identifying which people can I learn from, which people is it more, “I can go for two for a checkout, but they’re not going to help me learn.”
But that is a ginormous process, not only during the schools, but when you first get to your submarine as well, which is after all the schools, it starts all over again, because there are different reactors and different systems. And on top of that, once you first show up to your boat or your submarine, you actually have a job on top of having to learn all this stuff. So, you have your 24/7. Maybe, you get a division. You get put in charge of electoral division. And so, now, you’re managing a work schedule and trying to do all the administrative stuff. Maybe, you have a petty officer going up for a promotion have to do stuff like that. Or, you have some other program that you have to help run. So, it’s definitely a lot. And I think it goes a lot into time management. It forces you to learn that. Or, if you don’t, you’re just going to be drowning or spending forever at work. But also, I think a lot of humility and knowing when to ask for help and knowing when to say, “You know what? I don’t know this. I need to either find out where to learn it or find the right person to help me.”
[14:03] Chris: That’s awesome to hear. Andrew, I know some people are fortunate to maybe tour a submarine, but you lived on a submarine. What’s that like? Especially as a serving member, I can imagine, essentially, you’re living and working in the same place or same facility. What’s that like 24/7 being in a sub?
[14:20] Andrew: Yeah, it’s a lot. I’m lucky I’m not claustrophobic. The rack or the bed that I was in, I was in what’s called nine-man on a Los Angeles class submarine. So, the rack I was in was a top bunk. And there was maybe about five or six inches of clearance between my head and the ventilation deck.
[14:38] Chris: Oh, wow.
[14:39] Andrew: So, there was no sitting up in bed. I did that a few times and hit my head maybe three times before. Then, it sticks that you can’t sit fully up. So, very confined spaces. The hallway, you can’t pass two people just walking straight towards each other. When you have to pass, you have to each go sideways and then shuffle a little bit. So, very tight quarters. The air is recycled, for the most part, except when you can come up to ventilate. So, I can’t imagine 140 people living in the submarine. And it’s just we have atmospheric scrubbing equipment that has its own distinctive bad smell. But there was a lot of trying to find happiness in the different desserts. I remember there was this one chocolate with peanut butter frosting that, man, you’re having a rough day and then you have this dessert and you’re like, “Oh, my God. I found God in this dessert.” And then you just taste that feeling every dinner after that. There’s just a whole lot to learn how to survive in that environment and, I won’t say, thrive because that’s pretty hard to do.
I think the people are the most important part of what makes the experience. And so, depending upon who’s on your watch team, sometimes you can have some… Sometimes, you’ll have two people who don’t get along and you’re like, “Oh, my God. I have to deal with this for the next eight hours of these people doing a set of little gripes at each other.” It’s like, how do I diffuse this? But then there’s, when you get to pull into port, that feels really good. You actually get sunshine for the first time, which I burn easily. Sometimes, I can do away with sunshine. But pulling a port also feels really good. So, you get little moments to break up deployment. We were on a 10-month deployment to the Western Pacific.
So, it did last a long time. You definitely get homesick. You also don’t have any connectivity. So, it’s like the year of 2016 basically didn’t happen for me. It’s like, I don’t know what happened in the news or stuff like that. I don’t know anything about sports from 2016.
[16:19] Chris: One of the things I often heard from classmates who were in the Navy were the memories or maybe the places that they were able to go. Any places that stick out to you or any memories that you had from your time in service?
[16:30] Andrew: Yeah. So, I got the opportunity on deployment to pull into Guam to Singapore. And then we pulled into Japan twice. I loved scuba diving in Guam. Scuba diving was just the coolest thing ever. Just seeing all the coral, different fish. There was this one fish on one of the dives that just followed us around the entire time. It felt like a dog. And that was really cool and just not something that I had ever seen before outdoors. So, I highly recommend getting scuba-certified to anyone listening to this because that was just amazing. I think snorkeling, if you’re in the right area, you can probably come close, too, because you still get to see fish and underwater. Also, there are no windows on submarines. So, it’s not like we are looking at this stuff all the time. Scuba diving was really cool.
[17:11] Chris: Andrew, so many awesome memories and experiences. And you had a lot of success in the Navy, but you did eventually think about transitioning out of the service. Could you share a bit about, for folks who are either thinking about it or just to share about your background, what were you thinking about when you were thinking about transitioning out of your service? What were some of the top things? And then how did you decide to go to business school as part of that or to even look at getting an MBA as part of that process?
[17:36] Andrew: I always had in the back of my head that I wanted to go to graduate school. So, that always felt like it was in the cards for me, either through the Navy or when I get out of the Navy. When I was in Washington, actually, my dream job would’ve been working at a national lab somewhere. And so, I was thinking, I’ll get a Ph.D. in either math, which I studied in undergrad or physics, because I think those are really interesting. And then I’ll try and get a job at a national lab. And then, actually, one of the friends that I played frisbee with was telling me that those jobs can actually be a little bit more political than you would imagine because it’s all about either aligning yourself with someone who can get funding or being really good at yourself at writing those grant proposals or getting funding. So, that soured me on that a little bit.
Then, after I was stationed in Washington, I then was stationed in Connecticut for more of a desk job or what’s called a short tour. So, I had a lot more free time. And then my best friend there at that command, Tammy, he actually talked me into studying for the GMAT with him and doing that, because he just made a lot of sense. He was telling me. He was like, “You know what? An MBA is two years compared to four more for a PhD. So, that’s less time you’re in school, more time you’re employed. And you’re going to get a job that pays more.” And I was like, you know what? You’re making a lot of sense. So, maybe, I’ll just study for the GMAT with you. I think of Tammy’s presence, I don’t think I would’ve applied for business school.
[18:55] Chris: Oh, wow.
[18:56] Andrew: I don’t think I would’ve studied for the GMAT. He was really the catalyst that got me studying for it. So, for about two and a half months, we studied for the GMAT, just about every night together. And then we did all the applying to schools together. I knew that I wanted to go to a smaller school. And this time I meant it, not compared to undergrad.
And so, Haas, obviously a smaller school. I ended up applying to Haas, Yale, MIT, and Stanford. And the first choice was definitely being back home in California because my parents, my brother are still in Northern California. And I wanted to return home really badly, especially after getting out of the Navy. Yale was actually pretty close to where I was stationed in Connecticut, but I guess, by California standards, anything in Connecticut is close to itself. But California was half the list. And actually, when I came out to tour both the Stanford and the Berkeley campus, I actually liked the Berkeley campus a little bit better, which is that might be a hot take.
I think Berkeley just made a ton of sense. In addition to being in Northern California, close to where I grew up in my family, it would be great. Because I’m interested in trying to get into energy and clean tech. I think there’s a lot of startups, clean tech startups, that have either offices or are centered in Berkeley. And then, also, being able to take courses outside of just the business school, all great reasons why I like Haas was a super good school for me to apply to. And I’m really fortunate that I got in, because I got to go there and be here and be a graduate.
[20:27] Chris: Yeah. Andrew, what was it like, I guess at that point, coming off of your service and you got here on campus and then pretty-ish I don’t know if it was before or right when you started, the whole COVID and the initial lockdown happened. What was that like for you? It’s one of the things that I definitely remember from my business school experience. What was that like for you in your class? And what was that experience like, coming from this pretty active life and now in school, but also having the pandemic and the background?
[20:53] Andrew: Yeah, that was a trip. I think because I was still working in person during the entirety of the pandemic up until moving to California for school, and so I moved in August of 2020, so up until that point, working in person, it was a really big shift. Culturally isn’t the right word, but it showed me how different parts of America are either reacting or there’s different pandemics going on. So, we were in Eastern Connecticut. There were points where my family’s in California. They were all locked down. And I was still able to go to a winery and do a little tasting outdoors where I’d open back up a tiny bit. Because there were just very few cases in Eastern Connecticut where we were.
And then, moving here, my brother and his partner told me this, like, “Hey, you can be invited into our COVID pod, but these are the only people that you can interact with in person that we’re comfortable with, because that’s how we’re handling.” And it’s like, whoa, this is very different compared to when I’m just going into work, and I don’t know if the Navy did the best it could, but there were some precautions that they took. But then other things were just like, if somebody gets COVID, I feel like the whole command’s getting COVID.
So, yeah, it was very different. But at the same time, I knew I wanted to start school because I was getting out of the Navy regardless and I felt that deferring for a year wouldn’t make that much sense. I think my primary goal with the MBA was I wanted it… or I imagined it as more of an academic experience. And so, I wasn’t super concerned about it being remote. I thought I was still going to be able to get what I wanted out of it. And I was going to do it regardless if we were virtual or not. And then Zoom school, it’s tougher than I thought it was going to be. Like, I can sit down in front of a computer all day. And then when you’re actually doing it, it’s like, man, this is tough. It’s so hard to stay engaged, too, because it’s corona’s right here. Time to go do other stuff.
And I think one thing in the Navy, I could never have my cell phone at work with me, because I was always in a secure area. And then, most of the time, I never had internet access. So, it’s, you know what? Those two big distractions are gone. And then actually having those is they’re quite tempting and compelling to use. So, yeah, it was a big shift. I think I made the best of it. I’m sure everyone did as much as they could. I think that also made me take for granted some of the things that I assume. It’s like you assume that, if you haven’t experienced something, it’s, you know what? That doesn’t sound that hard. And then when you’re actually going through it, it’s, maybe I didn’t give this enough credit. And so, I think that’s also something where it’s, you know what? Just because I don’t have firsthand experience of something that somebody is saying, it doesn’t necessarily qualify me to judge whether that’s difficult or not. So, it was another good lesson in having humility.
[23:42] Chris: Yeah, absolutely. Andrew, one of the big aspects of the MBA program is, ultimately, you’re trying to get a job. And for you coming out of the military, one of the things is to get a job probably in the private sector area. So, what was that like for you? And then I think you did a summer internship, I believe. So, could you explain what was that like for you, not only just being remote, but also going through that process to get a job while you’re in the business school at the same time.
[24:08] Andrew: I will say I don’t think I conducted my internship and job search in the optimal way. I think I probably should have been a lot more social and active when it comes to networking. But I think I had a harder time than I imagined. And there were definitely roller coasters, ups and downs, and switches in my direction. So, when I first came in to starting the MBA program, I was recruiting for consulting because I thought it would be a really great way to just learn lots about business, about different industries, and then really narrow down a target that I wanted when it came to a job afterwards, because I think, going to a service academy and then being in the military, that was a total of basically 10 years that I was in the military.
And I didn’t really have any idea of what are specific roles that I think I could fulfill, or what are different industries I think would be interesting. I knew broadly that I wanted to do something with energy and decarbonization because I get to leverage a little bit of my technical background, but I couldn’t name specific roles. And so, I thought consulting would be a great way. It’s a proven path for MBAs to go into and then will give me that broad exposure. So, I tried recruiting for that. I ended up bombing my round one interviews. And then I had to shift. And I said, well, what I think would be really interesting is working at some energy startup.
I started looking into battery startups because I think those would be a fascinating place to work at. And I don’t know this to be true, and this is somewhere that I think, if I networked more and tried to be more active, that I could have had more success. But I had limited success when I was applying to a lot of these startups and some even bigger ones, even like Tesla, that have a little bit more established pipelines. And I think, if I had more warmer intros, that would’ve helped me for these startups and then also more established companies.
But what I found was that, when it came to technical people, they really were looking either for masters or Ph.D.s in material science or physics or stuff like that, which I didn’t have. My engineering experience was all operational, operating a reactor, not necessarily design-focused. So, even a nuclear startup that I was interested in didn’t have a role for me. And when it came to the business side, what these companies were looking for, if they were even hiring for those, was somebody with more traditional business experience, be it consulting or investment banking or something like that. So, I gave up on startups for a while because it just felt like my resume was a little bit far of a stretch to get there, which was a little bit of a gut punch but happens, and may or may not be the case for everyone. Again, I don’t think I completely successfully executed my job in internship search.
So, then I thought it’d be super interesting to maybe work at a large corporation—Google, Amazon, Facebook. A lot of them are doing power purchasing agreements or even developing renewable projects. Maybe, I could do that. And the sense that I got was that my military background actually plays a little more in corporate America or companies that have either a JO leadership rotation program or something like that. But maybe a startup doesn’t have any veterans. And so, they don’t necessarily know how to value some of the skills they bring in. And also, veterans have a really hard time articulating the skills that they bring to the table. But I thought these big corporations might. Turns out they were looking for people with more industry experience. That’s the sense that I got talking to them.
So, that’s actually when I applied for an internship at San Diego Gas & Electric, because the feedback I got was either you need industry experience. So, either working at a consultancy, a renewable developer, I tried applying into a few of those, or a utility. And I ended up applying to San Diego Gas & Electric. Was able to intern there. And that actually was really good advice because I was able to learn a ton. And especially in California, the regulation surrounding utilities can be very convoluted. And how they make money is very convoluted. And so, it was great having a front seat learning opportunity to learn the different challenges they face, like, how they make money. They have a lot of internal training resources on how they do that, because their employees don’t know either or at least they’re new ones. And so, that was great. But ultimately, I decided it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be long-term, especially when it comes… I’m passionate about decarbonization. And I think a lot of things that utility focuses on, rightly so, is resilience is big. The word is escaping now, but essentially, reliability. They want to minimize power outages as much as possible.
And so, utilizing new technology is a little bit scarier for them, also because of how they make a return. Not super incentivized to deploy new technologies. There’s a lot of things that can change. But anyways, I decided that wouldn’t be a place where I felt like I could be making a really big when it comes to driving sustainability and decarbonization. And I said, well, if the utility’s not going to be it, I heard consulting is one of those stepping stones from all these people at the big corporations or it’s what the startups are looking for when it comes to the job postings. So, it’s like, I’ll go into re-attack for consulting and recruiting and hopefully make it work this time.
[29:05] Chris: Andrew, you were successful in getting to McKinsey. What was that process like? Because you essentially finished the internship. You’d come back on campus. And you’re like, “I got to go. I got to get this time.” And it’s an all-or-nothing type of moment for a lot of MBAs. What was that like for you?
[29:19] Andrew: That was a lot of heads down casing time. And I think, from the first round of doing the internship recruiting, that taught me, here’s the right way to case. And so, now the second time I got to focus on the right way to case, rather than learning how to case. But there was a lot of time where I did a lot of casing. And I think with the MBA, fortunately, it’s electives that second year. So, some of them aren’t quite as hard as others, but it’s like, you know what? I won’t get an A on this elective paper because I’m going to make sure I have a job, because at the end of the day, I’m going to be a sad panda if I don’t graduate with a job offer.
But I think it was just applying those lessons learned, and then also just trying to grind out the cases. And you have to be really diligent. Honestly, I think this is true no matter what you’re doing. But it also applies to casing. You really have to reflect on, okay, where are the areas that I’m messing up? And how am I consciously going to do better? And it got to the point where what I had to do on my case papers is I have to write. I made my little format of the prompt goes here, here’s the big question. But in every single case, I think I ended up writing at the top of paper, “Don’t forget about cannibalization,” because that was something that I would always forget about, but just little things like that or figuring out how to improve not forget things. But that was a grind. But I got super fortunate to make it through round one and two with McKinsey. But it was a lot of work. And then, also, finding with the right partners, what I found helped the most was it’s hard to do, but casing with either actual consultants or past consultants is, I think, the most valuable and helpful.
[30:56] Chris: That’s awesome. Now that you’re out of the MBA program and moving into the next stage of your career, do you have any reflections of your time at Haas or anything that stick with you, and anything else that you’re thinking about now that you couldn’t focus on during the MBA program that you’re focusing on as you’re transitioning?
[31:14] Andrew: Yeah. I think reflection… So, I think if I could do it over again, it was around fall of actually the first year that I decided, you know what? I thought this was going to be an academic program, and I think it’s more of a vocational program. And that was a mindset shift for me. I think what I would do differently is actually try and be a little bit more social, because that was something that I didn’t really prioritize, especially because going into it, I was like, this is an academic program. I’m going to try and focus on that. I’m not here to party for two years. I’m trying to learn. And I think I missed out a little bit on learning what other people’s interests are, because I know there’s so many great classmates out there. But I just didn’t focus enough on getting to meet them. I think I was very complacent. I had my cat mittens. And then it was actually around Thanksgiving or the first year I met my girlfriend. And so, the opportunity cost was like, do I go to a bar that week, or do I join the cuddle puddle that’s on the couch right now? And the cuddle puddle pretty much always won. But I think, looking back, I would try to build a little bit more of those connections, because it’s when I did get to be in little group projects with people in electives or classes, you just get to meet all these great super interesting people and learn their stories. And that’s something I wish I did more of.
Now, during the summertime, I moved into San Francisco, and I actually love it. I’ve never lived in a big city before. And I like it a lot more than I thought I would. I think a big part of that is being able to take the Muni around everywhere and take the bus. We have this awesome location. So, that makes it much less stressful. I hate driving in San Francisco. But luckily, my car gets to stay parked for the majority of the time. So, I actually really like that. I am playing in an ultimate frisbee league while I still have free time.
[32:56] Chris: Oh, nice.
[32:58] Andrew: So, really enjoying that. Taking up disc golf a little bit more. That’s fun. But I think, right now, just trying to enjoy not having work and really trying to focus on being present and enjoying what’s happening right now. Work’s going to be work. When it gets here, I’m going to have to put in an effort to get what I want out of McKinsey and learn the things that I want to learn. But I don’t have to worry about that right now. I have to worry about that in two days.
[33:21] Chris: Absolutely. Well, Andrew, it’s been so good to have you on the show today. We have a newer tradition of closing with some Haas words of wisdom. Want to pose some questions to you, and if you’d share your words of wisdom, we’d greatly appreciate it.
[33:35] Andrew: I will do my best.
[33:36] Chris: Andrew, word of wisdom, people who are thinking about getting into consulting, what words of wisdom might you provide for those folks?
[33:44] Andrew: It’s a little bit hard because I didn’t do an internship in it, but I think if you’re intent on getting into consulting, I think you should probably know what you want to get out of it, whether that’s a list in your head or something that you write down. And make sure you actively work towards that. I think this probably goes for most jobs in general, but especially, I think consulting you can probably get swept away in what you’re doing. The Navy was like this, where a company in consulting is going to get out of you what they want. So, you need to make sure that you get out of it what you want. And you need to keep that in mind. If that’s a sticky note on your mirror, do that. If it’s a sticky note on your desktop, which is what I do, do that, but just make sure you advocate for yourself and your goals. I think that goes for life, too, but especially consulting, because if you’re not diligent and present-minded about it, I think it’s really easy to get swept away.
[34:35] Chris: Sounds awesome. Next question, Andrew. For folks transitioning out of active duty or military service, what words of wisdom might you have for them?
[34:42] Andrew: With that, I think it’s definitely stay humble-ish, but there’s going to be a lot of things you don’t know and a lot of things that are unfamiliar. And so, asking for help can get you really far. Obviously, you have all the things that you have worked on to develop, skill-wise, leadership-wise, that are really important. But the onus is on you for articulating that to employers and then also setting up a good fit. And so, I think one of the tactical things that I found super helpful when it came to resume is try to find a relative or a friend who has absolutely zero exposure to the military and have them read it, because then they can tell you, “Hey, I didn’t understand any of this,” or, “This sounds awesome, but I don’t know what this means.” That will help you translate and take away the jargon and really distill down to what your skills are and get you a bit farther than… I remember now my first resume was terrible because it was just all something only a submarine officer can understand. And I know transitioning military members have so much more to offer than something only a military person can understand. But I don’t know if it’s unfortunate or not, the reality is the onus is on the service member for translating that.
[35:55] Chris: That’s good. One more. And for your future self, Andrew, any words of wisdom that you’d provide for yourself?
[36:02] Andrew: My future self. I think I really want some of the stuff from Boston, of course, to stick around. One of the things that I think also helps with driving in San Francisco traffic is one of the things they focus on is just how impermanent things are. And so, if you’re going through traffic and you find yourself getting upset, just understand that the situation is impermanent. It’s not going to last forever. Pain in the body isn’t permanent, it’s not going to last forever. And so, I think using that realization can help you understand, hey, this happy moment here, this isn’t going to last forever. So, I should be here. I should be present. And then I should enjoy it. Or, hey, this bad thing that’s happening right now, you know what? That’s not going to last forever, either. And it’s not worth getting upset over.
So, I hope that attitude is something future Andrew can still try to have and try to practice. And I really hope I don’t get swept away in consulting because I’m sure there’s going to be things that it’s, oh, man, this is the last-minute deadline. Or if I’m working super late, it’s like, this is so crazy. I’m so stressed. I really hope future Andrew keeps that in mind, says, you know what? This isn’t permanent. I shouldn’t let this stress me out because, at the end of the day, it’s not worth my mental health or all my processing cycles to get worked up about something. It’s a slide.
[37:15] Chris: Andrew, those are awesome words of wisdom. It’s been great to have you on the show. I’m super excited for you. We, on the podcast, wish you all the best in this upcoming year and in the future, of course. So, I want to say thanks again, Andrew. And go, bears.
[37:28] Andrew: Thank you so much, Chris. I really appreciate those words. Go, bears.