Steve Walsh, BC MBA ’16, on Leveraging Lessons from the Navy in an MBA Program

Steve Walsh, BC MBA ’16, enrolled in the BC MBA program knowing more about management than some of his professors—but nearly nothing about business.

He learned to manage as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He’d been deployed several times around Africa and had commanded as many as 40 sailors, including some who were nearly two decades older than he was. But unlike the typical MBA candidate, he hadn’t learned the ins and outs of corporate financial statements or Excel spreadsheets. He knew big guns, not big data.

“Not having a quantitative background, that left me without the hard skills that most business students have,” he says. “One of the things I appreciate about the Boston College Carroll School of Management is that you get those skills. You get the baseline knowledge in accounting, economics, and marketing, and it’s quantitatively based, which is the language of business.”

Walsh, 29, concentrated his studies in finance and management and says the concentrations provided him a new skillset for analyzing firms. “I now have the ability to look at the financial statements or business strategy of a company and establish a solid understanding of its health and operations,” he says.

He further deepened his financial knowledge through an internship at CBRE, a commercial real-estate company, where he worked on a debt-underwriting team.

Walsh studied history as a Boston College undergrad and was commissioned in the Navy after graduation in 2009. His family, he says, was committed to the idea of service, and for him, the military felt right. He liked the physicality; he’d played rugby and been a cheerleader at BC. After Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island, he was sent to San Diego, his base for five years.

His Navy management training was mostly baptism by fire. “I showed up to the ship”—a guided missile destroyer—“and was put in charge of 20 sailors.” The toughest, and most important thing, was winning their trust by showing competence and self-confidence. “You’re working hand-in-hand with senior enlisted men who are the technical experts. They’re typically in their late 20s or early 30s.”

Walsh says military professional life is more flexible than civilians believe. Rank matters most, of course, but every day young officers are given chances to show what they’re capable of and given more responsibility if they excel.

“From day one, you have to brief your boss. If I gain his trust, you start to brief his boss. If your boss trusts you and you show competence, he’ll have no problem giving you the latitude to get the job done. It’s a meritocracy.”

Walsh, who grew up in Holbrook, Mass., stayed in the Boston area after he graduated in May of 2016. He landed a job with Fidelity Investments and entered the company’s management rotational training program. He learned of the Fidelity program through both the company’s on-campus recruiting and through the MBA Veterans conference, which serves veterans who are pursuing or have earned master’s degrees in business.

Boston College recognizes the leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking skills developed through military service, and to show our gratitude to military personnel and veterans we offer an automatic $100 application fee waiver. Read more about the services and resources that are available to individuals with military experience.