Foster Executive MBA (EMBA) Program Helps Chart Course from Seafood to Space

Dan Sullivan (EMBA ’20) reports in as Sr. Gateway Site Acquisition Analyst at SpaceX

It is good to remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Dan Sullivan graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2007 with a BS in Environmental Science. He was commissioned into the Army, serving as a Company Executive Officer and then as a Battalion Logistics Officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and overseas—about five and a half years, all told.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, when Dan left the Army he made his home in Seattle, where his wife found her dream job working for a nonprofit focused on global health. He found an opportunity at a mid-sized company specializing in Alaska seafood and worked his way into General Manager of Sales and Marketing at UniSea.

“I became part of a team that had a very powerful thing in common,”

“It was a good job, and a great opportunity to travel and gain international business exposure,” said Dan. “But after five years with the company I found myself wondering what other areas existed for me to explore.” Dan is friends with fellow alumnus Josh Rodriguez (MBA ’17)—they were in the same class at West Point. “Talking to Josh started me down the road to an MBA, and I looked at potentially going full-time,” said Dan.

Then he attended an event targeted to veterans interested in graduate business education and met Randell Hernandez, director of admissions for Foster’s Executive MBA (EMBA) Program. Randell asked a pointed question: if not now, when?

“Looking back,” said Dan, “I just wish I’d have begun my MBA about three or four years earlier than I did. I am 37, and I feel like as you get older your network consolidates and the number of new people you interact with becomes more limited. In the EMBA program I met classmates from all over the world. I met doctors, surgeons, entrepreneurs, business owners, lawyers—there were people from diverse backgrounds and careers. The program provided an environment where I could rebrand myself and gain acumen and confidence in the technical aspects of business.”

What was it like to go back to school in a different phase of life? Dan recalls feeling relieved that he was in the same boat as everyone else in the program. “I became part of a team that had a very powerful thing in common,” said Dan. “We’re all looking to fill some gap—to learn at a more advanced level, to be introduced to new opportunities, to broaden our networks. We hadn’t been down the same paths and we weren’t headed the same direction, but we all wanted to pivot.”
In terms of the academics, Dan felt like the program offered the right amount of rigor. “Things were coordinated well, no busy work or filler,” said Dan. “I was part of the monthly cohort (the other option is weekly) and I didn’t realize how intense the program would be, but amazingly life kept moving.”

“When I started my interview process my classmates were the best support network. They kept me on my path and picked me up when I was down. My classmates were vital in keeping me motivated, encouraging me through each phase with guidance, and ultimately sharing joy in my success as if it were their own. I couldn’t ask for better friends during such a meaningful transition in my career and life.”

Dan also encountered something else in his time at Foster, something many believe is the school’s secret sauce—an authentic sense of community. Students often choose Foster based on the school’s reputation for excellent faculty and the track record of successful alumni, but they don’t foresee how much they will learn from each other, or how their class will bond.

“When I started my interview process my classmates were the best support network. They kept me on my path and picked me up when I was down. My classmates were vital in keeping me motivated, encouraging me through each phase with guidance, and ultimately sharing joy in my success as if it were their own. I couldn’t ask for better friends during such a meaningful transition in my career and life.” said Dan.

He’s only been out of the program for six months, but already Dan sees his fellow graduates as a personal set of advisors he can count on as he continues to grow.

“The pace of the EMBA school program was a great primer for changing work rhythms in a new career,” said Dan. “I was much better suited to handle a transition from a non-tech role to a much more technical role because of the program’s pace and integration of technology within the curriculum.”