Army vet leverages MBA for shift to consulting career

A commitment to service is rooted deep in Ryan McCarthy’s DNA.

Ryan’s father was in the Air Force, and was assigned all around the world while Ryan was growing up. The family relocated frequently, but finally settled in Spokane, where Ryan graduated from high school.

Attending college at the University of Portland, he majored in mechanical engineering and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Five years as an officer in the Army followed graduation. Assignments in air defense units took him to Korea and Qatar.

Next came a three-year stint with the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, where he played a significant role in helping the Guard manage its 358,000 personnel. (He continues to serve as a reservist.)

By 2013, Ryan had married and started a family. Ryan decided it was time to leave military and government service and put his management expertise and problem-solving skills to work in the private sector. Acquiring business expertise was a first step toward his goal.

“In the military, there’s a lot of management and leadership training but nothing as far as finance or accounting or ways to help for-profit organizations,” he says.

Earning an MBA was a logical solution to this problem. Both Ryan and his wife had roots in the Pacific Northwest, so he concentrated his search for a program there and ultimately chose the Foster School.

As Ryan began filling in gaps in his knowledge of the core disciplines of business, he also learned to adapt his leadership style through working with teams in the MBA Program.

“Leadership is very different between the military and the corporate world,” he says. “In the military, a soldier or an officer can wear their rank on their chest. You know what kind of authority they have with that rank. Here in business school and in corporate America, it’s much different. You have to be convincing and persuasive without using that rank. You also have to be ready to lead not only subordinates but also your peers.”

Career search, which begins when MBA students first enter the program, was another area where Ryan knew he had to adapt.

“I think from the initial shock of leaving the military, where everything was very regimented, I had to demilitarize myself,” he says. “I had to change the way I talked about myself and my past. The MBA Career Management staff has helped me out immensely with that. They helped me communicate better with recruiters and companies.”

After earning his MBA, Ryan and his family want to stay in the Pacific Northwest. The Foster MBA Program has given Ryan a chance to explore career opportunities in Seattle and Portland.

“I’d like to be in the consulting industry,” he says. “I enjoy helping organizations out here. I’ve taken on several consulting internships to develop those skills. It has given me a perspective on how consultants with fifteen to twenty years of experience interact with their customers.”