Chad Cisco MBA ’11 has had an exciting 20-year career in the U.S. Navy in various positions, including a nuclear power plant operator, tactics instructor and executive officer on a ballistic missile submarine. But he is looking forward this summer to navigating new waters and starting another phase of his career as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co.
Based in San Diego, Cisco was assisting Navy aircraft carriers and surface ships in antisubmarine warfare training while participating in the Executive MBA (EMBA) program at the USC Marshall School of Business.
Drawn to the submarine force because of his interest in travel, geopolitics and technology, Cisco was introduced to business by a supervising officer who turned him onto the books of W. Edwards Deming, Jim Collins and others.
“That really opened my eyes to business strategy and operations, and it became somewhat of a passion following that thought process of how to improve businesses and marketing,” he recalled. “I also became interested in deal flows, in who’s buying who and why. I’ve read a lot, and my MBA has added more rigor to the study.”
Cisco’s most memorable experiences in the Navy are ones most of us only can comprehend thanks to movies: exercises where he was “at the periscope out in front of a destroyer heading at me and shooting a torpedo at them” and tracking submarines, a challenge that is “more of an art than a science.”
Not one to shy away from challenges, Cisco eagerly is anticipating the transition from naval commander to consultant.
“I won’t be in management. [I’ll be] a contributor. I think it’s a perfect place to start because it will give me the opportunity to focus on building my own skills and knowledge level without having to manage a group or an organization. But people probably won’t call me sir there,” he said with a laugh.
Part of the reason Cisco feels confident is that he already found that the EMBA program has prepared him well.
“I think the integrated approach of this program was very helpful to me during the rigorous interview process with McKinsey & Co.,” he explained. “I could think of business holistically because we studied themes instead of individual courses. For example, I could understand how finance related to strategy. That was an advantage when I interviewed, and I’m sure the program will be a huge benefit when I begin this career.”
Cisco also credited his peers with useful insights that steered him toward his new career.
“I have learned almost as much from my fellow students as I have in the classroom,” he said. “My classmates are in a variety of industries and functions. Asking them about their businesses and hearing the challenges they’re facing day to day in their work was valuable. They helped me figure out where I’d fit, what I thought I’d find interesting and led me to consulting.”