Ron LaSalvia, WG’08, made the transition from submarine commander to executive with the Wharton MBA Program for Executives.

When Ron LaSalvia, WG’08, president of hosting brands at Endurance International Group, left the Navy, he came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives to help transition to the private sector. A former nuclear submarine commander, Ron knew he wanted to work at the intersection of operations, people, and technology.

Unable to get a job in the private sector without specific experience in those areas, he decided to start a consulting business. “I was trying to consult, but not spending a lot of time consulting because people questioned what a former Navy guy knows about helping a business. Although that is exactly what I did in the Navy – I assessed difficult situations and improved them,” he says.

Around that time, he happened to meet a former Wharton professor at a party in Philadelphia and learned about the Wharton EMBA program. “I saw how the program would round out my understanding of leadership and operations and fill in gaps like accounting and finance. It would also teach me the language of business. Wharton opened my eyes to the possibility of what I could accomplish.”

Ron LaSalvia (center) on board the USS Montpelier

4 Ways Wharton Helps Military Students Transition to Private Sector

Looking back, Wharton’s EMBA program was critical for Ron’s successful transition to the private sector in several ways.

1. Time for career exploration

First, it provided an opportunity to reflect on his career goals and learn about other industries. He explained, “In the military, I was constantly focused on my current role until I was assigned the next one. My career path was fairly structured. I didn’t spend much time thinking about my personal transition plans or reflecting on exactly what I wanted to do next. When I got out of the military, I lacked specific experience, which forces many veterans into entry-level jobs if they look in areas outside of the defense industry. Many employers don’t appreciate the leadership and operational skill that you gain in the military and are unwilling to take a risk on someone lacking specific, relevant experience.”

2. Powerful network

Second, he became part of the Wharton network, which was a “tremendous benefit.”

“Your classmates are mature leaders at all types of companies. It’s a very different network than you find in full-time MBA programs where students are usually younger,” he explained. “As a result, you learn from these business leaders as well as the faculty. These people already have great careers and are there to learn how to do even more.”

He added, “They are a dedicated and determined group of people who become your lifelong friends. This program is a lot of hard work, but your classmates form a supportive network that helps you for the rest of your life.”

Ron recalled how, shortly after graduation, he met several classmates at a mini-reunion, where they discussed starting a consulting firm together. Those talks led to more talks, which led to a classmate in Boston asking Ron to help with operations at his company, Endurance International Group. Shortly after, he accepted the position of executive vice president of operations, joining three Wharton classmates at the company. A Wharton EMBA graduate from another class came on board later.

“The EMBA program exposes you to a diverse group of smart and hardworking people from all types of industries. You establish strong relationships with them and appreciate their unique skillsets. When my classmate was looking for help with operations, I was a natural fit,” said Ron, who later became COO. He is now president of hosting brands at Endurance in Arizona, managing a large P&L.

3. Business knowledge

A third major benefit of the program for Ron was the business knowledge. “If I hadn’t gone to Wharton, I wouldn’t have the expertise to understand the finance and accounting or the knowledge to manage the integration of acquired companies. We integrated Constant Contact into our business last year and the EMBA program helped me to execute that,” he said.

4. Leadership Skills

Ron also credited Wharton with helping to broaden his leadership skills. “At the operational level, military leadership is collaborative but hierarchical in structure, whereas business leadership requires more peer leadership and collaboration with peers. You see this on day one at school when you are assigned a learning team with people from all different backgrounds and strengths. You need to figure out how to work together to accomplish goals. No one has a uniform showing their rank – you have to influence people to achieve the desired outcomes. I learned how to do that better at Wharton.”

Posted: July 25, 2017

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