Austin Sprague– From the Marines to Harvard Business School

Tell us about yourself, Austin!

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a regular at disciplinary Saturday school in high school.

What did you do in the military: Special Operations Officer

What was your proudest accomplishment in the military? Providing thousands of pounds of medical goods to disenfranchised communities overseas during COVID and empowering my own teammates in their personal and professional lives whenever I could.

School and Intended Degree: Harvard Business School, Masters in Business Administration (MBA) 

Why did you decide to pursue business school? For anyone without a civilian equivalent military specialty, entering the private sector is inherently a career pivot and there are skills I need to complement my occupational goals. I am heading to the tech industry hoping to help lead teams that bring autonomous vehicles to market in an expeditious and ethical way. An MBA is necessary to build baseline knowledge in business operations while taking electives and joining clubs that cater to my specific career path so that I enter the recruiting field more competitive, credible, and confident.

What are your goals post-graduation? I aim to be a Product Manager or Operations Manager for a tech company specializing in, or focusing exclusively on, autonomous vehicles. Self-driving cars are a passion for me, one that encompasses the innovative tech aspect as well as true social utility to save lives and overhaul our physical landscapes for the better. I want to be part of that campaign and leverage my leadership experience to bring fully autonomous roads to fruition faster.

What are you most excited about in regards to starting school? What’s your favorite part about the school you chose to matriculate at? School is going to be understandably rigorous but I am excited to regain some personal liberties in choosing my schedule and my programs. The past eight years are characterized by almost pure “execution,” so I am eager to shift focus towards learning and personal growth. Harvard Business School uses the case study approach in all of its courses and that methodology of experiential, vignette-style learning is much more compelling for me than lectures or rote memorization of concepts.

How has the transition been from the military to civilian life? Exuberant. My shoulder length hair begins today.

What was the biggest benefit to using Service to School throughout the application process? My mentor, Casey Sheldon, was instrumental from start to finish. He provided what would equate to thousands of dollars worth of professional preparation assistance, from essay and resume review, to interviews, to general musing about what direction to take.

Austin’s advice for future veteran applicants:

It is possibly the most lame advice ever, but start early. Once you total hour-counts for standardized test study time, essay writing, personal introspection, interview prep, and well-deserved margaritas after you submit applications, the temporal investment to return to school requires months (and sometimes years) of lead time. Couple that with a few months to successfully transition out of boots and ensure your administrative, medical, and family needs are adequately attended to, and you arrive at my very lame advice bit. Start early.


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