Former Staff Sergeant Jacob Tatge was stationed as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Marine Corps Security Force Regiment at Yorktown when he hit his ninth year of service. The months leading up to the ten-year milestone mark a critical decision-point in the careers of many active servicemembers: stay in until 20 and retire with a lucrative benefits package or begin building a life outside of the military.
Newly married and feeling motivated to explore new professional opportunities, Jacob carefully evaluated whether he should reenlist or get out. He ultimately determined it was time to hang up his uniform and enrolled in William & Mary’s Part-Time MBA program to help accelerate his transition from the Marine Corps into a civilian career.
“If I continued on the track I was on, I would have moved farther away from the work I enjoyed doing and assumed more responsibilities that involved personnel management. It was the best time to make a break,” he says. “I was torn between law school and earning an MBA but I thought the MBA opened me up to more possibilities because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I transitioned out other than knowing I wanted to serve in the federal government.”
The Part-Time MBA program afforded Jacob the ability to attend classes in the evening after duty hours. That flexibility coupled with the proximity of the school to work and home, the program’s affordability using the G.I. Bill, and the reputation of the Raymond A. Mason School of Business all factored into his decision.
“If those things hadn’t lined up, I don’t know if it would have worked out for me,” he admits.
Experiencing A Civilian Education
Despite having already earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from American Military University and a master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Conflict Resolution from Norwich University, Jacob says he was initially intimidated to attend an in-person program with civilian peers at a school of William & Mary’s caliber. But he was pleasantly surprised by the experience.
“This was my first time in a physical, post-secondary environment. All of my previous academic experience had been with military personnel online and I knew where I stood among my peers. What I found after the first few classes was that the Part-Time MBA program was made up of working professionals who were all excited and wanted to be there. It wasn’t hyper-competitive and it was great working with different types of people I had never been exposed to before,” he says.
“I never once felt like I was talked down to for having an online undergraduate degree or for not attending a brick-and-mortar university before. I never felt like I didn’t belong. It was a welcoming environment.”
Finding Professional Success
After earning his MBA, Jacob was accepted into the Presidential Management Fellowship program, a two-year experience that rotates participants every six months among federal agencies to prepare for a career in federal service. He supported projects at the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) before landing a full-time role as a Financial Analyst with the SBA’s 504 Loan Program.
For Jacob, the discipline and time management skills he acquired in the military combined with his MBA experience at William & Mary set him up for success as he began his civilian career. He has since left federal service to pursue an opportunity as a Senior Consultant with Guidehouse, a consulting firm with offices in D.C., and hopes someday to start his own entrepreneurial venture.
“The program teaches you all that you don’t know and queues you to know the right questions to ask,” he says. “When I was in the military, I never thought I would work with accountants, project managers, or finance professionals. The exposure I had to those areas while I was in the Part-Time MBA program was valuable because I can now speak credibly and intelligently, and I have some understanding of every field I work with. The broad base of knowledge and the tools I carry with me have set me up to change topics quickly, work with new groups of people, and find areas where I can provide value.”