Matthew Phillips, Global Online MBA

Programme: Global Online MBA

Nationality: United States, U.S., American

Education: BSc Computer Science, United States Naval Academy and MSc Computer Science, Naval Postgraduate School

Role beginning at Imperial College Business School: Assistant Director of Officer Force Management Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Global Online MBA 2018-20

From warships to the MBA

I’m a Commander in the US Navy and have had the privilege to lead Sailors in many different capacities. I’ve served at sea on four different warships, taught Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, led inspection teams as a Nuclear Reactor Safety Inspector, and written policy and legislation for the United States Armed Forces as the Officer Force Management Policy Director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. However, I am most proud of my selection and service as a White House Fellow in the Office of the Vice President.  There, I served as a Special Assistant to the Vice President in Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs.

A new venture: Imperial College Business School

The majority of my career had been very technically focused on nuclear engineering and naval surface warfare. Leading up to and during my White House Fellowship, I endeavoured to broaden my scope and learn more about the military, the government, and the public and private sectors at the highest levels. Since my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in computer science, it was important to me when selecting a school for my MBA to attend an institution with a strong reputation and integration of science and technology.  Coupled with the international nature of the Global Online MBA, Imperial College Business School was the right choice.

Funding my MBA

I was fortunate to be awarded the Dean’s Excellence Award which funded the majority of my first year of studies. I’m paying for the second year out-of-pocket, but am certain that will prove to be a wise investment.

Putting the ‘global’ in Global Online MBA

The most rewarding part of the programme thus far has been the interaction with those in my cohort. My cohort has many great discussions and debates about life outside the MBA, as well as military and political affairs and world economics. I would describe my cohort as diverse in experience, professional background, and ethnicity.

Having worn a uniform for the last 20 years, my service in the Navy has afforded me great opportunities for travel and exposure to many cultures. But, my experience with the Global MBA has offered a global experience unlike I’ve previously had. Through the programme, we’re able to discuss and debate policies across a wide spectrum of governments and economics. We’re able to hear first-hand from members of our cohort about the revitalisation of Somalia, the growth of the Chinese economy and the development of the energy sector throughout Africa.

Keeping the balance

As with most things worthwhile, the Global Online MBA programme involves a commitment of both time and effort. As a husband to my wife Amy, and a father to our three wonderful kids, Jackson (10), Emma (8), and Hank (5), they are both my motivation to complete the program and challenge in doing so! Coupled with an intensive position in the Pentagon and the various organisations I participate in, there are many demands on my time.

An incredibly supportive syndicate group

I am incredibly fortunate with the personal and professional relationship I’ve formed with my syndicate group. Most notably, during a very difficult time for me, my group helped when they didn’t have to. In December, my father suffered a debilitating injury that stemmed from his lifelong bout with mental illness. As his only family, I was consistently travelling to care for him as his only living family member. Without missing a beat, my group flexed to my constantly changing availability, across our four time zones. My father passed away in April, and my group was the first to reach out and offer comfort and condolences, and to make sure I was able to contribute to group projects in a way that offered the most flexibility. Their kindness and compassion was a welcomed benevolence during a very stressful period of my life.

Studying my MBA online

The benefit to living in Annapolis, Maryland and working in Washington, DC is that it allows my children to attend one of the best public schools in the country. The downside in the length of the commute! I take a commuter bus in and out of the city that totals a two and a half hours/day for my commute. Instead of sleeping or playing games on my phone, I use the entirety of that time to work on my MBA. Since I’m able to access The Hub from anywhere in the world, I can do my coursework including listening to lectures, asking questions of professors and other students, reading assigned material, and writing papers and group projects on my way to and from work. That allows me to be a Commander at work, a father when I’m home, and student in between – instead of an unhealthy mix of the three in each location.

Applying my MBA learnings in real-time

As a senior officer in the military, we are often accountable for the effective management of various programmes, and must strive to keep the covenant with tax-paying citizens that we do so responsibly. At the end of the year, I will begin the command training pipeline to ultimately assume command of a warship. In that role, not unlike an asset manager, hundreds of Americans will trust me with their most precious asset, their child. And, I will endeavour to further the US Navy’s proven record of offering a high return on investment, in developing these young men and women into proven leaders and technical experts.

There is a great deal of applicability from the Global Online MBA programme of instruction to the challenges facing the Navy. For instance, the struggles all services face in recruiting the top talent and communicating their core values and mission are congruent with the lessons learned in the Global Marketing Management module. Likewise, the theories taught in the Strategy module are as applicable in the war room as they are in the board room.

Career goals

I’m quickly approaching retirement eligibility with the US Navy as I close in on 20 years of commissioned service as an officer. At this point, I’m unsure whether I’ll continue to serve after I reach retirement eligibility and begin a new career or continue my naval career and aspire to executive leadership within the Navy. Regardless, the business education I’ve received at Imperial is paramount to my success in either path. If I decide to remain in the Navy, the business acumen the Global Online MBA has provided will help me in delivering a lethal force while remaining fiscally accountable to the American taxpayer. And, if I decide to retire from the Navy, the connections, education, and resources made available through this programme will greatly assist in my transition.

What’s next: post-Global Online MBA life

Most immediately after graduation, I will leave the Office of the Secretary of Defense and begin the command training pipeline in preparation for assuming command of the USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). The Whidbey Island is a dock landing ship that is able to embark over 400 Marines and their gear, in addition to her 400 crew members, to deliver an amphibious force ashore. The ship is 190 meters long, weighs over 15,000 tonnes, and has a storied history from over 30 years of service to the US Navy.

I’ve had many roles, responsibilities, and experiences over my life that have prepared me for command, and earning my MBA through Imperial College Business School is certainly one of them. In a very real way, having command of a ship is like running a business. Though the key performance indicators will be much different, the ability to lead and manage individuals towards a shared strategic goal is a common thread. Likewise, the strategy learned for optimising business opportunity is not unlike the strategy employed for creating strategic maritime opportunity. Many of the lessons intended for the commercial sector have a direct overlay to the armed forces.

Connecting with prospective students

I’ve been honoured to serve as a Student Ambassador during my time at Imperial College Business School. It’s been extremely rewarding to both represent the school and to answer prospective students’ questions on the admissions process and the Global Online MBA experience. I’ve benefited so greatly from the programme, I’m excited to share that with others. Especially those in the Armed Forces. The flexibility the programme offers is a perfect option for senior officers searching for an MBA programme from a top school.

Programme: Global Online MBA

Nationality: United States, U.S., American

Education: BSc Computer Science, United States Naval Academy and MSc Computer Science, Naval Postgraduate School

Role beginning at Imperial College Business School: Assistant Director of Officer Force Management Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense