As our nation and Emory University celebrate Veterans Day on November 11, this month is a time to remember the military personnel—active duty and veterans—who have stepped forward to serve. We talked to one of those service members, a Goizueta alumni, to have them share insights and how their Goizueta experience and military journey still impacts life and work today.
David Israel Mendez 15MBA
A first generation American, originally from Guatemala, David Israel Mendez 15MBA grew up in the migrant communities of Eastern Washington State, mainly the Yakima Valley. Finding it difficult to work his way through college, he joined U.S. Army.
After completing Goizueta’s One-Year MBA program, he pursued a career in consulting. With a background in industrial engineering, he loves the concept of problem solving and improving systems. Mendez says consulting gives him the opportunity to have a much higher impact than as an engineer where his “reach and influence had a hard time leaving the four walls of that manufacturing facility.”
What was your rank in the military? What element of the military journey do you still use today in life or work?
I rose to the rank of staff sergeant. Regarding the journey, I can’t really say that there is one element of being a soldier that you keep. If anything, there might be one that you lose (e.g., being in fighting shape at all times). I truly believe that once a soldier, always a solider! The mentality, the discipline, the dedication, the loyalty, etc. All those attributes carry over into your day-to-day life and into the office. They do not stay with the Army once you leave. That is the beauty of it.
Who inspires you and why?
My late mother, may she rest in peace. Way before I spit shined my combat boots and I became a drill sergeant, I was raised by a “drill sergeant” at home, my mother. She ensured I shined my shoes every morning and pressed my (school) uniforms. She instilled discipline in me and taught me to never be late out of respect for others and to let my word be one of honor: if I committed to something, to go forward with it. She taught me that right choices are not always the easiest, but to always do the right thing and never give anyone a reason to question my integrity. Eighteen years later, this all resonated and was reemphasized by noncommissioned officers wearing Smoky-the-Bear looking hats; all I could do was smile and say, “Drill sergeant, yes, drill sergeant!”
How did Goizueta prepare you for the field you are in today?
As a management consultant, I believe Goizueta has played a significant role in my success. As an engineer, I always thought of myself as a problem solver, but Goizueta took that to a different level. The idea of taking a complex and ambiguous problem and methodically breaking it down into digestible pieces while working with cross-functional and multidisciplinary teams, and eventually delivering a result, was not just a classroom exercise, but the way forward for many of us.
What was your favorite course at Goizueta?
“International Firms and Strategies” and “Competitive Advantage” were my favorite two courses. I really enjoyed them because they were challenging but very rewarding. Those courses allowed us to use many of the learnings from other courses and apply them to real-world scenarios.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received, in business or life?
To be happy and find joy in every situation. Some of the most difficult things to do are losing a loved one, getting turned down for a promotion, not getting the job of your dreams, etc. I’m a firm believer that all things happen for the good of those that love the Lord, and not to preach, but this mentality has helped me to appreciate the opportunities that do open up and not dwell on the ones that closed. Life is too short to feel sorry for myself when things don’t go my way. Instead I chose to be happy.
Is there a lasting lesson, memory, or skill gained from business school that you particularly remember or credit your success to?
Networking is key to everything we do in business. It is a skill that requires practice, dedication, and above all authenticity. Goizueta ensured we had a platform to do this while in school and emphasized the importance of it as we moved forward.
What advice do you have for today’s business students?
For better or worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a game-changer. From attending classes to recruiting, students will have to be nimble and adjust to a rapidly changing world (normally cliché, but very true these days). I would advise students to be very intentional in their networking, as those opportunities will be far and few between. Moreover, flexibility and adaptability will be an even bigger factor, those that are able to adapt to the new way of doing things will be the ones that excel and succeed.
Please describe some professional and personal goals.
Since business school, I’ve kept in touch with a good group of friends, and we always flirt with the idea of one day starting a business. To this day, we still don’t know the “what” or the “when,” but I believe one day we will kick something off the ground. In the meantime, we will continue to brainstorm over some adult concoctions until that idea comes.