Continuous Improvement.

That’s what inspired Air Force Veteran Donald Prentiss to pursue his MBA and take part in our first ever Mission MBA event. It’s that same commitment to improvement that led to him becoming the first ever winner of the event.

Engaging the Veteran Community

Mission MBA was created to foster a community of collaboration and innovation, while recognizing the valuable skills that veterans bring to the business world. Veterans currently participating in an MBA program were invited to enter the competition for the chance to win cash prizes.

Participants were challenged to find ways the business could gain a competitive advantage in wireless and high-speed broadband. The task called upon their business skills and required them to consider the impact on key areas such as finance, marketing, supply chain, and technology. They then made their pitches to a panel of military veteran leaders at AT&T.

Presenting a Winning Case

“I took a corporate entrepreneurship approach when evaluating the case and developed my hypothesis around early adopters of 5G and Fiber,” Donald told us. This meant a focus on replicating the success AT&T has found with some of the first champions of the technology, the gaming industry, within the financial industry through partnerships and consumers.

As Donald explained, “The underlying idea was focusing on populations that are sensitive to latency and consistent connectivity because they would drive more demand for superior service, much like we see in gaming. Specific financial firms were recommended along with financial projections to support my thesis.” Additional recommendations in the plan focused on sustainability, labor needs, branding, and rewards programs for subscribers.

While the plan would prove to be a winner, that didn’t mean Donald was without anxiety. “I think with any presentation there is some nervousness to start; especially when you realize you’re presenting to the executives of a major company,” he said. “Once introductions were through and I focused on with I practiced, I became very comfortable. The judges were very professional and fair with their feedback. It was inspiring for me to see fellow veterans achieve what they have in their careers.”

Especially gratifying is hearing from that same panel of veterans that he won the competition. When asked how he felt to get the news, he said, “I was in disbelief! There were so many talented veterans in the competition from some great business schools. To come away with a win was huge for me and the SMU Cox community.”

Bringing Military Skills to Business

Having served in the Air Force on active duty for three and a half years, plus another five years in the Air Force Reserves, Donald brings a military perspective to his civilian work. This can be nontraditional at times as his military background was largely spent in the medical world.

On entering Mission MBA, Donald said, “I felt out of my element initially because my background is predominantly clinical diagnostics and pharmaceuticals. I worried I didn’t have the technical expertise to compete in my mind.”

Between his military training and the principles learned in his MBA program, he realized how effectively he could make the pivot. “An MBA really does allow people to make the pivot after getting their degree. You can apply general business principles across any field,” he said. Pair that with a mission-oriented approach and you have a recipe for success.

“The military instilled in me a very disciplined approach to achieving goals,” he said. “When it comes to schooling, I ensure the path to where I need to be is defined and that I adhere to it as much as possible.”

“Additionally, they always encouraged us to do better personally and to serve others. While everyone was working hard towards their own promotion, we were also heavily involved in the community and giving back. I think it’s important to work hard to deliver on the mission for the organization, while achieving personal goals and not losing sight of helping others along the way.”

Looking to the Future

“Before the event, I viewed AT&T as this huge phone and internet company that wasn’t very exciting to think about,” Donald admitted. “After researching everything that AT&T is involved in and leading the way on, I was astonished. They are literally shaping and driving the future of our world every day.”

Participating in meaningful projects like this is important to Donald and many fellow veterans. However, they may feel a bit overwhelmed when making the transition – whether it be pursuing further education, competitions like Mission MBA, or beginning their civilian career. Donald had this advice to offer:

“In the military, everything is essentially provided for you and your family, so it can feel like there is less security on the civilian side. I recommend using transition resources on base, networking with other veterans that have made the transition, and target applying to companies like AT&T that have such a strong focus on hiring and supporting veterans.”

Learn about the veteran community at AT&T