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My motivation to decrease our country’s dependence on oil, especially foreign oil, began as a result of my first deployment to Iraq in March of 2004.
It was on this deployment that I understood, and saw first hand, the amount of wealth our nation was sending to the Middle East in an effort to satisfy our oil-based energy needs. From the coast of Kuwait to the streets of Baghdad, there were several realizations that motivated me to make a considerable effort in the future to better understand energy, how it is developed and used, and how we could begin to move away from foreign oil. For example, any person traveling a main thoroughfare in and around Baghdad could purchase, from a dealer or small supply stack distributor on the side of the street, enough unleaded fuel to fill up their vehicle for the equivalent of what was one dollar. I also understood the amount of wealth surging into the more developed areas of the Middle East, from my soldiers’ stories upon returning from their quick R&R trips to Doha or Dubai. The pictures they painted, of numerous building cranes at work and ongoing construction projects, were of local economies in little need of financial assistance. Over time, especially with the downturn of the global economy, I began to ask questions – Why can’t we keep more of that wealth for our own economic needs? Why should we be sending this wealth only to oil-export nations? Our nation’s dependence on foreign oil was much too high then, and hasn’t improved much since 2004. Therefore, upon leaving the military in 2008, I joined an energy company, which was the number two overall producer of natural gas in the U.S., as my first step towards helping to decrease U.S. foreign oil dependency.

Over recent years, the U.S. has been making a significant effort to find a sustainable, viable, and efficient alternative fuel source. One example is natural gas – a cleaner, sustainable, and more economically-viable fuel than oil, and which currently accounts for approximately 25% of the U.S.’s overall energy consumption. However, our commitment as a global partner to advance the use of cleaner energy is not yet sufficient, and our national energy focus remains on foreign oil, rather than other available, feasible energy sources. I hope to influence this change by joining the collaborative and innovative MBA culture at Fuqua, where I can begin this new journey of becoming a future leader of energy focus on a global scale.

In the short term, I hope to become a Finance Associate at an alternative-based energy company, such as Schott Solar, Inc, or in alternative energy division at a larger company, such as Chevron. I could even return to my company in the Finance group, because I want to join a company that is devoted to truly developing an alternative to cleaner, non-oil based energy sources. In my new position, I plan to gain perspective on the economic objectives and scope of applying our alternative energy options. Additionally, I will learn the basics of the company’s operations, research and development program, and production capabilities. I will need the understanding of these operational fundamentals in order to comprehend how to take the first steps to improve the company in areas that could affect our financial outlook. There will be much to learn from not only the financial side of whatever company I join, but also the actual energy focus of the company and how it intends to implement its energy plan in the near future. Hopefully, I will be able to contribute to the future successful marketability and sustainability of our alternative energy in an efficient and timely manner.

In the long term, I hope to move up within the organization I join and effect change on a larger scale as the VP of Energy Development. This position should provide me the opportunities to continue to not only push our group to find, evaluate, and pursue an economically-viable energy source, but to influence other energy companies to take a look at an alternative to oil-based energy sources. Additionally, I would focus on communicating with government officials in the energy policy arena about our products and their applications in order to garner more support for these alternative energy sources. This continued communication effort would allow for our company to prove how our energy source could be applied in an economically and environmentally friendly manner. Initially, these efforts will take time, but after several years of operating in this Energy Development position, our team will be able take even more risks in finding feasible applications for our alternative energy products. Our development team will also work with different industries and sectors where we think our energy application best suits their business. For example, our blended fuel or more powerful solar panel may be better suited to large-haul trucks as opposed to passenger vehicles, so we would move our efforts to work with companies such as JB Hunt Trucking or ABF Freight to focus on improving their fuel usage plan. Hopefully, these efforts will gain enough momentum that our proved alternative energy source, combined with a practical application, could allow other third-party companies to truly understand the economic and environmental advantages to using non-oil based energy sources. Eventually, I hope to be in a position of impact that will enable us to employ our tested and refined source on a larger scale.

My ultimate vision in this pursuit is to keep funds that would otherwise be used to import oil to be used to improve our national economic position with respect to energy dependence. Eventually, I want to allow for outside influence and recruitment of other industries where our alternative/renewable energy applications are most feasible and best suited both economically and environmentally. It will only be through this comprehensive and collaborative effort across varied companies that we can achieve our goal of finding applications where alternative energy sources will replace foreign oil. Once we have gained another foothold in improving the economics of our future energy needs, in a more environmentally-approachable fashion, we can begin pursuing international partners in this effort to help prepare other nations that are looking for an alternative to an oil-based energy policy.

In today’s global and competitive business environment, managers are continuously challenged to stay ahead of the game. To achieve that, they are required to be jacks of all trades, rather than aces of one. As such, I believe I have much to contribute from my diverse work and personal experience, and I believe I have the team-player personality to do it. In this context, one of the things I like most about Duke is the embrace of collaborative leadership and teamwork. I feel this is an ideal setting for sharing with and learning from others.

My teamwork skills started to develop alongside my competitiveness when I played Volleyball and Handball professionally in high-school. They were refined while I served as an instructor in the Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) Flight School in the military. There, I collaborated with a team of 6 other flight instructors and technical experts, with the goal of turning 30 soldiers into certified UAV operators within one year. Since then, I find teamwork to be one of the most important skills needed to succeed in every position I filled. For instance, as a project leader and senior consultant at Oracle, leading implementations of enterprise-wide systems required the cooperation of up to 15 IT experts, business managers, and Oracle consultants.

First, I plan to contribute to my peers by sharing my diverse professional experience in the software applications industry. I have filled a range of positions in system architecture, consulting, pre-sale, project management, product management, and marketing. Furthermore, taking for example my current position, I am positioned on the intersection between our executive management, development teams, sales teams, and customers. I gained the skill to understand both the big picture, and the specific challenges and interests of each discipline. This assisted me in leading innovative projects such as launching our company website, rebranding our product, and defining our flagship module for the next product version.

My work experience with various types of organizations will also enable me to contribute diverse knowledge. I have worked for small startups as well as for large corporations. Another aspect I will contribute in is my international experience. I love to travel and be exposed to new cultures, sceneries, and wildlife. Overall I have been to 23 countries all over the world. I believe that my international experience will help me contribute socially, in interacting with and building friendships within an international student body. I look forward to making other students feel welcome and comfortable around me. Moreover, my international experience also helped me overcome cultural barriers while managing global projects and interacting with international customers. For example, while working as a UAV test pilot and system architect for a large aircraft manufacturer, I leveraged the knowledge and cultural sensitivity gained during my 6-month trip to South America. While presenting the system to a South American customer delegation, I was able both to explain the system better, and to establish good personal connections, which assisted in closing this multi-million dollar deal.

My background has allowed me many opportunities to be involved with diverse people and situations, where my values were different from others and my opinions did not fall in line with the majority. From my first summer job as a teen, to meeting with Sheiks in Iraq and facilitating group changes at the company I worked for, I believe that the lessons I obtained from these experiences, through which I grew significantly as a person, would definitely add value my fellow MBA students at Fuqua and contribute to the Fuqua community and culture.

My first moment of true responsibility occurred when I was a young teenager, and my parents decided it was time for me to get a job and earn a little money. A local self-storage facility was looking for someone to clean their storage doors, all 500 of them, for about $4.00 an hour. I worked eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, for what seemed like years, in the hot Memphis sun, cleaning every door from top to bottom until all 500 were completely clean. Believe me, those doors had more mildew and grime than any door I have seen to this day. Yet it was at this storage facility that I not only learned the value of hard work, but also taught myself how to create my own budget, to allocate the money I earned. I bought my first stereo soon after finishing that job, and by living according to the budget I created, several years later bought my own car, purchasing my own gas, insurance, and clothes for high school. I continue to value hard work, following a budget and overall self-reliance to this day. These simple lessons could enhance the culture at Fuqua in an ethics class or case method discussion based on integrity or leadership decisions based on moral principles. Additionally, I might be able to push my teammates to work a little harder or longer when the time arises.

Some years later, I found myself at the first “leader engagement” of my first deployment, with a Sheik nonetheless, and what seemed like his entire known family and friends. I spoke a different language, wore very different clothing, and even sat differently than anyone else present. Sitting uncomfortably in the Sheik’s living room, the only person in the room I had any connection with was our Iraqi interpreter. We were there because my platoon’s initial attempts to bring farming supplies and equipment to the local people had failed, turning into a mad grab for what was needed, rather than an organized distribution, and we needed the Sheik’s help to turn things around. From our first conversation, I quickly realized that my normal meeting etiquette and conversation customs would be of little use. Over time, at each of our meetings, I began to pick up the Sheik’s meaning based on his tone of voice, and began to rely more on non-verbal communication, like the shrug of a shoulder, even after my proficiency in Arabic had improved. Soon I could determine the Sheik’s response even before it was translated. I also learned to recognize the different norms and traditions within this culture and apply them in our interactions. Meanwhile, my team helped the local famers in the community to create a sound and organized plan, their trust in us increasing as my relationship with the Sheik grew. All of these meetings and the growing bond eventually allowed the farmers to become sustainable and economically viable in a relatively short amount of time.

I feel that this experience would be extremely beneficial at Fuqua in our group meetings and classroom environments, where different communication customs or habits might hinder others from getting their point across. Effective communication is one of the most important aspects in any business action, and I hope to enhance that aspect both in and out of the classroom at Fuqua. I also believe that those lessons I learned in my international experience would allow me to bring one more perspective to Fuqua’s already diverse culture. There is an extremely delicate balance with the respect to values and what is right or wrong when you are immersed in an entirely different environment. I understand that balance, and I would be able to share those lessons I learned in my experiences with others on Day 1 at Fuqua. In addition, as a day-to-day platoon leader, I could help my fellow study group partners analyze complex negotiation case studies and contribute to varied project planning discussions. Further along, I feel that I could contribute significantly to other Fuqua MBAs interested in participating in the GATE program. I hope that my understanding of diverse communication and varied backgrounds in an extremely dynamic setting would help others better understand the different business environments or dissimilar groups we might encounter.

Recently, my experience at the Energy I worked for has also allowed for me to use my value set to make a significant impact. Prior to my arrival as the Production Manager, it was common knowledge that the specified directions or course of action to improve production numbers, given by my predecessor, were to be followed without question. I decided to change this custom. Thus, every time there was a question raised concerning a troubleshooting method or a technique required to solve a problem, I would ask the questioner what he or she recommended in order to solve the problem. I would not dictate what needed to be done solely on what I thought was correct. This not only forced them to come up with possible solutions to their issues, but also allowed for open creativity and new ideas amongst our team. We shared these best practices on a regular basis in our weekly team meetings, and it resulted in a net ten percent increase in our production volume. This joint effort in understanding differing problem solving approaches reminded our team that individual input is paramount in overcoming obstacles and achieving our production goals. This change was not easy. Only after my team felt completely safe to voice their opinions and provide input was this change in how we sought to improve our production numbers achieved.

At Fuqua, I could impart some new best practices I have learned, from both a developmental and a sustainability standpoint, into the many inter-disciplinary settings at the Duke EDGE Center. I feel that my recent group experiences at the company could definitely help others within the center create workable solutions to the energy problems we face, regardless of the setting or sustainability problem we approach. Listening to others and allowing everyone to provide feedback is vital to solving such tough issues as energy sustainability and environmental impact. I might even be able to provide a supporting perspective to other Energy MBAs on those subjects that some students might not understand due to my background in the industry. Or, there might be subjects or ideas presented by key speakers where I would be able to provide first-hand knowledge of the successes or failures I experienced working in the Barnett Shale. Whether it be a Mentored Study Project that focuses on the efficiency of a clean-tech invention and how it affects the environment, or the Duke Startup Challenge, where our group pitches a new renewable energy-based business plan to industry leaders, I feel that my experiences in both teamwork and communication could greatly benefit the not only the EDGE center, but also my all fellow MBA students at Fuqua.

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