Former US army medical officer Natalie Hunter quit her job as COO of a private medical group, Urology of Virginia, to found a consulting business, Sherhunt Solutions.
Armed with leadership skills from the military, she gained business knowledge from an online MBA in healthcare administration from the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB).
She attended the GWSB program while the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was at its peak. The flexibility allowed her to work full-time: she oversaw physical, behavioral and dental healthcare screenings for soldiers before and after deployment.
After her MBA, she transitioned into the Army National Guard reserve force and quickly climbed the corporate ladder in healthcare. But the ambitious graduate, now an entrepreneur, decided to start something new, switch out of healthcare and launch a start-up.
Before she develops her business further, Natalie, together with her best friend and business partner, is taking a one-year hiatus from life as she knows it to embark on her dream trip round the world.
Why did you decide to take a break from your career and go on a round-the-world-trip?
I suddenly found myself with the time, the funds and the opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream.
When I first started to contemplate taking this trip, my immediate thought was, “I can’t — I have a house, a couple of dogs and a business to run!”
But the more I pondered the idea, the less impossible it seemed. I’m in my early thirties, single and childfree. My business hasn’t grown to a level where I have employees or long-term contracts to worry about, so I’m not obligated to stay in one spot.
What are your travel plans?
Currently, I’m living in Baja California [in] Mexico, [where I am] brushing up on my Spanish skills and working remotely.
In a few weeks, we leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina, with nothing more than backpacks and a loose itinerary. What good is an adventure without some uncertainty?
Would you recommend that MBA graduates take career breaks to go travelling?
Absolutely! If travelling is something you want to do, seize the opportunity while you have it. Don’t let building your resume or filling your bank account be an excuse not to do it!
Trust me, there will be plenty of work waiting for you when you get home. Exposing yourself to new cultures and perspectives will benefit you both personally and professionally. Add in some language skills and you may end up more desirable to a potential employer than you were before!
What are your future career plans?
When I get back from this trip, I hope to expand my business into corporate retreat facilitation.
My absolute favorite part of every job I’ve ever held is teaching staff and developing leaders. I love to find fun, creative, and entertaining ways to teach and motivate a team.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
Business school taught you how to assess the industry, create the business plan and develop the marketing strategy — but sometimes trying to perfect those plans can lead to analysis paralysis.
Trust your training, make your plan, and then make your move.
How has your experience in the US army prepared you for a career in business?
It gave me invaluable training in leadership. I learnt that a good leader adjusts his or her technique based on who they’re leading. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for leadership; it’s about getting each individual where they need to be in order to achieve a collective mission.
In the army, you don’t have a choice in who you work for, or who works for you. So I learnt a lot of communication techniques that helped me build rapport with my team.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at GWSB?
I chose to study at GWSB for two reasons: the MBA program’s concentration in healthcare administration, and the online platform.
As I didn’t have a background in healthcare before joining the army, my experience was limited to military medicine. I knew that I wanted to advance my education, and gain some credentials in the field.
I attended GWSB while the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was at its peak. As a medical operations officer my role was to oversee physical, behavioral and dental healthcare screenings for soldiers before and after deployment. This position meant that I travelled a lot!
The online format allowed me the flexibility I needed to work full-time.
How have you profited from the MBA?
The MBA allowed me to quickly climb the ranks of healthcare administration. I was able to establish myself as a leader in the surgical services arena and I eventually became the COO of a private medical group.
The education I received in financial analysis and operations management is priceless! Now, I’ve been able to apply them to starting my own business.