Each day as he travelled to work on the elevated subway from Queens to Manhattan in New York City, Daniel Maxwell would pass an army recruiting station. One day, he decided to quit his job, walk through the station door and sign up.
Over the next five years, Daniel would enjoy a successful service career as a “sapper” – a combat engineer – during which he rose to the rank of captain and was deployed to warzones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now, the US army veteran is looking to kick-start a career in business with an online MBA from the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB).
The exuberant east-coaster started out his career in journalism, working full-time for a daily college newspaper alongside his undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut. He also studied a master’s in media studies from New York’s Fordham University and worked in marketing.
After leaving the army, Daniel relocated to west coast Seattle and through The Mission Continues — a community service group for military veterans — he volunteered at FareStart, a job placement and training program benefiting homeless and disadvantaged people in the local area.
Although now based thousands of miles away, he is reconnecting with his roots through GWSB.
What problems do servicemen face upon leaving the army?
There’s an average of 22 military veterans who take their lives every day in the US.
Military servicemen have a very strong sense of duty, camaraderie and fellowship. And when they leave the army, there’s a likelihood that those things are going to disappear. That leaves a very big gap that needs to be filled.
How do you think your experience in the army prepared you for a career in business?
Very well. As strange as it may seem, the analysis that you do on a battlefield is not that different from what you do in analyzing a business opportunity.
I think that the demeanor and attitude is also very similar. You don’t meet many military officers who shy away from hard work, and a lot of it. In the army, like in business, you have people who are willing and [are] able to step into the right challenges.
How was your experience serving in Iraq and Afghanistan?
I’m certain I was the last person to arrive in Iraq. There were people practically coming home by the time I arrived!
It was more like a trip to see the place. I visited the Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad and got to sit on Saddam Hussein’s old throne. I did all the tourist stuff for soldiers.
Afghanistan was a considerably more intense deployment for everybody. We were based in Paktika province, which borders Pakistan — not a good place to be!
I just have this dusty landscape with the snow-capped mountains in the background ingrained in my mind.
My unit’s main mission was to search out and defeat IEDs. I was assigned to headquarters and worked in the tactical operations command.
We had live feeds of drones and artillery strikes like we were watching it on television. We would have multiple screens with ESPN on over here, and bombs going off over there. It was awesome! My friends at home were playing with firecrackers and I was playing with C4!
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at GWSB?
I wanted to seize on the opportunity of education.
GWSB has an outstanding reputation. There’s a very strong military presence within the program and the school’s support for and outreach to the military community is very positive.
I actually found the program through an online ad. I realized that there was a great opportunity in front of me, and I went for it.
What’s it like studying an MBA online?
The online format deserves a lot more credit than it gets.
I feel that with the recorded materials, the in-depth lectures and the regular live sessions, I get a lot of high-quality interaction with other students and professors. I’m also going through some very advanced material. I would not be able to succeed at this level if I were not able to playback through materials.
If you add all of these things up, can you tell me the benefit of attending school in a classroom?