By Hisham Semaan
My journey in the world’s most powerful Navy began in September of 2008 when I started my Officer Candidate School training in Newport, Rhode Island. Since I was a child, my dream was to become an American military officer. Despite my family’s concerns for my well-being and calls to reconsider, I fulfilled my dream by getting my officer commission as an Ensign in the Supply Corps on 08 Dec 2008. My new life had begun. Looking back, the Navy kept its promise to me with their motto of “Accelerate Your Life.”
My experience in the Navy is wide-ranging, from basic military training to leading hundreds of Sailors on seafaring deployments. Over the course of 12 years, I had the honor of serving on three different platforms of ships: the amphibious assault ship USS BOXER (LHD 4), the guided missile destroyer USS DEWEY (DDG 105), and the amphibious transport dock USS SOMERSET (LPD 25). On my two latest assignments, I served as the ship’s Supply Department Head, responsible for all material inventories, financial budgets, and food service onboard. My jobs on land consisted of an internship learning government contracting at the Defense Contract Management Agency in Philadelphia and an overseas assignment in Manama, Bahrain coordinating multinational maritime exercises for the Naval Central Command where my fluency in Arabic and French allowed me to communicate with our partners in their native languages.
So how did a Navy Lieutenant end up with an MBA from NYU Stern? Once you get selected to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, our community offers a limited number of candidates the opportunity to earn an MBA degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. In addition, every year, 5 to 8 officers are selected to the highly competitive fully-funded Civilian Institutions “810” Program, where you are able to apply to an approved list of top 30 B-schools from the published Businessweek report. I was determined to get accepted to this program and worked very hard planning and preparing for success every step of the way. Despite not seeing my name on the list after applying two years in a row, I never gave up and kept the same level of effort and enthusiasm in submitting new letters of recommendations from senior officers and retaking my GRE to keep improving my score. My third and final attempt was exceptionally hard, both mentally and physically, because it was during a ship deployment in the Pacific Ocean around Japan. Nevertheless, it all came down to an email from my mentor with “CONGRATULATIONS” in the subject line. I clicked on it as my heart was pounding, then literally sprung out of my seat when I saw my name. That was a life-changing email, and from that moment I realized that I was in for a thrill.
Fast forward to the process of applying to top schools on both coasts, New York City has always been near and dear to my heart. The idea of accepting an offer from Stern in the heart of Manhattan was surreal. My MBA journey at NYU Stern School of Business is one for the books. What a perfect time in my life and career to join an elite group of professionals in the pursuit of a premiere business education. To stay connected with the military, I joined the Fertitta Veterans Program which allowed me to study with fellow veterans from different branches of service and share our collective experiences with our cohorts, and I served as a VP at the Stern Military Veterans Club where I collaborated with many other clubs at the university. I can easily say that, during my time at Stern, I made the most genuine friends and established meaningful relationships with brilliant people that will play a big part in the future of our country. After all, we all serve in different capacities.
After graduating from NYU, I was selected to join a phenomenal group of acquisition professionals at the Naval Supply Systems Command – Weapon Systems Support Philadelphia, serving as the Deputy Director for Strategic Acquisition – Performance Based Logistics Center of Excellence. I lead a team of 15 procuring contracting officers and price analysts that work tirelessly on awarding strategic contracts that support the Navy’s Aviation and Maritime weapon systems. The majority of our work provides coverage for aircraft like the F/A-18, V-22, H-60, H-53 as we negotiate and deal directly with defense industry leaders the likes of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and GE. I am pleased to witness the Navy and industry partners doing business using some of the techniques I learned at NYU, such as Tableau for data visualization and LSTM Machine Learning algorithms for predictive modeling.
As I write this article on Veterans Day, I am truly honored to be serving our beloved country and I thank everyone who served, past and present. Hooyah!