“People care more about the development of the section as a whole than individual grades.”

As part of a family running a vegetable farm in the Hudson River Valley, Brendan Mosher had dreams of going to college, playing football, and eventually running his own business. Then 9/11 struck and Brendan felt called to serve his country, making a change in plans that led him to West Point.

"It was the best decision of my life," Brendan says. "I liked the values, the traditions, the camaraderie. I really blossomed there and gained a ton of self-confidence." By the second semester of his senior year, Brendan had secured one of the Academy's top fifteen leadership positions, serving as a battalion commander responsible for 540 cadets.

But when he decided to branch into aviation hoping to become an Apache helicopter pilot, the required physical exams produced devastating news: Brendan had hemophilia and although its severity was not life-threatening, it was sufficient to end his military career.

Making new plans

"That was a very tough time," Brendan says, "a real shock to the next five to ten years I had planned out." As he considered his options, he launched a flower division for the family farm (which proved exceptionally profitable) and applied to HBS, where he was accepted with a two-year deferral. "The MBA," says Brendan, "would enable me to do well in the private sector so that I'd be better prepared to contribute to the public sector later."

During his deferral, Brendan accepted a Department of Defense (DOD) fellowship to Stanford where he concentrated on engineering design and worked on energy reduction optimization for a Nissan factory in Tennessee, as well as an innovative consumer technology that helps improve automobile fuel efficiency. After Stanford, he worked for a year at Raytheon, helping the Transportation Security Administration ramp up the roll-out of whole body imagers in the wake of the attempted "underwear bombing" in Chicago. "In one year," Brendan notes, "the program leapt from ten installations to 450."

At HBS, the most rewarding aspect of Brendan's education is "being forced to make big decisions every day. That's what being a manager is all about — analyzing the situation and making effective decisions quickly." The diversity of classroom opinion improves the quality of Brendan's judgment. "In most cases, someone will have direct, firsthand experience of something related to the case. I try to take something from everyone's point of view," he says. "They might completely disagree with me, but they may have a little something that rings true, that makes me revise my thinking."

"My biggest worry coming to HBS," says Brendan, "was that everyone would be so competitive. But academically, it's the least competitive school I've seen. People care more about the development of the section as a whole than individual grades."

Life sciences and life ahead

At Corning in Lowell, Massachusetts, Brendan will take on a summer internship where he will "look at the R&D pipeline to figure out which products are close to launch, then examine capacity for manufacturing."

After graduation, Brendan plans on taking a general management role in a high-tech or industrial company that allows him to leverage his engineering experience. Eventually, Brendan says, "I want to start my own company or transition to a civilian leadership position in the DOD or the Army."