In high school, Rebecca Greenbaum realized that she wanted more than an ordinary college education; she wanted the "opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself. I don't come from a military family, but I was pulled in by the opportunity to serve." Growing up on the water in Duxbury, MA gave her a lifelong love of the sea; the Naval Academy became the choice that felt "closest to home."
Her service record became a series of escalating responsibilities. On the USS Decatur, a guided missile destroyer, she served first as Officer of the Deck and then the Strike Officer leading 18 sailors on the Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles team. After further education at the Nuclear Engineering School, the Navy's most advanced school, she served on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, first as a Propulsion Watch Officer, then as a Reactor Maintenance Officer with 110 sailors under her command.
"I found the increasing leadership to be the most fulfilling aspect of my career," Rebecca says. "What I enjoyed most was the impact I had, not only on my organization, but on the individuals I worked with. The gravity of my roles gave me a unique perspective on life. On the Decatur, one wrong decision could affect 280 people on board. There's no opportunity for short cuts or to become complacent. Inaction is not an option. I often asked myself, 'What decision can I make that will allow me to sleep soundly at night?' Sometimes I had to make calls with limited information, but I had to take action."
Bridge from military to business leadership
Rebecca's military experience, she says, "gave me the confidence to transfer my skills to the private sector. What's at stake may be different, but I hope the impact will be just as great." She saw the MBA as "bridge between being a leader in the military to being a leader in the business world."
She chose Harvard, in large part, because of the case method. "It addresses what I'm most nervous about. Even though I may have the least experience in, say, marketing or finance, the case method challenges me to speak up; it forces me to be a contributing member of the class." The HBS experience also expands her horizons. "I grew up in a homogenous environment," says Rebecca. "The international component allows me to learn from many diverse perspectives. I've been extremely impressed by my classmates, and really appreciate their willingness to help me in subjects I hadn't been exposed to before."
For her summer internship, Rebecca has signed on with DaVita, a healthcare provider specializing in kidney care, and will participate in its Redwoods Leadership Development Program. "What I enjoy most is leading people," she says, "which is why I'm excited about the general management path HBS and DaVita are offering me."