10 Nov 2021

Profiles of Service: Joshua Scott (MBA 2023)

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by Shona Simkin

Photo courtesy Joshua Scott

Joshua Scott first set foot on the HBS campus as a freshman at Harvard College in 2011. As a fellow in the PRIMO program, he was exposed to the case method, research, and life as an HBS student, planting a seed of opportunity that he came back to following his service in the Marine Corps.

Born and raised in Hampton, VA, Scott grew up surrounded by the military—with Langley Air Force base, a myriad of Army and Naval installations and shipyards nearby, and parents, siblings, grandparents, and cousins in the Air Force, Army, and Marines. Military service was always a goal, but Scott did not take a typical road to either the Marine Corps or to HBS.

As an engineering student at Harvard College, Scott was intrigued by the ROTC program recently reinstated on campus, but decided to focus on academics and the many opportunities available to Harvard students. He spent his summers as a PRIMO scholar at HBS, interning in the Chilean government via Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and working in the College Freshman Dean’s Office—all chances to explore potential careers paths. Meanwhile, he trained for and prepared to launch his military endeavor at Boston’s Marine Corps Officer Selection Office, alongside a handful of his peers from the College. After graduation in 2015, he completed Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a Marine officer.

“Because of Harvard’s generous financial aid, I was able to graduate without debt. I truly felt liberated and that I could do whatever I wanted to do, which was to pursue my purpose and calling to military service,” said Scott. “I get my gratification from serving others, and the military was a great avenue for me—not only did I get that fix but I was in a competitive environment that encouraged me to push past my own preconceived notions of my limitations.”

Photo courtesy Joshua Scott

During his six years of service, Scott transitioned from a logistics officer to a Latin America foreign area officer, combining his military experience with his Spanish fluency to consult with foreign military and security forces throughout Latin America. “It was an incredible experience, toggling between tactical level, boots-on-the-ground training alongside highly capable foreign security forces and working with high-level ministerial staff and military officials on how nation states combine forces to achieve mutual objectives as individual stakeholders. It broadened my aperture and my understanding of the role and importance of international communities and collaborations,” said Scott.

Scott says he’s always known he wanted a career beyond the military, and in his final role in Latin America felt that he had served to his fullest capacity. He assessed the skills he had acquired through his engineering education and his military experience, and decided to focus on what he considers the next war: climate change.

“I truly believe that climate change is a transnational, transregional, and transgenerational threat,” said Scott. “I learned as a foreign area officer that the best way to effect change is to be able to communicate with the population you're seeking to support. I wanted to learn more about the language of business, and what better way than business school. HBS is my opportunity to learn the lexicon and language of business while also serving as my personal buffer transitioning from the military into the private sector.”

Scott envisions a future that includes work in both the private and public sectors, as well as his passions: hip-hop dancing, Latin dancing, practicing Spanish and Portuguese, and spending time with his long-distance partner who is currently serving in the Air Force and, as he describes, consistently motivates him to be a better version of himself. When asked what additional aspects of his experience he would like to convey, Scott paused for a brief moment before answering.

“The saying that perception is reality is far from the truth. I recognize that when folks see me, they don't necessarily see a Harvard student and a public servant who would be willing to give his life to protect them—and that weighs on me. Perception is perception and reality is reality. I might look a certain type of way, with a bushy beard or a design in my hair, but presuppositions about me, solely from appearance, are just perception. I encourage folks to get to know their neighbors and others around them and abstain from judgement. You don't know who you're meeting until you get to know them at a different, more meaningful level. In other words, when it comes to people, focus on the product, not their packaging.”

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