10 Nov 2021

Profiles of Service: Julie Guzman (MBA 2022)


by Shona Simkin

Photo courtesy Julie Guzman

On an early morning run in 2010, Julie Guzman noticed that the only other people active on her undergraduate campus were ROTC students practicing their morning drills. As the miles passed, she wondered if military service could be how she could serve her country—as a first generation American, she had always wanted to give back to the country that granted her family asylum when they fled Cuba in the 1959 communist revolution. She decided to give it a try, immediately fell in love with the ROTC camaraderie and structure, and served throughout her undergraduate years.

Commissioned to the Army upon graduation, Guzman served the next several years in strategic intelligence, including a deployment utilizing unmanned drones in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan. Her next deployment to Afghanistan was a part of a special program created to integrate women into Special Operations teams, roles that until then were restricted to male soldiers. Once in country, Guzman and her teammates interacted with the women and children living alongside adversaries and recruited and trained Afghan women to serve in the same capacity in the Afghan army. Returning to the states in 2018, Guzman recruited and trained fellow women officers to that program, and worked to configure training and mentoring for women soldiers newly permitted to engage in combat. Her final assignment in the Army was as a company commander in Psychological Operations at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

Her path to HBS, says Guzman with a laugh, was circuitous. With her partner an active duty Green Beret, the couple decided that their priorities—starting a life and family together—were not compatible with two demanding Army careers. She contemplated roles in various governmental organizations, but a series of unexpected deaths in her family forced another reckoning.

Photo courtesy Julie Guzman

“I was unable to have a continued presence with my family and friends, being in a career in which I was gone and traveling a lot,” said Guzman. “After the deaths of several close family members, my priorities started to change and I decided that I wanted to seek opportunities in which I could still be a leader and have an impact, but more on my own terms. I started prioritizing control and being a constant presence in my family's life. I came here to figure out what that would look like.”

For now, Guzman is content to explore the MBA curriculum and be back near her family and hometown of Lawrence, MA. When she’s not busy studying or training for the next Boston marathon, she’s happily enjoying her other pastimes: wine (she’s a level one sommelier), traveling with her partner, and caring for her English bulldog, Lunch. When she thinks about her future, and her role as a veteran, she sees opportunities for a lifetime of service.

“I think a lot of veterans go through a bit of an identity crisis when they leave the military and aren’t sure how to serve moving forward. My developing takeaway is to find ways to make service a lifestyle and not a pit stop in your career,” said Guzman. “There are multiple ways to serve in your community and your organization—even the way you treat people can be an act of service and selflessness. In the military it's easy to be reminded every day of the values that you are representing—you wear a uniform with an American flag on the shoulder. It's more challenging to do that as a civilian, so I think it’s important to be very deliberate and intentional about what service means to you. We sometimes neglect the everyday opportunities to serve one another in our communities.”

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