University of Southern California

Surfacing in Business
EMBA candidate Chad Cisco leaves the Navy's submarine force for consulting
January 19, 2012 • by News at Marshall
By Julie Riggott

Chad Cisco has had an exciting 20-year career in the U.S. Navy in various positions, including a nuclear power plant operator, tactics instructor and executive officer on a ballistic missile submarine. But he is looking forward to navigating new waters after he graduates from the USC Marshall School of Business and starts his new career as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company this summer.

Based in San Diego, Cisco currently assists Navy aircraft carriers and surface ships in anti-submarine warfare training, while participating in Marshall’s Executive MBA program. Drawn to the submarine force because of his interest in travel, geopolitics and technology — he has an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s in electrical engineering — Cisco was introduced to business by a supervising officer who turned him onto the books of W. Edwards Deming, Jim Collins and others.

"That really opened my eyes to business strategy and operations, and it became somewhat of a passion following that thought process of how to improve businesses and marketing," he recalled. "I also became interested in deal flows, in who’s buying who and why. I’ve read a lot, and my MBA has added more rigor to the study."

Cisco’s most memorable experiences in the Navy are ones most of us can only comprehend thanks to movies: exercises where he was "at the periscope out in front of a destroyer heading at me and shooting a torpedo at them” and tracking submarines, a challenge that is “more of an art than a science."

Not one to shy away from challenges, Cisco is eagerly anticipating the transition from naval commander to consultant. "I won’t be in management, but an individual contributor role. I think it’s a perfect place to start because it will give me the opportunity to focus on building my own skills and knowledge level without having to manage a group or an organization. But people probably won’t call me sir there," he said with a laugh.

Part of the reason Cisco feels confident is that he has already found that the EMBA program has prepared him well. "I think the integrated approach of this program was very helpful to me during the rigorous interview process with McKinsey & Company," he explained. "I could think of business holistically because we studied themes instead of individual courses. So I could understand how finance related to strategy, for example. That was an advantage when I interviewed, and I’m sure the program will be a huge benefit when I begin this career."

Cisco also credits his cohort of about 50 students with whom he shared his two-year EMBA journey with giving him useful insights that steered him toward his new career. "I have learned almost as much from my fellow students as I have in the classroom," he said. "My classmates are in a wide variety of industries and functions. Asking them about their businesses and hearing the challenges they’re facing day to day in their work was really valuable. They helped me figure out where I’d fit, what I thought I’d find interesting, and led me to consulting."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.