Brendan Aronson (WG20)
Brendan, can you talk a little bit about transitioning from the military to Wharton?
Sure thing! Transitioning out of the military is a tough time for anyone, you’re switching jobs, moving, trying to understand how civilian careers are structured, learn the basics of business, understand different industries, types of roles, how to interview, and how to deal with the VA so there are a lot of moving pieces to keep your eyes on. Coming to Wharton was the best transition I could have asked for – the veterans club on campus is a tremendous resource for military applicants who are looking for application help but more importantly for connecting with other transitioning veterans who are trying to figure out if an MBA makes sense for them or if they can go directly into industry without it. I took full advantage of the veterans at Wharton who offered to help and now I pay it forward by having calls with other veterans who were in my shoes a few short years ago.
The military veteran community at Wharton is incredible and has been instrumental in making the transition to the business world. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other incredible resources that Wharton offers – I feel like I gained a tremendous amount from Wharton’s academically rigorous environment over these two years. I commonly joke that I couldn’t spell ‘revenue’ before coming to Wharton, and the academic curriculum has given me the foundational business knowledge I need to add value to any organization after graduation.
Finally, my classmates have been a tremendous resource for understanding what different career paths look like, how different industries function, and for personal advice as well. They’re truly a cut above and are always willing to spend time chatting with me about how I can build a career that aligns with my personal values and priorities.
How have you grown while attending Wharton?
Coming from the military where your career is so clearly structured and you know exactly what it takes to succeed, I hadn’t previously paid enough attention to selecting a career that aligns with my personal goals. Many MBA students struggle to find their purpose or which career makes the most sense for them, and veterans are no different. I do think we are different in that we are typically so focused on ensuring mission success that we don’t leave time to consider our own wants, desires, and need! Wharton has given me time and space to consider those existential questions and have greater clarity about how I want to spend my time.
I’d strongly recommend the book Reboot by Jerry Colonna – I thought it was a great starting point for thinking through a lot of these questions and for introspection more generally.
What will you be pursuing full-time after graduation?
I recently joined Paintru, which is a direct-to-consumer custom art company that turns your favorite photo into a professionally painted work of art as a co-founder! I love that we create a product that people love – the incredible details that our artists are able to capture combined with the smell of the oils and feel of the brushstrokes create a memorable gift that people really connect with.
As a co-founder of Paintru, I’m thrilled that we are able to serve as a source of income for artists whose income has been adversely affected by Coronavirus. I’m also ecstatic about the opportunity to work on different types of business problems everyday – as an entrepreneur, you work on different problem sets everyday, whether finance, marketing, operational, data analytics, you’re expected to do it all.
We’re all spending so much time at home during the quarantine, and I think many of us are getting a little stir-crazy. It has been wonderful reading emails from customers raving about how their Paintru art dramatically improved their home or office to keep them feeling great during the quarantine. Additionally, we’ve completed artwork for small businesses who are looking to refresh their office design. We work directly with interior designers and can match pantone colors to create the perfect environment for your business and I hope that people will check us out when they think about the space that they spend time in.
What advice do you have for students or applicants who may be interested in pursuing entrepreneurship?
I think veterans err on the side of caution when selecting their careers, which results in a lot of us pursuing banking or consulting. This is a great route for many, but if you think you have an entrepreneurial drive, I’d challenge veterans to take a shot! Do a summer internship at an early stage startup. Launch a business doing something extremely simple (sell t-shirts if you need a place to start!) during pre-term. Having a business to think about while you’re tackling the Wharton curriculum helps reinforce the classroom learning and has enriched my second year beyond belief.
Overall, this is very cliché but I would recommend that people believe in themselves and be willing to take a shot. Ask yourself what the worst possible outcome is – if you’re a Wharton graduate who has a failed startup, do you think a future hiring manager would view that negatively or understand that you likely bring a unique perspective to a future role? Would you hire someone who started a business after Wharton and learned a ton of tangible skills along the way?
All of the professors here recommend that students with an interest in entrepreneurship pursue it immediately post-graduation. I know it’s intimidating, but I think more veterans should take their advice and take the plunge!