Jacqueline Ann Harris
Class of 2013
"What I did not know at the time, is that any good leader—whether you are a commander in the Army or a CEO—should know that being situationally aware is the only pathway to effective leadership. When circumstances are undefined, a leader must make good and timely decisions under ambiguous conditions."
I grew up in what most would consider a typical military family. To us, travelling from base to base, having two parents who worked intensely long hours, and knowing the difference between the sound of an M16 and an M2, was totally normal. Of course, it was not until going off to college and then starting my own career in the military that I really realized why my background made me different.
My family life played a key role in establishing my work ethic and helped me achieve success in life. I can look back now and know that what seemed like challenges have shaped me positively into the woman I am. From my time moving around, I can now go anywhere and talk to anyone. I bloom where I am planted. With two parents who worked and got advanced degrees while raising kids, I know that I can take on more than people can imagine. With two siblings and a slew of over-achieving friends, I know what it means to push myself.
After 18 years as an Army "brat," I thought I knew what the Army was about. I also thought I knew what was available to me career-wise, what I liked/ did not like and who I was as a person. However, every day in the military and every day at Fuqua has been a learning experience, both personally and professionally. I have had successes and failures, and I will continue to do so as I learn how to be a good soldier, leader, student, and teammate. While I learned a lot at home, in the Army and during deployments, it is my time here at Fuqua that has shown me more possibilities and given me the tools to be not only an effective leader, but also to be the civilian, daughter, sister, and classmate I didn't know I wanted to be, or could be.
Why I Chose Fuqua
I will begin by saying that going to Duke was a dream of mine while applying to undergrad programs. I can admit, with slightly less sting than a few years ago, that I did not get in. I therefore came into this process with a drive to give it my best shot, to get into Fuqua. I knew I brought something new and great to the table, I had learned so much since my undergrad days, and Duke was still a dream.
My feelings were not simply romanticized, Fuqua was right for more reasons than fulfilling a long-term dream. While I have had a challenging and successful career in the military, I was well aware that there is much I do not yet know. In order to have continued success and to broaden my understanding of the business world and how it applies to the military, I needed to go outside of the military to learn from a new set of bright and talented leaders and professionals from the civilian world. That is why I chose Fuqua.
The focus that the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics puts on teamwork is what made Fuqua the type of place where I could learn and flourish and also bring something to the classroom for my classmates to learn from. Instead of completing this degree and then taking my newfound knowledge and skill set into the civilian world, I plan to bring what I have learned back to the military and to the classrooms of cadets at the United States Military Academy. I will share with them new and helpful avenues of leadership and operations that I have been able to study. To do that, I needed to attend a school that has at its core a focus on not only great leadership, but also of flexibility, agility, and curiosity—strengths I found at Fuqua.
Leadership Attribute: Courage
There is one experience that has shaped me as a leader much more so than others, one that falls into the "courage" category. While serving in Iraq, I was responsible for 35 Soldiers. One day we were assigned a special mission to retrieve a vehicle that had fallen into a canal.
Once on the site, it became clear that the truck had not fallen into a canal, but that an explosion had caused the truck to be jettisoned into the canal, and we were there to retrieve anything that was left behind, which sadly included some of our soldiers, friends, and now fallen comrades. The Army establishes clear guidelines and procedures, but this particular mission had no regulations to govern all operations. Therefore, what defined my mission, to recover any remains, was the ethos statement that "I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade."
Unfortunately, as we drained the canal, we were only able to recover tiny pieces and one single strip of ACU patterned cloth with the name of one of the victims. We did our jobs as Soldiers and powered through to do what we were asked to. We tamped down our emotions, ignored that we were now a stationary target, with a mere credo as guidance.
As the environment grew increasingly more uncertain and the mission now put the lives of my Soldiers in danger, I had to decide between the lives of my Soldiers and the moral compass which required me to return these heroes with honor.
What I did not know at the time, is that any good leader—whether you are a commander in the Army or a CEO—should know that being situationally aware is the only pathway to effective leadership. When circumstances are undefined, a leader must make good and timely decisions under ambiguous conditions. A leader may have to establish the mission, accomplish that mission, and bring all people back from the battlefield, whatever their condition.
Five Random Things about Me
- I could talk about college basketball for hours. I come from a basketball family and love of the game did impact my application and acceptance process.
- I didn't have my first cup of coffee until well into my second deployment. I have been hooked ever since.
- I was awarded the Bronze Star and didn't tell anyone about it for months. I am still shy about it.
- In March of 2004, I was featured on the cover of the sports section of USA Today as a student manager for the Wake Forest Men's Basketball team. For three days before, I had my own personal paparazzi.
- The best part of my brother having a size 15 sneaker? The amount of homemade cookies my Mom could get into a box to send to me in Afghanistan.
The Impact of 'Team Fuqua'
My experience at Fuqua has been nothing short of incredible. The faculty, staff, and students have been supportive and patient with my transition from the military to student life. There is a sense of community that makes me feel at home. We are all developing, learning, and growing ourselves to be global leaders of consequence. More importantly, we are developing lifelong friendships and relationships.
Fuqua promotes an environment of teamwork, collaborative leadership, and a desire for success, which are all foundational qualities of the military. Teamwork is inherent in everything that we do in the military and I was pleasantly surprised to see that continue here at Fuqua.
In the military, we take advantage of the fact that teams are critical to success. While that is also the case at Fuqua, we all have the added challenge of developing the relationships required for effective and sustainable teams. The diversity of experiences and backgrounds ensure that we develop leadership skills we would never have without this opportunity.
Advice for Prospective Miltary Applicants
I am not done with military service and do not currently have plans to get out of the Army; but with my MBA, I am certainly more prepared to get out and have a successful career if I go that route.
I think an MBA is attractive to those in and just out of the military because the skill sets needed to succeed in business and in the military are more complementary than you may think. Leadership skills, responsibility, and goal orientation are qualities you will find in a great military leader and a great manager in the civilian world. However, while those skills are applicable, they are not the only things those in the military need if they are going to thrive in their current organization or in the civilian world. An MBA provides the skills you need to transfer your military skills, grow your understanding of business and management, and apply it to the real world. You can read The Wall Street Journal every day or educate yourself on strategies of blue chip companies, but until you understand what goes into those strategies and how to become part of that process, all you have is an understanding. An MBA lets you apply that and to be the leader at the blue chip company, making those decisions and changing the world for businesses and consumers.
I am a bit biased, but I believe that the leadership that military officers bring to business school is what makes them ideal candidates and classmates. Within months of graduating from college, military officers are directing the activities of large groups of individuals to achieve specific goals. We are asked to lead under extreme conditions and yet understand the importance and value of a team, without which we would be unsuccessful. We must stay calm in almost any situation, think through a solution to a problem quickly, and clearly explain a proposed solution to the entire team. We are driven, intensely motivated, loyal, reliable, hardworking, trustworthy, and passionate.