There is great power to being a woman.
So says US veteran, Andrea Frkovich. And she’s got an interesting vantage point.
Between 2013 and 2017, Andi held a number of high-responsibility officer roles in the US Navy. Her military career saw her rotate from Deck Division Officer overseeing cross-functional teams of more than 70 sailors, through to Electrical Officer and Engineering Officer of the Watch, leading a team of just under 20 engineers in maintaining the operational capabilities of her ship. As Landward Security Officer she picked up the Navy Achievement Medal for excellence in leadership as head of US and Nepalese sentry team providing security for more than 30,000 personnel in the United Arab Emirates. Under her stewardship, high-security escorts ensured the safety of numerous US and coalition vessels across the Persian Gulf between 2016 and 2017.
A high degree of responsibility for someone in the early phase of their career?
“That’s how leadership development works in the military. You gain a huge amount of exposure from the start, rotating through different roles and working in a vast number of different countries and environments. You also pick of a high number of transferable skills that you can put to good use later in any number of industries.”
An “adventurous spirit,” Andi knew from an early age that she would start her career in the Navy. She pursued a college access programme that took her to Duke University and a degree in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. An MPhil in politics at Cambridge in the UK followed.
“Military life is part of my family tradition and I’ve always had a great curiosity about the world and an appetite for adventure. The college programmes gave me access to a great education with the certainty of the rewarding career on graduation. In the Navy I discovered that I also thrive working within a team, making decisions under pressure and collaborating with team mates – within inclusive teams – to devise fast, effective and practicable solutions to complex problems.”
These capabilities, together with a desire to “take stock” of her skill set and bridge any gaps in knowledge and experience, brought Andi to London Business School (LBS) to pursue her MBA in 2018.
“I left the Navy ready to make the transition to civilian life and I needed the time and space to reflect on what I had and what I still needed, having no experience in the corporate sector. I chose LBS because of the international dimension of the School. I was drawn to that – to the unique profile of the School and its students. More than 90% of the MBA cohort is international, so you get this uniquely global feeling and outlook.”
At LBS, Andi has found tremendous support and stimulation from the Military In Business Club, a networking group for veterans from all over the world that provides mentorship as well as a full calendar of activities and events.
Support in abundance has also come from faculty and peers, she says.
“I was nervous about some of the business classes initially, but the professors do a brilliant job in providing guidance and resources. In some ways, the greatest resource are my fellow students. My classmates are just great. They are always proactive about helping, exchanging ideas and providing contacts and networking opportunities. It’s a real community.”
And as with most well-functioning communities, the support is multi-directional.
“I think I’m able to give my peers really helpful insights based on my own experience in managing very large groups of people, in managing conflict and in motivating others using constructive criticism. I’ve developed solid capabilities in terms of timely decision-making and making decisions under pressure and these are things that I can share and that help give perspective in teamwork and other activities.”
The LBS experience is “surpassing expectations,” says Andi. And it’s preparing her to plan a future that she hopes will play out in public sector consultancy.
As she builds a solid grounding in the geopolitical and economic realities of the global economy and an expanded understanding of the world around her, she is also developing a better sense of the value of asking for support – and paying that support forward.
“Relationships and networking are very important. Connecting with other people really matters.”
And it’s not always easy.
“I started my career serving as an officer in an all-male ship, and I initially feared it would be really hard to make meaningful connections with others. Over time, I was able to build those connections, and what I’ve learned is that you have to play off the preconceptions. If you focus on the negative your concerns will become self-fulfilling. You have to really work on your mindset and believe in yourself and your strengths. If you can do that, you gain credibility and respect. And you understand that there is great power in being a woman.”