MBA Mama Spotlight: Kelly Deutermann, USCG of Haas

The latest phenomenal MBA Mama in our “Spotlight” series is Lieutenant Commander Kelly A. Deutermann who currently attends the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Full-Time MBA Program. Previously, she was stationed at Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay, CA and served as an instructor pilot in the MH-65C helicopter. She was responsible for training and mentoring junior pilots in the MH-65, and effecting search and rescue (SAR) and law enforcement missions in one of the nation’s most challenging operational areas — the Pacific Northwest Ocean.

LCDR Deutermann attended the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. In 2004, she received a Bachelors of Science in Government — International Affairs, along with an officer commission in the U.S. Coast Guard. Her first assignment as a Coast Guard officer was aboard USCGC SENECA as a Deck Watch Officer, home-ported in Boston, MA. The SENECA patrolled the North Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans enforcing the laws and treaties of the United States. During this tour, LCDR Deutermann was accepted to the U.S. Naval Flight Training program and earned her “Wings of Gold” in 2007. She flew at Air Station Miami, FL for four years and transferred to Sector Humboldt Bay in July of 2011 to serve as the aviation safety officer.

In 2011 she received the Captain Dorothy Stratton Award for Inspirational Leadership and was honored as the distinguished graduate at the U.S. Navy’s School of Aviation Safety. In 2012, she was awarded the Captain Marion “Gus” Shrode Aviation Safety Officer of the Year Award for her work revitalizing the operational safety program at Sector Humboldt Bay.

Check out our interview with Kelly, a mother of two, below:

What motivated you to leave your career path in the military to pursue your MBA?

I’m actually remaining on active duty while pursuing my MBA — the U.S. Coast Guard is sponsoring my MBA education. After MBA completion I will return to the Coast Guard and assume a program management and policy development position at USCG Headquarters. My responsibilities as a military officer have led to my interest in addressing the complex budget development and execution challenges my organization faces. For this reason, I decided to pursue a formal business education. Following the Headquarters assignment, I will likely return to the aviation community to lead the front-line operators in a command-level position. As I continue to progress into the ranks of senior leadership, I will be able to combine the Headquarters program management experience with my aviation experience to better serve the people of the Coast Guard and the citizens of the United States.

Why did you choose Haas?

I chose Haas because it felt like home. From the very beginning of my MBA program research, I got the strong impression that, as an institution, Haas really knows who it is, what it values, and how it wants to serve the community.

After interviewing at Haas, my interviewer went out of his way to connect me with two students who, he believed, shared my interests and passions. He thought they could help me better explore the potential in the Haas experience. My conversations with those students left me inspired and challenged! It felt very authentic and personal to be offered this vantage point. In those students I found kindred spirits who shared my passion for social and public sector leadership. Before I even received an offer of admission, I was made to feel a part of the Haas family.

Since arriving at Haas, I’ve found an institution that cares about developing the whole person, not just the business person. I feel engaged, challenged, and supported by my classmates and faculty in every sense. I came here to stretch my comfort zone, and I’ve found the depth of thought and diversity of perspectives motivating, humbling, and enlightening. I am grateful to be here and am inspired every day!

What surprised you most during your first semester of business school?

I was surprised how much fun I was having! If you’re an MBA and you’re not having fun, you need to fix that. For realz.

Because I came to business school from a less than traditional background, I was unaware of the sophisticated social programming aspect of getting an MBA. It’s been a wonderful addition to this experience for my family. Haas’s student VP Social is a total rock star: in addition to being an incredible party planner, she’s conscientious of the family needs of those of us with kids and ensures that appropriate accommodations are made, when necessary. My family participates in as many activities as possible. That said, we don’t hesitate to hire a babysitter when adult-only events come up on the social calendar.

Do you have any time management tips for other MBA moms?

Haas uses Google Calendar and we all have the ability to look at each other’s calendars when scheduling meetings. Because I started the program when Remy was six weeks old, breast pumping frequently while at school was a must. I found it helpful to hard schedule my pumping times on the calendar so meeting requests wouldn’t come in that I couldn’t honor because my time wasn’t appropriately accounted for on my schedule.

Be deliberate about your time, and recognize that no one — not even your childless classmates — can participate in everything. I made the decision early on to only commit to events that truly had meaning to me to ensure that if I went, I would be present. With everything going on at school, at home, and on the social calendar, it was easy to feel distracted. I mostly avoided that by being deliberate and thoughtful about the events I RSVP’d to. If I found that my commitment was wavering even after RSVP-ing “yes”, then I would bow out ahead of time to create space for someone who could more fully participate.

What childcare solutions have you utilized during your MBA program?

I am extremely fortunate to have a stay at home dad for our two kids. He also runs a business from home and travels frequently, so we have enlisted the help of a couple of amazing babysitters to help us through the crunch times.

I have had a few instances where he was out of town and both our babysitters and local family members were also unavailable. Those times that required me to get creative. I learned that UC Berkeley has a backup child care program for precisely this type of situation and they provide heavily subsidized childcare services for up to 40 hours per semester. Through this program you can either take your child to a day care facility or have a childcare provider come to your home. The second time this happened during finals week, I had a conflict with one final exam. I explained my situation to my professor and asked if I could take the exam at a time other than what was currently scheduled and offered up a few options. My professor was very accommodating — it turns out that when his kids were young his wife would spend three months each year in a different country, so he appreciated where I was coming from with my request.

What advice do you have for professional women considering their MBAs? Considering starting a family?

Considering an MBA? Do it.

Considering a family? Do it.

There will never be an “ideal” time for starting a family, particularly if you have a dedicated and promising career. The simple fact is that if starting a family is important to you, then do it. Make it work. You absolutely have the power to make it work. There will be times that it gets hard. But that’s okay — just keep your eyes wide open to the challenges and make deliberate decisions about your time and personal priorities.

There is no overstating the value of a supportive partner. Keeping each other informed of each other’s needs and ambitions is critical to ensuring you progress through your particular journey as a functional team.