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Forged by the Sea: How Submarine Service Accelerated My Career in Consulting

By: David Baugh


Most people would not volunteer to live and work on a boat that is designed to sink. I served in the United States Nuclear Submarine Force for 8.5 years and learned to work in an environment with conditions that could result in the loss of lives. Life aboard a nuclear-powered submarine lacks sunlight, sleep, fresh air, and fresh food. It might not be for everyone, but I chose it because I wanted to be part of a tight-knit and elite group of sailors. Earning my submarine “dolphins” was an arduous and humbling experience which to this day is one my greatest achievements Learning how to make difficult decisions, work together as a team and relying on one another in challenging situations, has prepared me well for a career in management consulting.

Eleven years ago, I sought to leverage the skills I developed in the military and start a career in the civilian workforce. Through a veteran placement firm, I landed my first civilian job and was placed in a field management development program. The program was designed to train former officers and enlisted service men and women as maintenance and construction managers. Since then, I have worked in several different industries including distributed energy, process automation, robotics, and management consulting.

Consulting allows me to solve a variety of tough business problems while constantly learning new things and developing my skills. My military background has proven invaluable in my role as a management consultant at SEI. Learning to work as a cohesive team aboard submarines has taught me how to engage and motivate client teams in the execution of project work. The military taught me that I am capable of learning and doing anything when part of a collaborative team that works together. I’ve gained the ability to adapt to any circumstance as situations can change quickly while on patrol. These experiences have allowed me to thrive as a consultant as I can take on a variety of roles.

Having the integrity to do what’s right when no one is looking has carried over in my consulting career. This is especially important considering that as a consultant, I am a trusted advisor to my clients. In the navy, sailors are expected to follow a chain of command and strictly adhere to approved procedures. These features are part of the military for very good reasons. Being a consultant has allowed me to not only incorporate these into my daily work life but SEI’s unique model as given me trust to deliver what’s best for my clients, my company, and myself. As an employee owner at SEI, I’m encouraged to challenge the status quo and bring fresh ideas to the table in an effort to constantly improve what we do and how we do it. I am expected to think outside the box and develop innovative ideas to drive value for my clients. Being an employee-owner of a flat organization provides me the autonomy to decide how I want to get involved and where I feel I can contribute.

My wife of eighteen years and two daughters, age six and two, also love that I’m working at SEI. The summer picnic, fall day on the farm, holiday party, and all the other ad hoc family events are great opportunities for my family to hang out with my coworkers and their families. The bridge between work and home life is something I haven’t experienced since my navy days. It’s truly special to be surrounded by coworkers whom I can collaborate with at work and also enjoy spending time outside of the office. SEI’s local model also means that I get to come home every day, a stark difference from my time in the military and previous consulting roles. I leverage what I learned in the military on a daily basis and my SEI family recognizes and promotes my unique skill sets.

David Baugh


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