Veteran Spotlight: Jack Lazebnik

Veteran Spotlight: Jack Lazebnik

Prior to Booth, Jack Lazebnik, Class of 2022, served in various roles within the US Army. Now in the second year of his Chicago Booth MBA, Jack shares his background, why veterans make good business school students, and the support he’s received from the Booth community.

Tell us a little bit about your background.
My name is Jack Lazebnik, and I am 31 years old. I am in my second year at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with the Class of 2022. I grew up in Los Angeles, where my family still resides.

Why was it important to serve your country?
I do not come from a military family; in fact, my parents are both artists. Two specific reasons I joined the military were the desire for a uniquely challenging college experience and mentorship from very close family friends, one of which being my best friend. As I toured colleges in my junior and senior year, I found it difficult to parse distinctive traits amongst the schools and felt they were missing some critical element or challenge (which is not to say they wouldn’t be academically rigorous). As I became familiar with West Point, I believed the university offered that challenge: early morning workouts, a structured curriculum, and high standards expected from cadets and officers.

Second, my best friend, Colin, was a year ahead of me and started his first year at West Point during my senior year of high school. His father, Shawn, graduated from West Point and was the only person I had ever met outside of World War II veterans who had served in the military. Together, they acted as confidants and mentors to help answer questions and inform my decision. By the time I received my acceptance letter to West Point, I was thrilled to accept.

What did you do in the military?
I served in the Army as an active duty infantry officer from 2013-2020. I worked my way through the standard progression of 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant and separated from the Army as a Captain.

I served as an Army infantry officer during my time in service. I spent most of my Army career with the 75th Ranger Regiment, primarily as an Executive Officer (or XO). I completed three combat deployments and one year in Korea across my seven years of service. While stateside, I primarily served as the XO for the Regiment’s selection and training company charged with assessing and selecting the next generation of Rangers.

The highlight of my service was undoubtedly my time with the Rangers. Although I will always be proud of the tangible work we did overseas, I truly appreciated my time there because of the fellow Rangers I was surrounded by and the culture resulting from these incredible individuals. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best mentors I anticipate ever having, peers who inspired me to be better every day, and Rangers who saw tasks through to completion with excellence no matter the difficulty or ambiguity.

Why did you want to pursue an MBA?
I believe veterans leaving the military are the most experienced candidates applying for private sector jobs with zero qualifications. These individuals can lead teams with distinction and integrity, but often unfortunately lack tangible qualifications that allow them to pursue competitive work commensurate with their potential. I felt an MBA presented the opportunity to pair the experience I had with a qualification that would make me a potent candidate for competitive businesses.

Additionally, the Army has a “train, then do” model that informs all operations. Before executing a combat deployment, you and your team train on all the tactics you’ll be required to perform on the deployment. I felt the MBA provided a chance for me to “train, then do” on the business front, studying academically and building my network prior to the “doing” of a private sector job.

Why do veterans make good business students?
Veterans make good business students because of their leadership experience and loyalty. Veterans leadership experience in austere environments with large teams become transferable to the private sector because they understand the importance of servant leadership: employees do not exist to work for executives, executives exist to work for the employees. Of course executives are beholden to shareholders, investors, and other critical aspects of the business, but at the core of their leadership style should ideally be a fundamental respect for the employees within the business. Veterans have the chance to pass these lessons learned to their classmates, a number of whom may have held leadership positions with small teams only prior to arriving at business school.

Second, veteran loyalty makes them great teammates, students, and future employees. A brand new veteran MBA student may not have the expertise to do financial modeling or data analysis, but what a veteran can consistently do is have the grit to find the answer and not let their team down. In the military, you quickly learn there is no worse fate than letting down a teammate, so you ensure that never happens. That same mentality translates to business school and beyond, where you support and empower teams you are a part of, making them stronger in the process. 

Why did you choose Booth?
Chicago Booth is an amazing place for many reasons, but I’ll highlight three that are particularly resonant with me: quality of the academic instruction, fiercely intelligent classmates, and the pay-it-forward culture. The quality of the academic instruction is unmatched: I have thoroughly enjoyed having subject matter experts in their given business fields and learning from their experiences. My classmates are exceptionally intelligent and a joy to be around. Lastly, the pay-it-forward culture is strong at Booth and is the reason I have the opportunities I have today. Peers will consistently coach, teach, and mentor you so you may have the same chances they did; I see that culture existing far beyond school and well into the professional world where I’ve found alumni always willing to take a call or provide their input.

What kind of support/financial aid/programs does Booth offer to veterans?
I am proud to say the University of Chicago was recently selected as the #1 college for veterans in the United States and I have felt that impact on a daily basis at Booth. Aside from extremely generous financial aid packages through the support of the Harper Family, Eric Gleacher, and other distinguished donors, the University offers multiple programs that assist veterans navigating the graduate school landscape. Two programs I’d like to highlight are the Office of Military Affiliated Communities and the Booth Armed Forces Group.

The Office of Military Affiliated Communities, or OMAC, provides transition assistance resources and information for veterans and active duty military members across the University of Chicago ecosystem. OMAC serves as a central hub for many aspects of connecting veterans to the community. Second, and extraordinarily important in my Booth journey, is the Armed Forces Group (AFG). The AFG provides community, professional recruiting preparation, and a strong network of veterans who I am proud to call some of my best friends. I am endlessly impressed by our veterans professionalism, dedication to excellence, and camaraderie.

Why do you believe veteran representation matters in MBA cohorts?
Veteran representation matters in MBA cohorts in my mind primarily for two reasons: supporting veterans and enriching the community. An MBA represents a unique chance for veterans to transition to impactful positions in the business world after graduation that may not have been available to them immediately upon their departure from the military. In this way, veterans gain access to competitive positions and networks that place them in a position to succeed for the rest of their career. Additionally, and more importantly, I believe veterans, when appropriate, should share their experiences with classmates. These experiences and lessons learned from their time in the military help to make their classmates better leaders who are more structured, disciplined, and empathetic going into their own business careers. In short, I find that everyone benefits from veteran representation! 

What are your post-graduation plans?
I interned this past summer at McKinsey & Company’s Southern California (Los Angeles) office, where I will be returning as a generalist following graduation. I am excited to see many industries and functional areas, but am most interested in integrating with the emerging blockchain and cryptocurrency practice at McKinsey to assist clients with strategic choices surrounding these new technologies. Long-term, I anticipate continuing to prioritize people and workplace culture while pursuing challenging opportunities on new business frontiers.