Aaron Concha: Pathway to leadership paved with service

June 27, 2018 • By UCI Paul Merage School of Business

When Aaron Concha, FTMBA ’18, came home from serving as a medic in Afghanistan he, like many veterans, wasn’t sure how to transfer the skills he’d gained in the army to civilian life.

Taking the advice of officers he’d worked under in the military, Concha applied to a number of business schools. What stood out to him about The Paul Merage School of Business was that the admissions director immediately appreciated the advantages his army service he would bring to the business world.

Some of those skills, like a deep understanding of how to handle interpersonal conflict and power dynamics, revealed themselves early on in a class consulting project. Concha impressed his peers in a boardroom when he diplomatically but firmly delivered bad news to an executive, refusing to cave to pressure. That experience gave him a needed boost of confidence in his first year in the program. “The big takeaway for me was that I could do this.”

In his second year in the FTMBA program, Concha wanted to make an impact, so he stepped up and became president of the Merage Student Association (MSA), the umbrella organization under which the student clubs operate, influencing everything from social events to professional development sessions.

“I studied organizational behavior in class, but the real learning started with MSA,” says Concha. “How to take something from an idea into an actual product or service; how to create buy-in. What I learned through MSA is unparalleled.”

While MSA fosters a sense of community, Concha has been impressed in other ways by the camaraderie within the school. Like the time he earned an interview with a Fortune 15 company that his friend wanted badly but didn’t get. That friend spent the weekend helping Concha prep and sharing insights about the company.

As Concha approaches graduation, he plans to go into project management in healthcare or defense. “The Merage Career Center gives you all the resources you need to succeed,” he says.

“My military service gave me the humility to understand how tough decisions impact an organization,” says Concha. “The Merage MBA has given me the experiences to make those decisions.”