Drew went from Active Duty Army Sergeant to Stanford Law School, which is an incredible leap. He talks about advice for getting into Law School, what it’s like, why Veterans may love (or hate it), what career options it opens, and more. He also talks about his decision to go into the corporate world instead of practicing law. We talk about his work at Hewlett Packard Enterprises, and how he served as Chief of Staff for the Chief Sales & Marketing Officer. We also talk about how Veterans are qualified to do project management and strategic operations work.
Drew Kambic is the Director for Strategy & Planning as well as the Head of Operations for License Verification in the Americas for Micro Focus (formerly Hewlett Packard). He started out in the Army, where he served for over 8 years, most recently as a Sergeant and Infantry Team Leader. While on Active Duty he earned a B.S. and B.A at The Ohio State University, and after his military service he earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School. He has worked at HPE as a Senior Manager for Operations Performance, as well as the Chief of Staff for the Chief sales and Marketing Officer.
StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
Joe Rogen - he interviews EVERYONE and has no problems asking questions. A lot is revealed in his interviews - he has interviewed someone who will be interesting to you. That will lead you to a lot of people, podcasts, and places
Axios.com - this is where Drew gets his news. It is a news curation site, since he is more interested in content than spin.
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from San Francisco is Drew Kambic. Drew is the Director for Strategy & Planning as well as the Head of Operations for License Verification in the Americas for Micro Focus (formerly Hewlett Packard). He started out in the Army, where he served for over 8 years, most recently as a Sergeant and Infantry Team Leader. While on active duty he earned a B.S. and B.A at The Ohio State University, and after his military service he earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School. He has worked at HP as a Senior Manager for Operations Performance, as well as the Chief of Staff for the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer.
What lead you from active duty to law school?
The simple answer is my wife. My initial plan when I was 17 was to be enlisted, get my undergrad degree, become an officer, and then go Special Forces. But then I fell in love with my high school sweetheart and so I told her my plan right before my second deployment to Afghanistan which made her cry. So that made me re-think my plan and I decided to go a different route. Law school was something I had always wanted to do. I had done a lot of what I wanted to in the military and I was ready for something different.
Can you tell us more about the application process to Stanford?
I made the decision to go to law school right before I left for Afghanistan. So I brought three LSAT prep books with me to Afghanistan. That was how I prepared. In between missions and guard shifts, I was studying. I took the LSAT a short time after I left active duty. The books helped me quite a bit because my scores put me in contention with some of the most competitive schools out there. Stanford was always my #1 choice.
Do you have any advice regarding the law school application process?
Give yourself time. The LSAT is a very interesting test and it’s a skill set that can be acquired. The more time you give yourself, the easier it’s going to be on you. Give yourself opportunities to prepare. Have an understanding of where you’re competitive. Put yourself in the best position you can to get into each school. Talk to as many people as you can - administrators, professors, students. Understand what is the right school for you. Not all law schools are created equal.
What are some indications that law school is a good fit for someone?
Understand why you want to go. Some people want to be in the courtroom arguing cases while others just want to put more letters behind their name. But there are easier ways to pad a resume rather than going to law school. Make sure you actually want to practice law when you’re done with school. And again understand what schools are the best fit for you.
Law school is a phenomenal experience. It will teach you how to break down and construct an argument. But make sure you actually want to practice law.
How did you decide that you wanted to practice corporate law?
When you’re in law school, you’re getting funneled to a law firm. I think part of it is that law schools are incentivized to say that they have a certain number of graduates that go to top law firms.
Some of the top things you can do with an MBA are consulting, private equity, things like that. Those same options are available to lawyers. Top firms are trying to surround themselves with smart people. I interviewed with McKinsey, BCG, and Morgan Stanley. So those options are available to you after law school although they won’t necessarily be communicated to you during school.
What brought you to Hewlett Packard?
A good friend of mine was the lead communications specialist for Meg Whitman at HP. She was in contact with the COO and he was looking for a Chief of Staff. My friend told me a little bit about the role and asked if I was interested. I was so I talked to the COO and was placed in the interview process. There were three candidates that were finalists. All of us ended up being hired. We formed his strategy and operations team both as HP and later at Micro Focus where he was the CEO.
Could you tell us what a typical day was like in this role?
There really wasn’t a standard day. Our primary mission was to fight whatever fire was burning brightest. That could take us to anywhere within the organization. Sometimes we were figuring out why certain products were underperforming. Other times we were working on deals and pricing mechanisms.
As Chief of Staff, there are three buckets. One bucket is that you’re a glorified executive assistant. Bucket two is a project manager and bucket three is really getting deep into the company’s operations. In the executive assistant role, I was setting up a lot of meetings and preparing documents. The project manager piece including planning and setting up training events. The final piece was the planning and operations was thinking about getting the right people into the right roles to solve our company’s problems.
What prepared you to succeed in these roles?
My military experience transferred well into the project management piece. If you’ve lead at an level in the military, you understand that you need to back plan. It’s understanding roles and responsibilities and creating effective timelines. As far as the strategy piece, I don’t think it was any one thing that prepared me for it. I’m a person that like to look for inefficiencies in a system. Really it’s the essence of problem solving - identifying the main issue and what we’re trying to solve for.
What was the lifestyle like in this position?
It was traveling a lot. We were in Madrid, Bangkok, and Salt Lake City. Naturally, these are long days. In Bangkok for example, we were running 20 hour days which can get tough when you’re stacking those days on top of eachother.
The typical day for me was in the office from 7 am to 7 pm. Then I was working on other things until midnight. Then at 4 am everyday, the woman I was working for was awake and sending out emails. She worked higher and longer than anyone.
My wife was happy when I eventually gave this job up. It was tough. When you’re working 20 hour days, 7 days a week, it takes a toll. You don’t get to do a lot of the things you want to do with your friends and family. It’s a phenomenal role and you learn a ton but you make a lot of sacrifices. So doing that short-term was acceptable but it wasn’t what I wanted long-term. So I was in the position for 10 months and then transitioned into a different role.
In order to be the CEO of a company, are people maintaining that schedule over many years?
I think it’s a personal thing. For example, our CEO would unplug at 6 pm. And from 6-9pm, that was his family time. So he blocked out the times of his day that he was going to go full speed and what periods of time were for his family. The COO that I worked for had two grown kids so she put in 20 hour days and that was just her baseline. That worked for her and was something that she could do indefinitely.
I don’t that’s required though to reach executive levels. If you’re a Chief of Staff, you probably will be working longer days than the executive you’re working for. You have to be prepared when they walk in to start the day. And then there’s work you still need to do when they go home at the end of the day.
How would you describe your role as Director of Strategic Planning and Head of Operations for License Verification in the Americas for Micro Focus?
There’s really two pieces - one is the Director of Strategic Planning. I report to a VP of Strategy who reports to the CEO. I was asked at the end of my Chief of Staff time to go help identify what some of the issues were in our license verification operations. That made me the Head of Operations for License Verification in the Americas.
If you’re selling software, you may buy a certain number of terabytes. There’s really no way to prevent a customer from using more terabytes than they bought. What license verification does is organize this process to make sure people were using only what they were buying. Licensing verification usually contributes 20-25% of sales in any given quarter.
And what does that look like from a lifestyle standpoint?
The baseline for me is to be in the office from 8am and home by 6pm. And I would be responsive to emails until about 9pm.
What resources would you recommend to people interested in tech?
A great podcast is Joe Rogan’s. He interviews absolutely everyone. He has no problem asking questions. He done thousands of interviews at this point. Listening to him will lead you to other people and other podcasts.
I get my news from Axios. I’ve gotten out of the habit of going to more mainstream news outlets. As far as books, think about what you enjoy reading. That can be a great indicator of what career field you might be well suited for.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?
For people that are making the decision to transfer out of the military and go to school to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree, I would encourage you not to underestimate the value of going to a top tier school.
I’m from Ohio and did my undergraduate education at Ohio State. So when I decided that I wanted to go to law school, I thought I would go to Ohio State. My brother is a graduate of Northwestern’s MBA program. He encouraged me to go to the best school I could get into. I figured out what the starting salary was for someone from Harvard Law compared to Ohio State’s law school. There was a huge difference. At the time, the starting salary for someone coming out of Harvard Law was $160,000 while at Ohio State, it was $90,000. At the time, Harvard was the #1 rated law school in the country and Ohio State was #30. So I would encourage you to go to the best school you get into that is a good fit for you.