Richard Fierro, MBA (2021)
Richard Fierro, MBA (2021)
What is your background?
Born and raised in San Diego, CA. I graduated as the AROTC Distinguished Military Grad from San Diego State University in 1999 and commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer. I spent the next 15 years in the Army serving in positions ranging from Platoon Leader, Battery Commander, Battalion Operations Officer, Brigade Plans Officer, and Corps Counter Fire Officer. I completed 4 combat tours, 3 in Iraq, and 1 in Afghanistan. After departing the military I began work as a defense contractor with Northrup Gumman instructing Army unit level staffs on the military decision making process and current operations tracking. I have since been promoted to a manager and deputy site lead of the Ft Carson Mission Training complex where I manage all simulations exercises and collective training in our facilities. I was awarded the 2017 Northrop Grumman Quality is Personal Ethics award and 2019 Culture Builder Award. I am currently enrolled as an MBA student at UCCS and was awarded 2nd place in the 2019 Daniels Fund Ethics Essay Contest. I have been married to the former Jessica Martinez since 1999 and we have two children Ricardo (23) and Kassandra (17). In 2018 we purchased and now run a small family brewery called Atrevida Beer Co. just south of the UCCS campus on Nevada Ave. We were recently awarded the 2019 Governor’s Minority Small Business Award.
What were the factors that led you to pursuing the UCCS MBA/MSA?
As an employee of Northrop Grumman I have moved quickly up the ranks from an instructor to a management position. In order to move further within the company my supervisor advised me to pursue a graduate degree. My next issue was that undergraduate degree did not match my 15 years of Army operations and I needed to wed this experience with an education to round out my professional experience to make myself more marketable. Finally, I was planning on opening a brewery with my wife and starting a small business is a daunting task that we had no background in executing. Based on these needs, I felt an MBA would benefit me both in my day job and my small business as I could develop the skills necessary to become a more effective small business owner and manager within Northrop Grumman. I am consistently looking for ways to increase my education and skill sets to make me a better leader. Growth does not stop because you feel you have right number of years of experience. I have learned from all of my mentors and throughout my career that your competition is always seeking out ways to be better than you. It is imperative that you seek ways to exceed their abilities, through education either formal or informal through a MBA program at UCCS or any non-traditional education you can attend. I believe education and training provide you the perspective needed to apply better decision making in your daily work or small business activities.
How would you describe your experience as a student in the MBA/MSA program?
The UCCS MBA program has been challenging and rewarding. It has given me a new perspective on how business operations work. The UCCS MBA programs holistic approach with foundational and core classes gave me a better understanding of all the facets of business operations. The instructors are engaging and all have been very supportive of assisting me when I have real world questions for my small business. They have given me the opportunity to actually apply projects and lessons to my small business that I can use in real time. My brewery has benefited from the ethics, marketing, operations, and accounting instruction I have received to date. I have met new people in the program who have provided me new perspectives on the business climate and opportunities in the region. As a transitioning veteran gaining a civilian view of the business community is invaluable as my perspective has been limited to military operations and personnel for the previous 15 years. Opening my mind to new ideas and perspectives broadens my ability to work within the civilian workforce and business community.
Do you have any particular memory of a classroom experience, professor or fellow student that stands out?
Two professors stand out in my time so far in the MBA program. Dr. Pardon was my Ethics professor and her class challenged my way of thinking as a military member and forced me to view the world from the 30 other perspectives in the class. Ethics is challenging in the civilian world but in the military it is prescribed and policy driven. It was eye opening to see how different ethical dilemmas were viewed and solved by the other students. Dr. Pardon asked the students to engage in forums outside of class and I attended various events that provided insight on how ethics applied to business from the CEO of Otter box to athletes like Landon Donavon. Her class left me with a new perspective and desire to engage more in the ethics and culture at Northrop Grumman and I believe are what led to my selection for the 2017 Quality is Personal award and 2019 Best Culture builder award for my sector.
As my marketing professor, Dr. Ferguson also stood out, by challenging me to better position myself and my brewery from a marketing perspective. He understood the challenge of a small business and that I was doing the marketing as the owner in a bubble. He enabled me to use the class to build a marketing plan for my business and leverage the lessons to improve my marketing for my brewery. While keeping the pace of the class I was able to improve my own marketing operations in real time for my business. It culminated with the completion of the final marketing plan project with my group and a voluntary visit after our last class to my brewery where Dr. Ferguson was able to meet my wife and see our operation. He was able to provide his insight as to what I had presented in my final presentation and his recommendations for improvement on site. It was the most rewarding class I had ever taken and helped me to select marketing as my second emphasis for my MBA.
Can you talk about your career to date and any way your education impacted where you are today?
At this point of my career I could sit back and be happy with the status quo. I have the job satisfaction and pay I desire from my manager position at Northrop Grumman and am happy as a small business owner of Atrevida Beer Co. As a former Soldier I learned early on that you must become the expert in your profession. I cannot say I am an expert yet and I sought my MBA to increase my expertise in my profession. I believe the MBA program has led to the awards I have received over the last 2 years both at Northrup Grumman and at Atrevida Beer Co. I believe that the broadening of my perspective on business along with my military operations background have given me an edge that propels me to the next level. In the Army you always trained to the next level and when you got there you were already working to get another step up because you never knew when the mission would call for you to step into that role. I think my education is helping me to feel that same confidence in the civilian workplace and train to the next level.
What would you tell other professionals with a military background if they asked you about pursuing an MBA/MSA at UCCS?
Do not let anyone, mainly yourself, keep you from learning. The MBA program is not about checking the box for that promotion or keeping pace with your peers. This program reenergized me as I got back into the civilian workforce. It helped me with transitioning and understanding that I do not have rank on anymore, I need to figure out how to lead under completely different circumstances. I needed to be around differing cultures to understand their vision of business and what innovation looks like a generation behind me. This all contributes to improving your confidence in your abilities to succeed in the civilian marketplace. If you aren’t careful you can become stale and lose your edge. In combat you always wanted to keep that edge, to know everything you can about the enemy, the terrain, your equipment, your profession. Why you would not chose to do the same thing when you leave the military? The MBA program exposes you to the challenges in the business environment, frames the current business terrain, provides you the tools, sets the conditions for your profession and gives you that edge you need to move forward in the civilian workforce.