Smith Soc Featured Member
Questions and Answers with Adam Smith Society Members.
Tristan Wimmer | University of Pittsburgh (Katz) Chapter
If Davy Crockett, Bob Villa, and MacGyver had a baby, that baby would be Tristan Wimmer. Tristan is concurrently pursuing an MBA in finance and MS in information systems management at Katz Graduate School of Business while also successfully operating an investment company with real estate, promissory note, and private equity holdings. During his internship summer, Tristan was the chief operations intern at USAA Federal Savings Bank where he worked on the governance team handling the risk and compliance portfolio for the bank.
Prior to attending Katz, Tristan spent four years in the US Marine Corps during which he deployed multiple times, earned the rank of sergeant, and served as an infantryman, sniper team leader, and marksmanship instructor. After separating from military service, Tristan attended Arizona State University where he studied economics and Arabic, started and ran an outdoor climbing company, volunteered as a high-angle SAR tech with Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association, and co-founded and led The Veterans Club, the first club for veterans on ASU campus since the 1980s.
After undergrad, Tristan spent four years in the private military industry where he led teams protecting U.S. diplomats while also earning an associate degree in accounting. After leaving the private military industry, he would spend three years as a project manager and principle on add-value commercial real estate projects. Additionally, Tristan is a mountain sports enthusiast with over a decade of experience in climbing, parachutes, and paragliding. When he isn’t the mountains, Tristan travels extensively for SCUBA and triathlons, reads non-fiction books, mentors aspiring veteran entrepreneurs, and enjoys strong French press coffee.
Tristan has accepted a position in the Career Development Program at USAA Federal Savings Bank and hopes to use his dynamic skillset to become an expert in consumer FinTech, as well as continuing to mentor entrepreneurs while also growing his own investment company into a robust family business.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs considering business school, or MBAs considering entrepreneurship instead of the more traditional post-degree paths?
My primary advice for aspiring entrepreneurs would be to identify a problem that needs to be solved before starting a venture. For example, my first venture was an outdoor climbing training company in Arizona. I loved climbing and was also having a hard time making new friends as I transitioned away from the Marine Corps. My ultimate goal was to create an environment in which I could make new friends by teaching people something I loved. Forming the actual company and the details associated with it were afterthoughts.
My primary advice for current entrepreneurs considering an MBA would be to be open to unforeseen opportunities. My desired outcome for my MBA experience was limited to becoming more sophisticated in my due diligence for deals within my own company. A year and a half later, I have accepted a position in the management rotational program at USAA Bank, something that wasn't even on my radar when I started. Being goal-oriented while also maintaining an inquisitive mind and open heart tends to produce incredible results.
What did your time in the USMC teach you about managing people? How have the lessons you've learned in your MBA program differed or overlapped with what you learned during your deployment?
Management in the Marine Corps and in the private military industry in a lot of ways is easier than it is in an MBA environment. As a sniper team leader, I was leading a highly-capable, highly-motivated group of men from a narrow demographic range. The work was deadly serious and the cost of failure extremely high. This austere environment instills a high level of collaboration and coordination but is also limited to very specific functions and outcomes. Coming to an MBA environment with this experience, I have noticed that some aspects of leadership come naturally while others take considerably more work when compared to my peers. For example, I am a natural motivator and can oftentimes positively reinforce my way to a desired outcome within a group even if I am not in a leadership role. However, I tend to be very rigid with things such as punctuality and struggle with being empathic of tardiness or incomplete work, an attribute that doesn't necessarily endear me to group members without military backgrounds. Ultimately, my MBA experience has forced me to soften in some areas and strengthen in others and has made me a more well-rounded leader as a result.
What's the best book you've read in the last few months?
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. My background is very non-traditional compared to most others in MBA programs and this used to make me question my ability to be a leader going forward in my professional life. My concern was that my military and private military background wouldn't be applicable outside of that environment. This book does a great job of assuaging those concerns by highlighting highly successful people who were either late starters or were multi-talented in a way that enhanced the one thing they excelled at the most—both of which apply to me.