Veteran Sue Oliver Moves from Tactical to Strategic

New Role at Gartner Puts MBA to Work

Sue Oliver

  • Sacramento Part-Time MBA student
  • Senior Consultant, Health and Human Services Group, Gartner Inc.
  • Retired U.S. Air Force Reserve
  • A.S., information systems technology, Community College of the Air Force
  • B.S., human development, Warner Pacific College
  • B.S., management, Linfield College

After three years juggling work and the Sacramento MBA program, Sue Oliver is not the same. She says she’s much better prepared to help others reach their potential in the workplace. She is more aware of biases, and keenly aware of what influences power in relationships, whether personal or professional. She’s passionate about helping others grow.

“I’m definitely more aware of trying to live life with a purpose, making choices where I’m actively evaluating value and worth, not just to me but to other people and other organizations,” says Oliver, who has 22-years of military service and nearly a decade of private- and public-sector experience.

In February, Oliver started as a senior consultant in the health and human services group at Gartner Inc., a Connecticut-based global IT consulting firm whose clients include state and federal governments, and Fortune 500 companies.

“I’m definitely more aware of trying to live life with a purpose, making choices where I’m actively evaluating value and worth, not just to me but to other people and other organizations”

The new role with Gartner combines her expertise developing and troubleshooting military IT systems, her civilian work experience and her desire to serve her community. Her MBA emphasis in finance, strategy and risk management make it a perfect fit.

“I worked most of my younger career at a tactical level,” Oliver says, explaining why she sought an MBA. “I wanted to take it to the next level and be able to create efficiencies or impact the business on a strategic level.”

“I worked most of my younger career at a tactical level,” Oliver says, explaining why she sought an MBA. “I wanted to take it to the next level and be able to create efficiencies or impact the business on a strategic level.”

Oliver became familiar with Gartner while she worked at Covered California during her first years in the Part-Time MBA program. She was impressed with the consulting firm’s results, values and teamwork.

At Covered California, Oliver helped build the computer system that interfaced with the public and multiple health insurers for the Affordable Care Act, a monumental task she and her colleagues completed in 10 months.

Charting a New Course

 Oliver began her career in the U.S. Air Force in 1986, after a few semesters of college. She wanted to be a linguist, but after taking a battery of aptitude tests, her superiors placed her in information technology.

“That set me off on this path that I would never have chosen for myself, but it turns out I was a good fit,” Oliver says.

After four years of active duty, Oliver left for the Air National Guard, and earned two bachelor’s degrees.

By then, she had aged out of the Air Force commissioning process, so she transitioned to the Navy, working as a supply corps officer for seven years.

“The year that I spent on the general’s staff helped shape me as a professional because that was a front-row seat at how top-level strategy happens,” Oliver says. “It made me realize that I have a lot more to offer than just being able to execute well and problem solve.”

She coordinated large-scale logistics, including food deliveries of up to 600 pallets at a time to an aircraft carrier and hundreds more to the supporting battle group ships in the Persian Gulf.

In her last military role, she transitioned to the Air Force Reserve, where she served on active duty at U.S. Joint Forces Command. During her last year, she accompanied the commanding general and his personal staff to 16 NATO countries. Working as the commander’s protocol officer, she coordinated with foreign staffs of heads of state, ministers of defense and chiefs of defense. She also developed country-specific briefing books for the general’s wife.

“The year that I spent on the general’s staff helped shape me as a professional because that was a front-row seat at how top-level strategy happens,” Oliver says. “It made me realize that I have a lot more to offer than just being able to execute well and problem solve.”

Joining the military, Oliver says, gave her a sense of purpose to serve people. It’s why she’s chosen to work in fields such as health care and energy.

Aim High

 The military shaped her in other ways. Oliver credits her success to some of her female role models in the military. In the civilian world, the tech field is male-dominated. In the military, women gravitate toward IT, finance and health care, while most men move into combat roles.

Oliver’s first supervisor in the Air Force has been a mentor for decades. When Oliver enlisted in the Air Force, she says she had no career goal. She just wanted to travel the world. Oliver’s mentor told her that she needed to finish college.

“‘You are not allowed to be here for three years and not improve yourself,’” Oliver remembers her saying. “Her belief in me … is the reason I even took college classes, and through those experiences obtained a different level of self-assuredness and self-confidence that helped me grow into who I am—and what I want to give back to other people.”

Just before finishing an Air Force Reserve active duty set of orders in 2007, Oliver was recruited by GE in New York for a competitive two-year rotational leadership development program for military officers transitioning to the private sector. There she gained exposure to sophisticated business operations on a level that the military lacks, including accounting and commercial operations, where she developed bid responses for thermal power generation deals worth up to $350 million.

When she graduated from the program, she worked in GE Renewables and the Thermal Commercial Operations groups within GE Power & Water.

“But it’s not about what I can do,” she says. “It’s the journey of figuring out what I wanted to do, what would feed my soul, what would let me participate in a community, learning while being able to teach others.”

Oliver joined the Sacramento MBA program in 2013. The most valuable part of her MBA experience, she says, has been the relationships she’s made with students, faculty and administrators, including the career development staff. This group has helped her figure out the type of business environment that best suits her skills and values. Her varied experience gives her a lot of professional options.

“But it’s not about what I can do,” she says. “It’s the journey of figuring out what I wanted to do, what would feed my soul, what would let me participate in a community, learning while being able to teach others.”



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