The WPAOG Podcast is a strategic initiative focused on tailored audible communications to further inform Graduates on current AOG projects, events, and USMA updates. This customized content is mainly for USMA Alumni and the West Point Community solely produced and distributed by the West Point Association of Graduates.
Sunday Oct 02, 2022
Sunday Oct 02, 2022
This episode of the WPAOG podcast features an interview with David F. Melcher, a businessman and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General. He spent 32 years serving in the military and is recognized as a prominent figure in the aerospace and defense community, as the former President and CEO of Exelis from 2011–2015 and of Aerospace Industries Association from 2015–2017.
During his 32 years of service, David commanded at the Battalion, Brigade, and Army Corps of Engineers Division level. He has been awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal, and had prominent staff assignments that included a White House Fellowship with the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan and as the Army’s Military Deputy for Budget, and Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs. For 12 years of his military career, David was assigned to the Pentagon.
In this episode, David talks about how he had no doubt that West Point was where he could gain the best leadership skills. He discusses working in the White House and then transitioning into business after serving so many years in the army. David also explains what he feels are the keys to success in life, and the importance of continuing to be an active member of the West Point community.
“For younger officers who are leaving the military or non-commissioned officers, understand that you have significant leadership skills that are needed in industry. The things that you learned, leading a small or large organization, the organizational skills, those are very, very important, as are the ability to speak and write clearly and articulate what it is that you want - The ability to set goals, to be a problem solver, those are all things that people who have served in the military know how to do. So, never sell yourself short on what you know as you make a transition into an industry context.” - David Melcher
(01:24) The Class of 1976
(02:54) West Point Experience
(09:24) Army Experience
(11:54) Mentors in the Military
(14:54) Working in the White House
(18:24) Corp of Army Engineers
(19:59) Retirement from Service
(20:54) Transition to Civilian Career
(30:24) Finding Success in Aerospace and Defense
(33:24) Serving as a Board Member and Director
(35:24) Routines and Keys for Success
(38:54) West Point and Military Service Across Family Generations
(41:09) Giving Back
Tuesday Sep 27, 2022
Tuesday Sep 27, 2022
This episode features a conversation with Joe Beard ‘96, Co-Founder & CEO of CollateralEdge, a Dallas-based fintech platform that provides banks with a flexible, automated sales enablement solution to efficiently increase lending capacity without compromising credit quality.
Joe has had a diverse career spread across the military, technology, investment banking, and venture capital. As a former Partner at Perot Jain, a Dallas-based venture capital firm, he led 40+ investments in 5 years. He's a Founder and Board Member of Venture Dallas, the premier venture capital conference in the DFW region, and a recipient of the Tech Titans Investment Catalyst Award. He spent 8 years as an investment banker in New York and Dallas and has executed approximately $10 billion in transactions across M&A, debt, and equity.
In this episode of On Point, Joe talks about how he had to adapt and use what he learned at West Point to succeed in business. He discusses the investment strategies that helped him make fifty investments in under five years, the importance of remaining clear headed when problem solving, and why having work experience before attending business school is extremely beneficial. He also talks about finding balance when moving between different segments of finance, business, and entrepreneurship.
“The biggest challenge initially was just making sure that you're balanced, and really kind of being intentional about how you spend your time. And, there's never enough hours in the day, right? You know, no matter what work ethic you're bringing to the table, no matter how you're being creative about resources, there's never enough hours in the day to do all the things that you want to do. So you have to ruthlessly prioritize your time. You have to be ruthless about prioritization. Not chasing the next shiny ball, but really kind of focusing your effort and energy and doing the things that you know are gonna move the needle for your business.” - Joe Beard
(02:08) Segment: AAR
(03:45) Experience at West Point
(10:04) Journey in the Army
(11:33) Segment: Sit Rep
(15:17) Attending business school
(17:06) Starting in investing banking
(20:07) Investment strategies
(25:10) About CollateralEdge
(33:27) Quick fire questions
(39:39) Segment: SOP
(45:20) Segment: Giving Back
Wednesday Sep 14, 2022
Wednesday Sep 14, 2022
This episode of On Point features an interview with David Hunt, Founder and CEO at Crossrope, a fun new way to get fit anywhere with a weighted jump rope experience.
David is a 2004 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Entrepreneurial Masters graduate, former Naval Aviator, startup founder, and jump rope enthusiast. With just a library card and an entrepreneurial itch, David was able to overcome a severe injury to focus his energy into creating a company that provides fun, accessible, and impactful workouts with revolutionary jump rope technology.
In this episode of On Point, David talks about his life as an aviation pilot in the US Navy, overcoming serious life-changing injuries through passionate entrepreneurship, and the importance of taking calculated risks while also embracing uncertainty.
“A lot of people have ideas and it's really hard to take the steps, even if you don't know what they are, to go for it and to try something else, especially within the reality of you can do. Like a lot of times I think entrepreneurs are glorified for the unsung heroes taking crazy risks. And in reality, most of the time, it should be a calculated risk. If you are listening to this right now, and you are thinking about taking some sort of a risk or doing something entrepreneurial, please calculate it, and have some backup plans, because it can be a big mistake.” - David Hunt
(01:48) Segment: AAR
(04:52) Experience at the Naval academy
(10:32) David’s initial career
(14:06) Becoming a pilot
(16:42) Entrepreneurship within the Naval academy
(19:44) Experience on active duty
(26:51) Starting Crossrope
(33:03) Transitioning from active duty into Crossrope full-time
(39:48) Lessons for service members
(48:30) The future of Crossrope
(53:17) Final remarks
Tuesday Sep 06, 2022
Tuesday Sep 06, 2022
This episode features a conversation with Bob Eisiminger ‘88, Entrepreneur, and Founder and Former CEO of Knight Point Systems. He is also a member of the Board of Directors at Chaminade University of Honolulu and Patriapps Software Venture Studio, and Board of Experts at Birthing of Giants Fellowship Program.
Bob is a serial entrepreneur, an investor in veteran led companies, and a former CEO. In 2005, he founded Knight Point Systems, after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While in the United States Army, Bob was an Air Defense Artillery Platoon Leader/Tactical Control Officer in Germany, a Public Affairs Officer at Fort Bliss in Texas, and an Airborne and Jungle Operations Expert. Bob is a graduate of the Birthing of Giants Fellowship Program, where post-exit entrepreneurs teach business owners how to grow companies for the purpose of acquisition, and is the recipient of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region in the category of Government Services.
In this episode of On Point, Bob discusses how his West Point and Army experiences helped him develop his hundred million dollar business, what it’s like to work alongside the United States government, and the importance of surrounding yourself with people that will help make you a better person. He also talks about what it was like serving in Germany during the cold war and fall of the Berlin Wall, and how giving back to West Point graduates continues the same cycle that ultimately afforded him great success in business.
"I see my role now as if anyone reaches out to me, I'm going to go meet with them. Young west point graduates, guys getting outta the service, they wanna talk about, you know, whether they should go work for a big or small. I will offer up my time to anybody, because people offered up their time to me. And, I think giving back to the community that you came from, that you grew up in so important." - Bob Eisiminger
(02:19) Segment: AAR
(04:00) Experience at West Point
(07:00) Mentorship at the academy
(08:40) Experience in the Army
(10:30) Transitioning out of service
(16:00) Starting Knight Point Systems
(20:30) How the military prepared Bob for business
(27:05) Startup tips
(31:10) Segment: SOP
(36:30) Segment: Giving Back
Wednesday Aug 24, 2022
Wednesday Aug 24, 2022
This episode of the WPAOG podcast features a conversation between Tye Reedy '05, Director of Business Development at Adams Keegan, and James Keegan '55, a private investor and former Chairman of the Board of Adams Keegan. He is best known as a co-founder of Morgan Keegan & Company (now Raymond James), one of the country’s largest investment firms, where he served as president and COO until retirement in 1985. He has served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and as Chairman of the Board of Directors of NASDAQ, Inc. Mr. Keegan served as a Director of AutoZone, Inc. from 1991 through 2004.
In this episode, Jim tells us how his experiences at West Point and in the Air Force, helped prepare him for the business world. He provides his take on what is required to start a business and navigate the trials and tribulations to success. Jim also explains why being disciplined and resilient are paramount to being a great entrepreneur.
“Starting a business right now, the first thing I'd want to have is passion for the business and be adequately capitalized to start. And there you have the base. You start from there, you go into the integrity problem that you want your customers, your clients, to feel the same way you do, and to have the same experience you do and want to do business with you. You have to have the perseverance to know that if someone's going to say no and slam the door on you as you're walking out, you gotta turn around and do it again the next door you come to. And you might even go back to the first door and see if you can't get back in.” - James Keegan
“The idea of getting back and dealing with graduates, whether they're leaving the military after their obligation, like I did. Or setting out for a new life after retirement and starting their own business, I think if I can offer anything that helps them, makes it easier for them to do and understand what is involved, then I'd love to do it. That’s part of my goal. It's kind of a little payback if you will, because a great deal, pretty much everything I have, I gave West Point credit for whatever successes I might have had, however small or however large that goes along that line.” - James Keegan
(02:30) Growing Up and Interest in West Point
(06:30) Experience Attending West Point and in the Military
(10:00) Path to Finance and Starting a Business
(17:30) Military and West Point Professional Influence
(19:45) Importance of Capital to Entrepreneurship
(20:30) Keys to Success of Business and Navigating Hardships
(23:15) West Point and Military Influence on Discipline Resilience in Business
(29:00) Learning and Succeeding in Multiple Trades
(31:00) Importance of West Point Entrepreneur Summit
Wednesday Aug 10, 2022
Wednesday Aug 10, 2022
This episode of On Point features a conversation with Brian Elliott ‘14 and Andrew Wolgemuth ‘15, Co-Founders of Wove, a 21st century jeweler bringing the jewelry designer directly to couples for custom engagement ring creation.
Brian Elliott is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for reinventing outdated consumer experiences. At Wove, he focuses on Digital Product, UX and Marketing. He previously worked in two former venture-backed consumer startups. Prior to this, Brian served as a Platoon Leader in the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, leading a team of 40 Special Operators in unconventional environments around the world.
Andrew Wolgemuth grew up in an entrepreneurial environment working at his parents' jewelry company. After attending West Point and serving as a Platoon Leader in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, he attended Stanford GSB’s Ignite Entrepreneurship Program where the idea for Wove was born.
In this episode of On Point, Brian and Andrew speak about their varying paths to attending West Point, and discuss how years of military experience are applicable to entrepreneurship and help drive their work. They discuss how the tight knit West Point community helped support their vision and afford them their success. They also talk about how they’re disrupting the engagement ring industry by changing the way people buy engagement rings.
“I think it is so important for founders to find people that they're compatible with. And I think what really accelerated that for Brian and I is this shared background of West Point, and then even more specifically the range of regiment. I think there's a very specific standard, very specific type of person that usually ends up there. And I think that really allowed us to have kind of instant confidence in who each other were and probably accelerated that dating period quite a bit. I always think about it now, like if I had to go out and find another co-founder, I would be scared to death, because you know, you face a lot together and there's a lot of things you have to overcome, and I think having that sense of shared values is so important.” - Andrew Wolgemuth
“I think there's this question that is, how do I start a company? Right? And I think what I would challenge folks that are with that company is to reframe and say, you know, how do I test an idea? And if you remove the stress and the pressure of starting a company, which comes with all of these legal constraints and structural constraints where you're really focusing on the wrong thing, but instead say like, I have an interesting idea, what's the fastest way I can test this without a technical build. And you go out and test that idea, you remove the constraints, and the barriers, and the how am I gonna fund this, and you just go out and focus on the hypothesis.” - Brian Elliott
(02:18) Segment: AAR
(04:47) Experiences at West Point
(10:48) Choosing military branches
(16:48) Segment: Sit Rep
(22:52) Starting Wove
(25:23) Where Wove currently stands
(29:30) Most expensive ring sold
(32:29) The process at Wove
(39:44) Segment: SOP
(42:22) Segment: Giving Back
(44:24) What’s next for Wove
Thursday Aug 04, 2022
Thursday Aug 04, 2022
This episode features an interview with Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski ‘69, a Naismith Hall of Fame coach, a five-time national champion at Duke, and a six-time gold medalist as head Coach of the US Men’s National Team. He was also the West Point Men’s Basketball Head Coach from 1975 to 1980.
Coach K was initially reluctant to attend West Point, but eventually realized how much he loved the academy, the Army, and the importance of being exposed to so many different ways of leading. In his senior year, Mike was captain of West Point’s basketball team. Following graduation, he served in the Army for five years before beginning his college coaching career. Mike believes that the education, training, and environment of West Point benefits people well beyond their time attending the academy. He sees the culture based system of shared values as important for being a lifelong learner and leader, which has helped him coach and guide his players to become well-educated, strong, successful men both on and off the court.
In this episode of On Point, Coach K talks about how he ensures that failure is not a destination, and how accountability helps people become the best version of themselves. He explains how his time at West Point and in the military informed and affected his approach to teaching and coaching. Mike provides insight into his career coaching in college and the US Men’s National Team, along with the challenges and solutions for teaching the youth of today. He also describes the importance of communication, and creating powerful and inspiring visions that have helped lead and motivate his teams.
"In the military, obviously it can be life or life or death. And so in sport we talk about it being life, but it's not. There is pressure and all that, but you need to know the truth in that moment. You have to have the courage to say or do what needs to be said or done in the moment it needs to be said or done. And really that's what the academy was all about and still is about."
"A culture based on value stands the test of time. It's great during good times, but you know what? It's even better during the tough times. And so what I've learned is whether the unit, I was an artillery officer, or the unit I was in, or the teams, you know, whether it be West Point teams, Duke teams, or I was an 11-year coach for the US team; I’ve always tried to create a good culture and based on values."
(03:52) Playing for West Point
(07:50) Lessons learned as a cadet
(13:36) Building culture in sports
(18:24) Developing leadership skills
(22:40) Coaching at Duke
(31:58) Balance in teaching others
(37:29) Teaching the youth of today
(39:16) Challenges faced with change and communication
(46:31) Creating impactful visions and messages
(52:00) Giving back to fans
Wednesday Jul 27, 2022
Wednesday Jul 27, 2022
In this episode of the WPAOG Podcast, Bridget Altenburg ‘95, President and CEO of the National Able Network, is joined by Kimberly Jung ‘08, CEO of Blanchard, and Emily Miller ‘08, Senior Impact Fund Manager at Twilio.org. In 2014, they founded Rumi Spice, an award-winning social enterprise that provides high-quality, sustainably farmed saffron to world class chefs and Michelin-rated restaurants, by sourcing directly from Afghan farmers in an economic partnership partners in the supply chain.
Kimberly and Emily are 2008 graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point, former US Army Engineer officers, and Harvard Business School graduates. As social entrepreneurs and co-founders, Kimberly led Rumi Spice as CEO and Emily as COO. They have employed over 4,000 Afghan women and partnered with over 300 Afghan farmers. Their work has been featured on Shark Tank, selected for Y Combinator's social fellowship program, and featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, NPR, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, Nightline with Diane Sawyer, Voice of America, Food & Wine, and more.
In this episode, Kimberly and Emily talk about how their time at West Point and in the military prepared them for becoming entrepreneurs, the tremendous impact Rumi has had on spice trade in Afghanistan, and how their startup has helped create jobs for women in the country. They also recount stories of their experiences serving abroad in the Middle East.
“I think really what West Point teaches you is about leadership and management, which I think has been the most helpful in my career, and also in my time as an officer in the Army. That leadership part, you really just can't get anywhere else in the same way that West Point gives it to you. And you learn it by doing. You learn it through practice. You learn it by following. You learn it by leading in small teams over and over again, and getting feedback for how to do it better. And that's what I think is the most important thing that comes out of West Point into the Army” - Kimberly Jung
“Entrepreneurship is not for everybody, but it is addicting once you do it because you realize it has so many similarities to the West Point and Army experience, you know, in combat. It's fast paced, it relies on a small, tight team. You have to move fast. You have to ruthlessly prioritize. You have to be incredibly creative about how you problem solve, and you know, make things happen. You know, you've got this big commander's intent and you have to figure out how you operationalize this and work. And then I think the other thing is just being undaunted by failure and by being told no. You know, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable all the time. I think that is, that is what entrepreneurship is.” - Emily Miller
(02:46) High School Experiences
(04:30) Why they attended West Point
(06:31) Their R-Day experiences
(10:03) Stories at the academy
(11:09) Activities at West Point
(13:15) Picking a military branch
(17:58) Attending Sapper school
(22:45 ) Deployment experiences
(31:09) Creating Rumi Spice
(35:30) Rumi’s impact on Afghanistan
(39:19) Business Ventures after Rumi Spice
(40:49) How West Point and the military prepares entrepreneurs
(43:00) How West Point and the military have helped Rumi Spice
Thursday Jul 21, 2022
Thursday Jul 21, 2022
Thursday Jul 21, 2022
This episode features a conversation with Brad Genser, Founder and CTO at Farther, the first digital family office that pairs expert advisors with intelligent technology to manage your entire financial life in one place.
At Farther, Brad provides the vision for using technology to deliver an elite wealth experience for clients. Prior, Brad was at Goldman Sachs in New York where he founded and led an Artificial Intelligence team dedicated to Private Wealth, and was an advisor on a team which managed more than one billion dollars in assets for clients. Brad graduated from MIT with an SM in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA. He also graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2007. Brad is a two-time Iraq war combat vet and was awarded two bronze stars.
In this episode of On Point, Brad discusses the importance of fostering relationships as a leader, managing over a billion dollars in assets, and how he received two bronze stars while serving in the Iraq War. Brad also talks about the valuable lessons learned during his time in the military, which aided his efforts in founding the next great financial institution.
“You’re going from doing this huge thing, living at the very edge of life, to starting over and being like the new person who is sitting there pushing paper back and forth. And, I think that adjustment is a very jarring thing. It is not something that is abnormal, but it is something that people need to go through and deal with. The advice here, as I've gone down this journey, is realize that it will take time to adjust to your stage and give yourself time to recover and rest." - Brad Genser
(02:00) Segment: AAR
(03:00) Walking hours
(04:30) Beast Barracks
(09:30) Impactful classes at West Point
(16:15) Fostering relationships with NCOs
(18:45) Mental health suggestions for veterans
(21:30) Segment: Sit Rep
(26:45) About Farther
(30:15) Valuable lessons from the military
(36:00) Segment: SOP
(39:00) Segment: Giving Back
Wednesday Jul 13, 2022
Wednesday Jul 13, 2022
This episode features a conversation with Michael Meese ‘81, President of the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA), a not-for-profit, member-owned financial services association that provides life insurance, military benefits counseling, Survivor Assistance Services, residential mortgages, financial planning, investment management and trust services to the American Armed Forces Community.
Michael retired from the US Army as a Brigadier General after serving for 32 years. At AAFMAA, Michael oversees all aspects of the Association to ensure the financial security and independence of the American Armed Forces Community through insurance and other benefits. In his career, he served in a variety of strategic political-military positions including deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia. Michael was also the Executive Director of the Secretary of the Army’s Transition Team in 2005. He is a leader in military and Veterans issues, including chairing the 2016-17 Transition Team for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In this episode of On Point, Michael talks about his time as a student, teacher, and head of the economics department at West Point. He explains the importance of empowering people, educating them, and then allowing them the ability to run with what they've learned. Michael also gives insight into being a part of the presidential transition team, and how AAFMAA is working to give needed support to veterans, survivors, and caregivers.
“You get paid to work out, you get paid to study, they send you to school, you get paid to read and develop professionally. And all of those skills are not there just because the military likes to do it. It's because it makes it a better force. If you have a smart force that's reading, that’s studying, that's working out and it's doing all those things, it makes you more effective and it makes the force overall more effective.” - Michael Meese ‘81
(02:00) First segment: AAR
(04:00) The Service Academy Global Summit
(05:50) Michael’s West Point experience
(07:45) Teaching at West Point
(08:00) Cadet walking hours
(13:15) Branching in Field Artillery
(17:30) Michael’s Army career
(23:45) Segment: Sit Rep
(26:45) Retiring from the military
(28:00) Working at AAFMAA
(38:30) Segment: SOP
(40:45) Physical fitness and Routines
(41:30) Segment: Giving Back