Five years ago, Andrew Batwash was deployed in Afghanistan, leading efforts to defuse roadside bombs. As an engineer officer in the U.S Army, he also analyzed intelligence in Iraq and led over 50 engineering projects during his deployments, while maintaining nearly $10 million in military inventory.
Today, Andrew serves on the home front in a new role that leverages many of the skills he obtained in the military. As a Business Operations Manager at Success Academy Midtown West Middle School, he helps ensure that behind the scenes, school operations run seamlessly.
His job description may have changed, but his commitment to public service remains. We spoke to Andrew to learn more about why his operations role at Success Academy was a natural transition from his experience in the U.S. Army.
What motivated you to serve in the military?
I was a college student studying political science at Rutgers University when 9/11 happened. That attack was a motivating event for me. I had always been interested in international affairs, but the events of that day made global politics more relevant than ever.
I decided I wanted a career in public service. After graduation, I headed to the Army’s Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Tell us about your time in the Army. What did you learn?
When I entered the Army, there was a need for roadside bomb disposal services, so the engineering branch appealed to me as a way of really making a difference and protecting my fellow soldiers. I served as an engineer officer in a few different staff and leadership positions for six years, mostly in the 20th Engineer Brigade, and departed as a captain.
The Army taught me how to adapt to unexpected circumstances and stressful conditions. I learned the importance of resilience and performing a task so that every detail is well-executed and the job is done correctly. As a captain, I learned how to be a leader and how to manage a team under difficult situations.
What happened after you left the Army?
When I left the Army, I knew I had a wealth of management and leadership experience under my belt that would help me succeed professionally. I went to work for a company in the private sector, supporting logistics and shipping management, which seemed like a perfect fit on paper — but I felt there was something missing. Even though I didn’t know then that I would eventually find my way into the field of education, I knew I didn’t feel the same level of passion for service in the private sector as I did in the Army.
When a recruiter from Success Academy reached out to me about the business operations manager role, I started doing research on charter schools and Success Academy’s mission. I was drawn to the idea of serving students with people who felt a high level of passion towards education.
How did your career in the Army prepare you for success in your current role?
Like the Army, no day at Success Academy looks exactly the same. As a business operations manager, I manage two people who are in charge of different aspects of family communication, school event scheduling, and maintaining facilities and ordering supplies — all of the things that make the school run smoothly and allow teachers and leaders to focus on educating students.
As a business operations manager, one of my assignments was to project what our school will look like in two or three years in terms of staffing, physical space, and student population. Drafting this plan requires making a lot of informed predictions. It can be tricky when you have limited information to make decisions, but working in these conditions is a hallmark of the military. You have to learn how to plan for contingencies and be adaptive when a plan changes.
The work we do in school operations is fast-paced. You have to be flexible and able to handle what comes at you in a calm manner — whether it’s a managing relationships with building partners, or executing a building evacuation. I learned all of these skills in the military — how to lead a team, stay calm in challenging moments, all the while keeping the mission of serving kids in the back of my head.
What would you tell military veterans considering Success Academy as their next mission?
I would tell them that operations positions at Success Academy are tailor-made for a military veteran. Like the Army, there’s a lot of institutional knowledge and resources you can access for help from our central office of Network staff. The expectations are high, but our school staff is really close-knit and helps each other reach those expectations.
Plus, being able to interact with scholars on a day-to-day basis is rewarding. We have one scholar who’s in fifth grade, but chats with me like a full-fledged, knowledgeable adult about all his favorite jazz musicians and the latest shows he’s attended. It’s those moments that make you feel like you’re part of a community and giving back to a really special group of scholars. Everyone here is motivated by the kids and dedicated to public service.
Success Academy has launched a new program designed to connect military veterans and their spouses with instructional and non-instructional roles within our schools. Submit your resume to [email protected], and you’ll have your application reviewed by a veteran employee within 24 hours. Veteran staff on our Talent team will walk applicants through each phase of the application process.