The Big Pivot: From College Football to the Army to an MBA at Stanford


David Harris, left, about to sack the Western Michigan quarterback in the Idaho Potato Bowl in 2015. Harris was admitted to the Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA Class of 2024. Courtesy Photo

When David Harris was 6, his family asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied: “A manager.”

“I remember my uncle bursting out laughing,” says Harris Poets&Quants. “My mother is a teacher and my family expected a more scholarly answer. But my answer was simply that I wanted to be a manager.

It wasn’t mere precocity: Seeing how his family had been affected by racial discrimination in the workplace, Harris says, he had internalized much of those experiences.

“I thought if I was a manager, I could control what happens at work and provide a safe space for my family,” he explains.

3 INFLECTION POINTS IN A LIFETIME OF SERVICE

David Harris

Growing up watching his mother devote herself entirely to the welfare of her students, Harris knew he wanted to serve others as well. As far back as he can remember, his motto has been, “How can I best serve the community?” – a principle that guided him to three inflection points in his life: first as a Division I football player, then as an Air Force Academy graduate with a subsequent five-year military career , and now as a Stanford Graduate School of Business confess currently doing a pre-MBA internship at Blackstone.

Harris’ next mission: to use private equity as a force for good. “I want to deploy capital where it’s needed in many minority communities where it doesn’t flow easily,” he says. “This is my next way to help.”

“Six months ago, I never would have thought I would be sitting in that boardroom in Blackstone and about to attend Stanford GSB. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.

‘A BULB HAS EXTINGUISHED’

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Harris grew up playing football. “I’m a Cowboys fan by law,” he laughs.

After high school, he was recruited by the Air Force Academy. There he played in the football team and got a degree in management. “Sport started as a way to do something bigger than me,” he says.

But the best thing that happened during her college career was when an investment banker visited her finance class as a guest speaker. “A light bulb went out,” he explains. “I had no idea that investment banking was even a profession. It just clicked.

His interest in finance continues to grow. When he graduated from the Air Force Academy, he had two months before entering active duty. He decided to pursue a private equity internship at Ferris Capital in Dallas to fill that time.

“It was amazing, and the job was something I could see myself doing in the future.”

DEPLOY CAPITAL WHERE IT’S NEEDED MOST

Harris temporarily put his interest in finance aside as he focused on his first active duty base at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. There he was responsible for the nuclear cruise missile manufacturing and production program for the US Air Force. Three years later, he pivoted to serve in the National Reconnaissance Office of the United States Space Force.

But the call to pursue finance was still strong.

Through a military program called Defense Ventures, he had the opportunity to work at a venture capital firm for three months. Harris landed a position at Scout Ventures, a start-up venture capital firm focused on dual-purpose technology used for private and government purposes.

“That experience was amazing and made me realize that I wanted to be a long-term investor,” says Harris.

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