Summer Reflection Series: Best of Both Worlds

By John Mahoney — Football '21

Admittedly, after walking out of my last final in DeBartolo Hall on Friday of finals week, it felt a little strange to not be heading back to Iowa. School was finally out, and it certainly would have been nice to have the chance to relax and spend some time with family and friends. And though my dad was there to help me pack up my room and get completely moved out of 240 Stanford Hall, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous to be heading the other direction on I-80 — heading east toward Ohio, Pennsylvania and, ultimately, Washington, D.C. rather than west toward home. Looking back on it, it seems almost irrational, but I really had no idea what to expect — and could never have imagined at the time that it would be as positive of an experience as it ultimately was.

For the first eight weeks of this summer, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pursue an internship with Booz Allen Hamilton — a Fortune 500 consulting firm — at their office in Alexandria, Virginia. Within the Defense & Military Intelligence account, I was a member of the Horizon Innovation Team – a group dedicated to researching and analyzing the weaponization potential of emerging technologies. This team was incredible in a number of ways. Not only was it composed almost entirely of Notre Dame graduates, but it also does critical strategic work for the account’s client-facing teams — many of whom can be found within the U.S. Department of Defense. It was a near-perfect scenario for a young, inexperienced college student — interesting work with incredibly intelligent and motivated people just a few minutes from a world-class city where there was always something to do or see.

One of the things that I found most beneficial about my experience was the fact that I was instantly given real responsibilities and was considered a team member from the outset of my time with Booz Allen. I never had to make coffee runs, make hundreds of copies, or pick up my boss’ dry cleaning. Instead, I had the opportunity to work on a number of meaningful, challenging projects, attend renowned national security conferences, and interface with senior management about the interactions between my team’s work and their long-term strategic goals. Every day, I was intellectually challenged and presented with opportunities to learn and broaden my horizons. Each of these experiences was beneficial in its own way, and I grew as a professional, teammate and individual in ways that I never could have imagined before. And though I would love to take all the credit for this, I was told more than once that my simply being from Notre Dame played a huge role in their willingness to trust me with legitimate work. I’ve found it to be true time and time again that Notre Dame’s reputation for producing great people — no matter who you ask — is unrivaled by any other school in the country.

It was a tremendous experience from start to finish, but none of it would have been possible without the cooperation and assistance from both the football coaching staff and my managers at Booz Allen. Student-athletes at schools across America have demands on their schedules, both in terms of hours and entire days, that other students simply do not have. Being a student-athlete is undoubtedly excellent preparation for the transition to any career, but the demanding schedules and responsibilities that differentiate student-athletes from their peers can make professional development a challenge. However, I’ve learned that what makes a place like Notre Dame truly unique is the commitment to the development of the student and the athlete. When I spoke with my coaches about potentially taking a couple of extra weeks of summer break for this opportunity, I received nothing but support and encouragement. And when I spoke with my boss — a Notre Dame graduate himself — about returning to campus to rejoin the team for workouts following the Fourth of July holiday, he was more than willing to accommodate me and my unusual schedule.

Now, having fully rejoined the team for summer workouts, I feel like I truly was able to have the best of both worlds this summer. I was able to take advantage of an incredible opportunity to prepare myself for a career going forward and can now focus all my energy on trying to help this team in our pursuit of winning a National Championship this fall. I can say without a doubt that Notre Dame is the only place in the country where this is possible, and I am grateful beyond words to be part of the Notre Dame family.

John Mahoney is a rising junior defensive back on the Notre Dame football team and is pursuing a degree in finance from the Mendoza College of Business with a minor in history.

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