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Transitioning to an Enhanced Way of Thinking

Military veteran seeks new skills for role as a civilian entrepreneur

Dustin Brooks
Co-Founder, Chief Customer Officer, ZeroEyes

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2022

After his military service ended, Dustin Brooks and a group of fellow veterans launched a company, called ZeroEyes. The organization applies both artificial intelligence and their own experience to protect schools, commercial buildings, and defense sites across the country from mass shootings. In the beginning, the six founders took on various roles, Dustin says, “based on what needed to be done at the time.”

In his case, that included setting up servers, establishing partnerships, performing site security evaluations, holding activate shooter training and events, and supporting the development team with testing software. “If I saw a gap, I assessed and went full force into creating a solution,” Dustin says. “When developing an early-stage company our team knew that we needed to be either (a) correct in our approach and trust our instincts or (b) fail fast, pivot, and go again.”

As the company has grown from the original six founders to over 30 full-time employees, Dustin’s role became more defined, and he recognized that he needed to develop a different type of expertise than he possessed when he embarked on the venture. During the first year at Vanderbilt, he developed a different way of thinking about day-to-day challenges. “The program,” he says, “taught me to look at business from a macro perspective instead of being focused on one core function at a time. An example would be: “Applying a greater statistical knowledge as the tool to frame and segment out trackable metrics. Then, analyze the data to develop actionable information about the sales cycle, operational efficiency, and product development. I’m learning to go a layer deeper and use more sophisticated tools to look for the information I need. This results in a better experience for our customers and allows our company to scale appropriately.”

The Global Immersion track was one of the program’s major draws for Dustin — and in its own way, provided familiar continuity to his military experience. “During my military service,” he says, “My world view was broadened by traveling to foreign countries and working with military professionals in other cultures.”

After starting Vanderbilt’s program, Dustin has acclimated himself to a similar routine to what he experienced in military life. “My alarm clock rings a bit earlier than it did before attending Owen,” he says. “Almost every moment in the day is capitalized on from when I wake up to when I go to bed because I want to get as much out of the Vanderbilt experience as I can.”

The program taught me to look at business from a macro perspective instead of being focused on one core function at a time.