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Second Career Success
Veterans discover and leverage civilian applications for their military and leadership skills.
According to Nathan D. Ainspan, Ph.D., a research psychologist with the Transition to Veterans Program Office, approximately 90 percent of military occupations have skills that can be directly transferred to the private sector.
But the value veterans bring to the private sector cannot be entirely measured by a straightforward comparison of skill sets. Qualities unique to individuals who’ve served in the Armed Forces are as much an asset in the conference room as they are on deployment. For example, enlisted persons and officers display poise under stress, demonstrate integrity and always contribute to the team’s mission.
Companies recognize the value of such characteristics, creating programs to recruit veterans for such skills and traits. And the veterans highlighted here have devised their own strategies for success just as their employers - BWXT, Accenture, AAFES, Crown and Perdue - have rightly acknowledged the viability of military-to-civilian skill transfer. Take a look at how these five veterans have found second career satisfaction.
Davis Leverages Her Army Experiences at BWXT
Whether it was in the U.S. Army or as a manager in the private sector, Barbara Davis has always sought to align herself with organizations that exhibit values similar to her own.
For example, she was inspired to enlist, in part, because of the Army’s mantra, “Be all you can be.” What encouraged her to stay in the military was the sense of community.
“Initially my goal was to do my four years and get out,” she explains. “But the more I stayed in, the more I felt part of the family. Actually I couldn’t come up with a reason not to be in the Army.”
She also made sure others recognized the value of serving. “I tried to help young soldiers coming in who wanted to make a difference in their lives. I tried to show them leadership and examples of what the Army could give them with a long-term career,” she says.
Indeed, Davis completed a 23-year career with the branch before retiring. “I was at the top of my career, and to allow someone else to move up, I had to get out,” she explains.
Still Davis wasn’t ready to give up on her relationship with the military. She extended her commitment with a stint in the U.S. Army Reserves. Attendance at the required exercises became valuable networking engagements. Davis heard about her fellow reservists’ employers, many of which handled government contracts. That was her introduction to BWX Technologies Inc. (BWXT). The more Davis learned about the company, the more she became interested in pursuing job possibilities with it.
“BWXT is active in the community and always giving back, and giving back has always been part of my personal philosophy,” she comments.
Lynchburg, VA-based BWXT provides nuclear components and fuel primarily for the U.S. government. Services include technical, management and site operations, as well as environmental remediation activities.
As manager of IT compliance and auditing, Davis ensures corporate IT functions meet regulations. Her duties require her to collaborate with multiple teams at multiple facilities on multiple elements. To manage, Davis leans on her military experiences that trained her to perform under deadline pressures.
“We had to be on time and equipped, and I think that does give me an edge,” she relates. “Also, in the military, there’s always someone above you and below you, so you have to be a follower and a leader. That helps me in the civilian sector because I get along with all types of people.”
The biggest difference between her civilian profession and her military missions is that Davis now enjoys more latitude.
“The company allows me to be creative. I’m not micromanaged. I definitely have responsibilities, but they let me do my job,” she shares.
Examine bwxt.com/careers for BWXT career possibilities. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Veteran to Veteran: BWXT
“Decide what you want to do, and make sure it’s something that’s realistic. Look at your skill set and plan your resume, but avoid using military acronyms and jargon.”— Barbara Davis, U.S. Army veteran and manager of IT compliance and auditing
Accenture Engages Woods’ Desire to Serve
Chris Woods recalls how his mother was “a big war movie fan, so when I was growing up, we watched a lot of them. A Bridge Too Far was probably my favorite. The Dirty Dozen was a good one, too.”
What started as a mother-son bonding experience evolved into a serious curiosity about the U.S. Armed Forces. That spark was further fueled when Woods met a West Point student who relayed tales about the historical institution. Indeed, he was so inspired he added the school to his college choices.
“When I was accepted, I felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It was an honor and privilege to attend,” he states.
Woods majored in industrial engineering, and served four years as a logistics officer in the U.S. Army after graduation. Although there were opportunities for him to advance in rank, Woods chose to leave the service and venture into the private sector. His first job was at a mid-sized manufacturing company.
He then accepted a consulting position with a Fortune 500 conglomerate that employed more than 200,000 people worldwide. At the time, however, he came to understand that such a large organization wasn’t the best fit for him.
“I wanted to go somewhere smaller, so I could have more of an impact. In the Army I was used to leading my own unit and was in charge of an identified space,” explains Woods.
He was able to make that impact through his next position with a web-based sports retail company. “I had a great experience, and learned many different facets of how a business operates,” Woods notes.
When that business was acquired by another online retailer, Woods decided to work as an independent consultant. That presented multiple chances to get involved with various projects in different industries. Word of his accomplishments reached a recruiter with Accenture, who presented Woods with a job offer. The multifaceted corporation, headquartered in the U.S. in New York, NY, works across more than 40 industries, advising on multiple platforms. Accenture has committed to hiring 5,000 veterans and military spouses by 2020, and has a dedicated military recruiting team - all of which are veterans themselves.
“I had a friend who worked at Accenture, and he sold me on its culture,” explains Woods. “What’s most important to me is enjoying the people I work with; plus, they had the type of clients I liked to serve.”
As managing director, Woods consults with organizations dealing in or with precious metals, mining and forest paper products for the company’s U.S. southeast region. Although he didn’t have a lot of direct, hands-on knowledge of these fields prior to accepting the position, he’s learned the key to any consulting relationship is researching the client and its area of expertise. He’s also learned to listen.
“We have to listen to what their concerns are and what their aspirations are, and then apply what programs Accenture has to offer,” he notes.
Access accenture.com/us-en/careers for Accenture job possibilities. Connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+.
Veteran to Veteran: Accenture
“If you’re unsure of what you want to do - which is not unusual for vets transitioning out of the military - utilize your network, attend job fairs, get online and do your research. You will gain the necessary knowledge about what’s out there and what opportunities exist. Remember, your first opportunity out of the military is not necessarily your final opportunity. Take a job because it gives you the experience of what civilian life is like, which will help you navigate and find the next opportunity.” — Chris Woods, U.S. Army veteran and managing director, U.S. southeast region
Smith Takes Stock of Security for AAFES
During his 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, Glenn A. Smith, MBA, IHS-BA, CMAS, CHPP, regularly shopped at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES).
“When you wanted a taste of America, you got that at the Exchange,” he remembers.
In general terms, AAFES operates facilities everywhere there’s a large contingency of U.S. military personnel, selling merchandise typically found in a commercial big-box retailer. The biggest factor distinguishing the Exchange from mainstream stores is its customer base, which consists almost exclusively of military personnel and their families. Plus, much of its workforce boasts a personal connection to the U.S. Armed Forces.
“The associates who work for the Exchange take great pride in providing services for our military patrons,” notes Smith. “Ask anyone who works here, and that’s the thing they hold onto the dearest. They’re directly promoting military families and giving soldiers leisure time in war zones with a semblance of home.”
Smith admits his appreciation of the Exchange grew even further when he was assigned to AAFES headquarters in Dallas, TX as a military expert.
“I had a perception of how the business ran, but I found out I didn’t know much about it,” he says.
That experience became the basis for his post-military career. When Smith decided to retire from the Air Force, he intended to pursue a career in journalism. When AAFES executives offered him a civilian job, though, he reconsidered.
“I chose the Exchange because I’d gotten to know the leaders and saw things I wanted to do in a different genre,” says Smith.
As it turns out, he put his journalistic talents to use. Smith’s first civilian position was as an editor, writing various materials about AAFES and its mission and services. Since then, he’s moved into various other functions, and obtained additional training, including certification as a master anti-terrorism specialist and homeland security protection professional. At the moment he serves as the personnel security and force protection manager.
“We have to make sure our facilities are safeguarded,” he explains. “That includes our headquarters and field locations with distribution centers that are responsible for millions and millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise, [all of which] needs protection. For me, that means figuring out how many security guards are needed, how many fences are required and what type of fences. Also, running background checks for employees falls under me.”
Smith also assumes budgetary responsibilities, which attracted new scrutiny this year when the Trump administration announced a federal hiring freeze.
“We’re looking at that closely; however, they did put in an exemption for us because we’re non-appropriated funds. As long as we stay in the black with profits, it should not be an issue,” notes Smith.
See odin.aafes.com/employment/EXCHANGE_EMPLOYMENT/HTML/start.html for AAFES career paths. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube.
Veteran to Veteran: AAFES
“Don’t be afraid to speak your mind in a concise, educated manner that gets your point across. This gives insight into your skill set and how it might benefit an organization.” — Glenn A. Smith, MBA, IHS-BA, CMAS, CHPP, U.S. Air Force veteran and personnel security and force protection manager
Williams Gears Up with Crown Equipment
In the 18 months since he left the U.S. Army, William “Will” Williams has already held two jobs. Immediately separating from the service, he accepted a role as a maintenance technician. Then, out of the blue, he received an email from Crown Equipment inquiring about his availability and interest in joining its team as a field service technician.
“I was thrown for a loop when Crown reached out,” said Williams. “I didn’t know anything about the company before joining it.”
Crown Equipment, based in New Bremen, OH, specializes in manufacturing forklifts, as well as automation and fleet management technologies. Last summer it was honored by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services for its commitment to hire and retain veterans.
While Williams didn’t know much about the company at first, he conducted a little investigation after receiving the email, and came to the conclusion the offer presented a chance to further utilize the skills he developed as an Army mechanic.
“That’s what I learned in the military and it didn’t make sense to let it go away. I’m a hands-on guy. [In the Army], I fixed trucks and anything that moved except for airplanes,” he says.
Once on the job, Williams discovered there were some significant differences between Army equipment and machines he encountered in the private sector.
“I did work on diesel forklifts in the military, but taking those skills and implementing them on electric forklifts was completely different,” he admits.
Still, he was ready to learn, and was reassured his new employer had systems in place to help him overcome that transition.
“The challenging aspect is that sometimes I want to figure it out on my own, but with Crown, I’m able to call someone to make it easier. As long as you’re continuing to learn, [you’re] good to go,” Williams offers.
Technically, Williams’ responsibilities center on troubleshooting customer complaints, then strategizing solutions. He also makes regular maintenance calls to ensure clients’ machinery remains fully functional so they avoid workflow interruptions. But there are non-technical aspects, too. Williams is responsible for customer relations. On each site visit, he serves as a company ambassador, which is a new, but welcomed, responsibility.
“My favorite aspect [of the job] is going to a customer and helping them figure out the problem with the lift and representing the company well. I have to represent Crown well,” says Williams.
Check crown.com/en-us/careers for Crown career paths. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and Google+.
Veteran to Veteran: Crown Equipment
“Network, because you may run into someone who needs your help down the line, or you may need their help some day.” — William “Will” Williams, U.S. Army veteran and field service technician
Scarborough Continues to Carve Out Opportunities at Perdue
After fulfilling his four-year commitment with the U.S. Army, Vincent Scarborough landed a production position with a food manufacturer near his hometown. He assessed the job to be satisfactory in that he earned enough to cover his expenses, and its location meant he could to live near his aging parents.
However, Scarborough knew it wasn’t a position that would promote professional growth. So after a stint with that business, the veteran applied with an industry competitor in the same region that he heard offered higher wages.
In 2010 Scarborough began working at Perdue Farms Inc., headquartered in Salisbury, MD, a third-generation food and agriculture company. Last year, the corporation became a member of the U.S. Army Partnership for Youth Success Program, which helps service personnel transition into the private sector.
At first he didn’t hold many aspirations of promotion possibilities; however, he quickly discovered this wasn’t just another production job.
“When I first started, I was on the salvage line. I did that for about six to eight months when my supervisor asked if I wanted to do something else,” he remembers. “I was willing to try new things. I went to the picking room. From there I kept telling them I wanted to try something else. They let me try other things, and I learned everything in the department.”
Currently, Scarborough functions as a line leader in the Perdue Foods Accomac, VA, facility.
“My primary responsibility is quality of products. That is number one, and my people are number two. I’m making sure my people stay informed,” he explains.
Of course, safety garners his constant attention. This is where his Army experience comes in handy. Scarborough spent the majority of his military career assigned to administrative and communications duties, and he observed how critical effective communication was to keeping soldiers, and now associates, safe. What’s more, his Army experiences taught Scarborough how to successfully conquer the constant need for documentation.
“What I learned as an administration specialist has coincided with the documentation I maintain currently. Mostly what I do now involves a lot of paperwork,” he explains.
Of course, regulations for a food producer differ greatly than those for military operations, but monthly training sessions help Scarborough stay up to date on issues so he can keep his team focused and compliant. In fact, it’s this type of internal support that’s convinced him there’s yet more room for professional development.
“Coming to Perdue was the best move I ever made. I’ve realized the commitment the company has toward us and our success,” says Scarborough. “I want to move further up the ladder. I want to go as far as I can and be the best I can be.”
Peruse perduefarms.com/Careers for Perdue job paths. Connect on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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