Unsung Heroes

Memorial Day: A Veteran’s Journey Through Civilian Work Life

Today is Memorial Day—a day to honor those who’ve served in America’s armed forces, remember those we’ve lost, and celebrate the service members and their families actively serving our country today.

I enlisted in the United States Air Force from 2003 to 2009—which was an interesting period of time for service members. Many soldiers, myself included, were deployed to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was a part of two operations— Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom—before ending my honorable service in my mid-20’s,

After my enlistment, I started to wonder how my service in the Air Force would apply to the rest of my life, both personally and professionally. So, I did what most in my position do; I used my GI Bill to go to college and find a course of study that would translate to a promising career.

Between undergrad and the entry steps into my professional career, I remember utilizing the skills and disciplines that were instilled into me by military leadership.

Although I have now been out of the service longer than I was enlisted, these core tenants have continually benefited the organizations and teams I’ve worked with, as well as help shape my own career trajectory.

Self-Discipline and Punctuality

Strict punctuality is a fairly common “side effect” for individuals who’ve served in the armed forces. For some, it’s a necessity to keep yourself in-check. As my drill instructor used to make us repeat, “Early is on time, and on time is late.” This ties right into showing respect for the team, the organization and demonstrating personal accountability. I’ve seen a lot of veterans who go into civilian jobs and become self-starters, and some even go on to found their own startups—which, I’ve also done. When discipline is the cornerstone of your daily life, after a while, it essentially becomes a motor reflex.

Listening

Service members of the armed forces are really good listeners. They have to be, or they get in trouble. It’s that simple. If an active-duty service member doesn’t listen to their leadership and to their team, they can miss essential mission updates and directives—which can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Leading and Following

Veterans excel at both following directives and leading because an essential part of our training is carrying out orders and functions of mission roles. It’s a fantastic introduction into project management and using those skills. You have to balance between knowing your own wheelhouse, executing and collaborating on mission-critical taskings, and deciding which team members you can trust to execute the plan.

Endurance

Members of the armed services truly understand the concept of pushing themselves beyond what they think is their own potential and not giving up, no matter what. Veterans also seem to have a high stress tolerance and constitution, and it often shows in their work ethic and commitment to their organizations.

Organizational Mindset

Everything in the military has its place and is labeled. Without that, it’s just disorganized chaos. There are simply too many wheels turning not to have a handle on it all. Veterans are great at providing organization inside of their teams, projects and missions. Keep that in mind the next time you’re trying to clean up your organizational projects calendar.

Altruism

Veterans know the value of giving back to the community and helping make the world a better place to live in, and organizations benefit from employing veterans with strong connections to their community and enjoy volunteering. Throughout my career, I have participated in engaging employees through programs that assist service member organizations by sending care packages to deployed troops and making time to help disabled veterans and service member families. These programs are a great way for organizations to engage employees and demonstrate the value of altruism.

This year, I celebrate Memorial Day with gratitude for the skills and disciplines instilled in me by my military leadership and fellow service members, which I now apply to my role here at WhiteHat.

Thank you to all who have served, continue to serve and those who support our mission to make the world and our organizations better places to be in.

Happy Memorial Day!