From Military Service to a Career in Business: Advice from Veteran Business Leaders

EY Careers held a Veterans Day panel to discuss how Veterans can build a better working world in Corporate America.   The panel included four successful veterans who have made an impact within the business community.   After watching this video, we learned a lot from each of their professional experiences and career trajectories.

Meet the Veteran Panelists

Stephen Maire (US Army):

Stephen Maire is the Global Head of Investor Relations and Communications at Moody’s Corporation.  At Moody’s, Maire helped initiate the Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG).  Moody’s Veteran ERG is a well-established initiative that is supported from the top-down.  The program focuses on veteran outreach efforts such as workforce integration and raising awareness around Veteran issues.

Koma Gandy Fischbein (US Navy):

Koma Gandy Fischbein is the Executive Director of Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management Division.  Koma earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and MBA from Georgetown.  Though well educated, Koma recognizes her robust resilience, teamwork, problem solving skills, and confidence come from her experiences as a female pioneer in the US Navy.

Christine Lantinen (US Army)

Christine Lantinen is the President and owner of Maud Borup, a wholesale food gift manufacturer specializing in gourmet foods and candy. Lanitnen joined the army her senior year of high school at the height of Desert Storm.  She spent 10 years in the US Army as a Medic, and took full advantage of veteran educational benefits (GI Bill) to major in business and communications during her time in the Reserves.  Lantinen believes a veteran’s work ethic and leadership skills make them an important asset to a company’s workforce.  Christine Lantinen is one of our very own Valor Vets!  Check out Valor Magazine’s interview with Chrsitine Lantinen HERE.

Kevin Jacobsen (US Air Force)

Kevin Jacobsen is the Executive Director of Cybersecurity Professional at EY.  Kevin spent 34 years in the Air Force, focusing on Cyber-intelligence and Counter Terrorism Investigations.  Jacobsen’s transition into a civilian career was seamless.  He took full advantage of his experiences and knowledge acquired through his military service, and directly translated it to a career as a Cyber Security Professional in the commercial private sector.

From Military Service to a Career in Business

All four panelists attribute a large portion of their success to the skills they learned in the military.  Unanimously, they believe veterans are underutilized in the American workforce and every company should have a Veteran Employee Resource Group to help recruit, train, and retain veterans as employees. Listen to their stories as they each discuss their career trajectory and how their military service has helped them reach the point they are at now.  (Video - 9:15)

One Piece of Advice for Military Veterans

The final question asked them to provide ‘one piece of advice you would give to someone transitioning from the military to a career in business.”  This is what they said (Video - 26:50):

Steve Maire (US Army)

Steve advises veterans to learn the skills of self-promotion and networking. In the business sector, it is essential to get to know the right people and make sure you are getting credit for your accomplishments. 

In his professional career, Steve has noticed this concept of self-promotion is difficult for veterans because they have a team-first mentality.  In the military, the group is always more important than the individual.  Teamwork and dedication to a company larger than yourself is extremely important in the business sector as well, however, being able to recognize and endorse your qualities and accomplishments will help you succeed and grow, professionally.

He is also a big advocate of networking and finding a sponsor or mentor.  Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.   

Koma Gandy Fischbein (US Navy)

Koma advises veterans to be confident and embrace their uniqueness.  She says:

“You [as a Veteran], know more than you think you do and do not doubt yourself because your background does not look like everyone else’s…People will look to you for your unique experiences in leadership or management and people will look to you when things get difficult…because, as a veteran, you have probably been in situations that are extremely stressful and difficult, and you’ve had to navigate through to the solution…Your uniqueness is your power and it is important to bring that to the table every time.”

Christine Lantinen (US Army)

Christine advises veterans to highlight their military experience on their resume, in job interviews, and on the job.  She says:

“No one looks at [military] service as a negative, it’s so positive.  Be proud of your service and talk about it in your interview.  Use the [key] core values and qualities you’ve learned in the military in your job.” 

Christine tells the story of how she used leadership skills she learned from the Army to communicate with and organize her growing workforce.  Because of her experience in the Army, she understood to increase productivity, she needed to delegate ‘squad leaders’ and give them the authority to make decisions.   

Kevin Jacobsen (US Air Force)

Kevin elaborates on the importance of confidence, he says:

“Don’t aim low…when you come out you have a great opportunity to do something you are passionate about…Set what you did in the military aside…go for the dream job…and don’t underestimate your own ability. You have already demonstrated that you have an innate ability to serve something larger than yourself, and you’ve already demonstrated that you’re mission oriented to the point you can overcome challenges; you are problem solvers.”

He also points out a daunting statistic.  Let this sink in!  You are part of less than ½ of 1% of Americans who have served.  You are much better equipped than you think, and you are qualified!

How Can We Help Veterans Transition?

As a nation, how can we help veterans transition to civilian life.  Christine and Steve addressed this question at the end of the panel (Video - 35:30).

Legislation at a National Level – Christine Lantinen

Christine reached out the owner of Valor Magazine, Brent Hand, before she appeared on the panel to learn more about what types of difficulties and obstacles are current veterans facing.  Brent responded,

“One particular aspect of [veteran transition] is the military spends so much money on turning civilians into soldiers, but they hardly spend any money turning those soldiers back into civilians.  Without bashing the VA (which has been done time and time again), there needs to be an extended transition period for veterans who are about to end their active service.  Whether it be a job placement program or a trade/skill program, these young veterans need guidance.  Now, this is not exclusive to ALL military personnel who are transitioning because some know what they are going to do, but this would help for the ones who have no direction.   
Another option would be to offer a one-year (or whatever length of time) mental health class where the soldier can attend and speak with peers or mental health professionals to get back to the civilian speed of things.  This would allow a "decompression" period for them to really understand what they are about to get themselves into.  I do not have a plan in place that I could offer, nor do I think this is the only way to do it, it is just a suggestion.” 
-Brent Hand, US Marines -Valor Magazine

Christine was able to reiterate Brent’s thought on the topic during the Question & Answer period.   She calls for new legislation to provide more programs, like the GI Bill, for transitioning veterans.

Action at a Local Level – Steve Maire

Steve was able to offer some advice at a more local, individual level.  He calls for everyone to act in their own companies.   If your company does not have a Veterans Employee Resource Group, start one.  From his own experience, he has found that all levels of management are susceptive to this idea.  Get online and do some research, there are many resources out there with more information on how to get a Veteran ERG started. 

"Veterans face a set of distinct challenges as they transition to civilian careers, and the key to building a better transition program is to provide opportunities for them to leverage their military experience and leadership strengths in the civilian workplace. Through its scholarships and grants, The Moody's Foundation is making a real impact in this area."
-Linda Huber – EVP and Chief Financial Officer Executive Sponsor of Moody's Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Veterans have made a huge sacrifice to serve this country, as a nation, as companies, and as individuals we must help transition them back to civilian life after their service.

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