Disabled veterans deliver specialized skills and excellence
Companies are learning how to find and accommodate disabled veterans
Most veterans are skilled, loyal workers, team players and excellent leaders
By Skip Waugh
As combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, military men and women who return home find that an increasing number of employers are willing to help them make the transition into professional civilian careers.
According to advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (iava.org), tens of thousands of additional men and women will be transitioning to the private sector in the near future. The transition to civilian life and employment is not always smooth, especially for veterans coming home with disabilities.
Many veterans’ resources offer tools to help disabled vets translate their military experience into the skills most sought after by stateside employers. “The training and skill gap is a hot topic right now, and luckily, many government agencies, schools and organizations are developing programs to address those gaps,” says Lisa Beyer, workforce development specialist at the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN).
A number of such programs are active: the Department of Defense’s Hiring Heroes Program (godefense.cpms.osd.mil), Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (www.esgr.mil), the Wounded Warrior Project’s Warrior to Work Program (www.woundedwarriorproject.org), Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Operation PAVE (Paving Access to Veterans Employment, www.pva.org) program, the Veterans Career Transition Program at Syracuse University (vets.syr.edu), Heroes2Hired (h2h.jobs), Elevate American Veterans
(microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship) and Operation Impact Network of Champ-ions (northropgrumman.com/careers/militaryveterans), and more.
The U.S. government has made it more attractive for private organizations to hire veterans through employer incentives, credentialing and tax credits.
Challenges and opportunities
Employment prospects for veterans were looking up at the end of 2013. Beyer says that disabled veteran hiring has also improved, but at a slower pace than in the general veteran community. Most employers believe hiring a veteran with a disability benefits their organization. But many still have questions about how to find and accommodate disabled veterans, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Many of the programs mentioned previously, and others, offer resources to answer those questions for employers.
For disabled vets with an interest in technology, several tech careers offer continued growth for the foreseeable future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 Occupational Outlook Handbook notes that computer and information technology jobs are projected to grow by more than 20 percent by 2020. Jobs with the most growth potential are network and database administration, software development, and computer engineering/architecture. Engineering jobs will average around 10 percent growth over the same time frame. The largest engineering growth areas will be in biomedical, civil and environmental. “I really see this upward trend continuing as more of our service members return home,” says Beyer. “Employers are recognizing the qualities that veterans bring to the workplace, and are seeking ways to connect with veterans when they have open positions.”
Booz Allen Hamilton provides support to vets
Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA) is one of the country’s largest providers of management, technology and engineering consulting. The organization has tech and engineering opportunities in a number of areas, including information technology, cloud computing technologies, cybersecurity, energy and analytics.
Booz Allen engages in a number of activities designed to attract, recruit and retain military individuals with disabilities, among them a mentoring program for veterans with disabilities. More than 100 volunteers work with participants to help each one craft a three to five-year educational plan as well as a job plan. The company also partners with Joining Forces Mentoring Plus (joiningforcesmentoringplus.org) for women veterans through the Business Professional Women’s Organization (bpwfoundation.org) and the Wounded Warrior Mentor Project.
Booz Allen also works with some organizations that focus on transitioning disabled veterans, such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Army Wounded Warrior program (wtc.army.mil/aw2), and the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment (woundedwarriorregiment.org). “We try to be very deliberate in our actions,” says Pamela Hardy, senior associate of the people services team at Booz Allen Hamilton. She leads the firm’s diversity recruiting team and its veterans agenda.
She notes that several company activities support the disabled veterans. “The company has a very robust accommodations program for individuals who self-identify as having a military background and/or a disability,” she reports. “Our program is centrally managed and funded. That takes the burden off the manager in terms of making the right accommodations decision for that individual.”
Booz Allen Hamilton employees live by a set of core values: professionalism, fairness, integrity, respect, trust, client service, diversity, excellence, entrepreneurship and teamwork. “There are lot of synergies between the values that ex-military bring and the values of the firm,” says Hardy. “It is really a nice opportunity for individuals to continue to serve, but in a different way.”
Richard A. Martin: systems engineer at Northrop Grumman
Richard A. Martin is an Army veteran who saw duty in the Gulf War from 1990-1991 as an M1A1 tank company executive officer, in Bosnia in 2000 as an information operations officer, and in Iraq between 2004-2005 as an electronic warfare officer. “In my thirty-year military career, I worked with civilian and government personnel from at least thirty other countries,” he says. “You quickly create a working relationship in some incredibly adverse and varied situations. The Army teaches you a lot of skills, but ultimately, you get lots of on-the-job training for those experiences that deal with other cultures.”
He brought a portfolio of skills to Northrop Grumman, including negotiation skills, endurance, leadership, mission completion, physics/statistics, project management, communication skills, and working under adverse and unpredictable situations. He makes use of all of them as a systems engineer.
“My schooling and experience as an Army officer is ideal for a Fortune 100 company like Northrop Grumman,” he says. “I consistently reference my understanding of how the Department of Defense works and my combat experience to provide products and services that meet customer needs.”
He is a subject matter expert in electronic warfare and information operations for deploying troops to Afghanistan. He also conducts logistics and maintenance analysis, and offers recommendations about intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the organization.
He finds analysis and problem solving an interesting aspect of the job. He says, “The sense of purpose you have in this company is very apparent in the position.”
Drawn to Northrop, again and again
Martin first heard of Northrop Grumman during his time in the military. His mother, a twenty-year Northrop Grumman employee based in Southern California, encouraged him to think about working there. “I didn’t give a lot of serious consideration to her suggestion,” he says.
He met two Northrop Grumman employees during his time in Iraq while all three huddled together during a mortar attack. Once the attack ended, they handed him their business cards and told him to consider working at Northrop when he got home. “They felt I had the skills and qualifications,” he says. “Unfortunately, I lost both cards during the helicopter flight back to Tikrit, Iraq.”
While in Iraq, Martin was hit by a rocket, car bomb and IED (improvised explosive device) over a four-month period. This resulted in PTSD, as well as head and shoulder injuries. While in rehab for combat-related injuries at Fort Lewis, WA, another Northrop Grumman employee connected him to a manager at the Northrop facility in Clearfield, UT. The manager offered him a position, to start in six months when he finished rehab. The organization moved his family to Utah in 2006, and his mother moved there in 2012. “She is five miles from the Northrop Grumman facility I currently work at,” Martin says. “So she got the last laugh.”
Making the most of it
On the job, he uses headphones to keep out distracting noises and improve his concentration, a mirror to keep other employees from surprising him from behind, and a Blackberry to help retain information with voice recordings and texts. “The series of blasts that I incurred in Iraq negatively affected my ability to retain information, so the Blackberry is very helpful,” he says.
He also uses visual aids. “My work cubicle is plastered with notes and color diagrams that help me retain information.” In addition, Martin makes use of gyms at the company and a nearby base to help relieve stress and clear his mind.
Martin enjoys learning about Six Sigma strategies and tools for improving process quality. He sees it as an effective way to improve company processes, and is currently studying for the Six Sigma black belt exam.
His biggest challenge is keeping the different aspects of life balanced – physical, emotional, spiritual, academic, and physiological. “I work on each one of those components every day, to maintain an effective level of productivity at work and in life,” he says. “The Veterans Administration representatives have told me many times that I appear to be very well adjusted given the extent of my combat-related injuries. Hiding your injuries by resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other flawed temporary solutions does not promote long-term recovery from combat injuries.”
In his spare time, Martin enjoys spearfishing. “I like the serenity of the water and the physical challenge of finding and spearing an elusive fish.”
Martin is now a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves. He encourages other disabled vets to think long term and explore the many programs available to them.
CSC: a military supporter
Computer Science Corporation (CSC, Falls Church, VA) provides next-generation IT services and solutions. The organization began its military outreach program in 2003, as a result of its partnership with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP, msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil). MSEP is a career resource connecting military spouses with Fortune 500 companies for potential employment. The CSC program quickly grew to assist CSC wounded warriors, veterans, military spouses and caregivers.
The program’s mission is to help members of these groups during their transitions, through career advice, networking and collaborative partnerships. CSC partners also include Operation Impact Network of Champions, Heroes2Hired, Wounded Warrior Project’s Warriors to Work Program, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (www.uschamber.com/hiringourheroes).
CSC’s track record of successfully hiring veterans and people with disabilities has earned it recognition by Military Times Edge, GI Jobs and Military Spouse magazines. The company was also recognized by Careers and the Disabled magazine as one of America’s top 50 employers for people with disabilities in 2013. The organization has received awards for its support of veterans, spouses and wounded warriors. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its National Chamber Foundation recognized CSC as a finalist for the Hiring Our Heroes Don Weber Wounded Warrior Employment award, one of five awards presented at the second annual Hiring Our Heroes awards gala in November 2012.
In response to a White House announcement in April 2013 committing the country to hire or train 435,000 veterans and spouses by 2018, CSC set its own goal to hire 2,000 of them over the next year.
Twenty percent of CSC’s U.S. staff is made up of military veterans, including veterans with disabilities. CSC hired 1,300 veterans in 2013, and 450 of them were veterans with disabilities. CSC is sought out by other companies to share its best practices for setting up military and disability recruitment strategies.
“CSC believes in attracting veterans and their spouses and welcoming them into our workforce,” says Shari Davis, CSC director of diversity, philanthropy and community relations. Among the nine CSC employee resource groups are the CSC Abilities First Network for employees with disabilities and their supporters, and CSC Salutes for veterans, military spouses and their supporters. These groups work with the company’s partners on volunteer opportunities, charitable giving and philanthropic efforts.
“CSC values the skills and experience of veterans, who strengthen our business in countless ways with their leadership, problem-solving skills and unique understanding of client missions,” says Davis. “Their willingness to take on and resolve our clients’ toughest challenges has made our company stronger, more resilient, and innovative.”
CSC tech supervisor Joshua Seder takes advantage of opportunities to succeed
Joshua Seder is a technical supervisor for one of CSC’s Centers of Excellence in Coppell, TX. The Centers of Excellence give CSC customers and employees access to expertise and experience in IT specialties and markets.
Seder did a tour of duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and was stationed at Fort Lewis, WA. He worked in chemical biological radiological nuclear (CBRN) reconnaissance and was in a specialized cavalry unit for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition. While on patrol, he came in contact with an IED, which led to his service-connected disability.
Seder first came to CSC as a contractor in 2008 with Bender Consulting (Pittsburgh, PA), a contracting agency specializing in recruiting and hiring contract employees with disabilities. He became a permanent CSC employee later that year in the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area.
Tools for the trade
His military experience prepared him for his current position as a CSC technical supervisor. “I got a good understanding of how to properly mitigate risks,” says Seder. “Prioritizing tasks and looking at all avenues before deciding on an approach are just as beneficial in the office as they were in the field.”
He adds that the ability to work with various levels of management was something he also picked up from the service. “I apply this to everyday office life by being able to facilitate the transfer of information from our client to upper-level management and simultaneously to my team.”
Seder enjoys creating new processes and finding inventive ways to solve problems. “It is never the same solution twice,” he says. “It gives a great feeling of satisfaction when a team of people get together and are able to solve a problem.”
To help him do his job, Seder relies on his company-issued smartphone. The technology allows him to make daily notes, reminders and calendar entries. “It is a truly handy device that helps me keep track of what I am currently doing and what I need to be prepared for the next day.”
Seder hopes to move into service delivery and client delivery at CSC in the future. He has his ITIL (IT infrastructure library) foundation certification and plans to get certifications in other areas like Six Sigma and cloud technology as well.
“I have been welcomed here at CSC and been given every chance to succeed,” he says. “I’ve taken advantage of opportunities for success and become a part of the leadership team. I am now able to ensure that everyone has that chance.”
Baker Hughes: a long tradition hiring veterans
Baker Hughes (Houston, TX) is an oilfield service organization that focuses on shale gas and other oilfield products and services. Technology employment opportunities include operators, engineers, field specialists and technology support staff.
Baker Hughes has a long tradition of bringing in veterans; its approach was formalized in 2013. The program targets vets who have already transitioned out of the military and those in the process. The company attends veteran career fairs around the country and works with a number of military installations. Baker Hughes was recognized in GI Jobs as a Top 100 military friendly employer for 2014.
Baker Hughes signed its ESGR (employer support of the guard and reserve) statement of support in February 2013. The ESGR program was established in the 1970s and is run out of the U.S. Department of Defense. The program represents each signer’s commitment to support and value the employment and service of citizen soldiers. “It really put our organization out there in terms of recruiting efforts,” says Mark Szabo, talent acquisition team lead for military recruiting. “The ESGR was an important part of our company’s formal good faith effort to attract talent from the military community.”
Baker Hughes has a number of support elements in place that attract military veterans to the organization and keep them engaged. Szabo reports that Baker Hughes recently started a veterans resource group in its U.S. region that now has twelve satellite locations around the country and more than 1,000 participants, impressive for a first-year operation. The group is open to veterans, active military, and military spouses as well as other Baker Hughes employees wanting to support the internal veteran population. The veteran resource group partners with several Houston-area organizations that support veterans.
When veterans are hired, they are assigned a mentor, usually another veteran. The mentor is there as a support person to give them a better understanding of the company, and help them through some of the challenges that come from transitioning from a military uniform to a Baker Hughes uniform.
Szabo says that Baker Hughes feels hiring vets is the “right thing to do. Veterans provide us with highly valued diversity in our workforce. They also provide us with transferable skills and attributes that our organization values.” He cites integrity, technical skills, commitment to training, adaptability to change, an ability to lead and manage others, the ability to perform under pressure, team orientation, an understanding of safety, and a great work ethic.
Jeremy Guillory: technical support engineer at Baker Hughes
“In the service you learn to be persistent but humble,” says Jeremy Guillory, technical support engineer for Gulf of Mexico operations at Baker Hughes in Houston. “I wasn’t an oil industry guy when I joined Baker Hughes. But people were patient with me. Now that I know a little bit, I try to teach others what I learned so they don’t have a large learning curve.”
Guillory joined the Army in January 1997. He broke his L5 vertebra during training eight months later in September. He says he thought it was a sore muscle at first. He had several unsuccessful surgeries while on active duty. He was medically discharged in September 2002. He elected to go for a third surgery after leaving the military. That surgery was successful and improved his ability to walk.
During his time in the service, Guillory’s main job was computer network and system administrator, plus overall computer support. “Anything that had to do with computers and the networks was my job,” says Guillory.
Computers had been his focus in the military, but Guillory decided to pursue a mechanical engineering degree after he left the service. In 2003, one month after his third spinal surgery, he started at the University of Louisiana (Lafayette). It was there that he interviewed for a position with Baker Hughes. It was his technical background and military experience, he says, that drew the company’s interest.
Part of a new team
Guillory started with Baker Hughes in 2008 as a new product development design engineer. After four years, he moved into his current position where he designs new tools, communicates with vendors about the properties of the materials Baker Hughes is requesting, and troubleshoots issues clients may be having. “There is a lot of teamwork and communication,” he says. “Most of my job is bouncing ideas off others and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t.”
What he finds most interesting about the position is his interaction with coworkers. “Some of my coworkers have over thirty years of experience. They are an encyclopedia of knowledge about the oil industry,” says Guillory. He adds that the camaraderie is something special. “Some of my coworkers are veterans as well,” Guillory says. “No matter what branch of the military they came from, there is a sense of brotherhood.”
Accommodations to do his job vary depending on the day and even the barometric pressure. “I have arthritis in my lower back and hips because of the surgeries,” says Guillory. He found that the company was very willing to make sure his desks were set up ergonomically and to provide assistance moving heavier items around.
Guillory sees his future expanding to overseas work. The move is part of his professional development plan at Baker Hughes, as was a recent move from design to tech support.
“I think it is really great that Baker Hughes is making a step forward for veterans,” Guillory says. “I really like working with everyone here.”
Ingersoll Rand: including veterans is imperative
Ingersoll Rand (Davidson, NC) is a diversified industrial manufacturer of such global brands as Trane heating and air conditioning systems and Club Car small-wheel electric vehicles. According to Neddy Perez, Ingersoll Rand’s vice president and chief global diversity officer, the company is making a concerted effort to bring in vets, including vets with disabilities. “The strategies we have put in place are designed to attract veterans across the board,” says Perez. “We already have a strong base of military veterans working for us,” currently more than 3,000. Veterans range in rank from colonel to airman first class. Some are on active reserve, while others are returning vets.
According to Perez, Ingersoll Rand sees it as imperative that veterans be part of the diversity mix. “Our core values of teamwork, collaboration and respect correlate well with military values,” she says. “When you hire a military veteran, you’re hiring someone already prepared for leadership, with a commitment and dedication to serving their country. This translates to a dedicated and committed employee who delivers quality results.”
Ingersoll Rand is hiring in several areas. One is service technicians. “We have quite a few folks that are part of our industrial technology and climate solutions services businesses and are deployed for us in the field,” says Perez. She adds that those in service tech roles require a bit of technical competency and a willingness to engage with customers. “This was an area that we identified as a really good fit for those with military backgrounds.”
Ingersoll Rand has established a talent acquisition team that includes veterans from several branches of the military. The veterans have shared their experience of military service with the other members of the team. “The team understands what it’s like to transition from the military into working in a corporation,” says Perez. “They also know the talents, skills, and values the organization is looking for.”
Understanding and advising veterans
Shannon Mullins leads the team that focuses on recruiting military veterans for Ingersoll Rand’s tech positions. She offers a unique perspective on hiring prospects for disabled vets in technology because she is ex-military and also has a service-related disability. Her disability includes issues with her back and knees and carpal tunnel syndrome after years of training in the Army.
She encourages disabled veterans not to focus on their disabilities, but their abilities. The company trains its recruiters to help each business prepare to interview veterans, and also spends time helping each veteran prepare.
“As recruiters, we coach veterans to emphasize the technical aspects of what they have done, not so much the nuts and bolts of it, but to pull out the technical problem-solving challenges they have had,” says Mullins. “We recognize they are not going to necessarily know our systems, our equipment, and our processes. We are looking for them to demonstrate how they analyzed problems to get something going again, how they designed something different, or came up with an innovative solution to solve a problem.
“I think it’s critical that all veterans remember that, just like the unit that you joined, each civilian group has a unique culture. You are going to encounter that in the corporate world as well,” says Mullins. “It takes time to assimilate into that culture. So be patient with yourself.”
Their decisiveness, leadership and ability to act make veterans ideal candidates for technical positions at Ingersoll Rand. “But at the same time, those skills may cover a hidden weakness,” says Mullins. “My advice is, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness. Asking questions is a sign of intellectual curiosity and helps you learn more about the culture. It shows that you want to learn and assimilate.”
Mullins sees a good future for vets and disabled vets at Ingersoll Rand. She says veterans fit well with the company’s goals and vision for the future. “Veterans are an integral part of our diverse and inclusive culture.”
For those looking for careers in technical fields, Mullins says, “Don’t sell yourself short. Look for companies that are looking for you. Ingersoll Rand is definitely one of those. We value veterans’ backgrounds and experiences and appreciate their thoughts and perspectives.”
ORGANIZATIONS ACTIVELY RECRUITING VETERANS
Check website for current listings.
|Organization and location
|Alliant Energy (Cedar Rapids, IA)
|Generates, purchases, distributes and sells electric energy and natural gas
|Baker Hughes (Houston, TX)
|Oil and gas technology services
|Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA)
|Management and technology consulting
|Computer Science Corporation
(CSC, Falls Church, VA) www.csc.com
|Information technology services and solutions
|Ingersoll Rand (Davidson, NC)
|Products and services for commercial,
residential and industrial applications
|Northrop Grumman (Falls Church, VA)
|Global security systems, products and
|Sears Holdings Corp (Hoffman Estates, IL)
|Virginia Department of Transportation
|Builds, maintains and operates Virginia roads, bridges and tunnels
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