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Programs and workplaces smooth the transition for veterans

Workplaces that support veterans’ career goals benefit from a skilled and committed group of men and women

“We help vets translate their military skills and experience into what the corporate world wants.” – Dan Lessard, Warriors to Work

On March 20, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report, Employment Situation of Veterans: 2012, which revealed that the unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans, those on active duty on or after September 2001, had dropped by 2.2 percentage points to 9.9 percent in 2012. That’s the good news. A closer look at the data, though, shows that the picture is not entirely positive.

In 2012, the unemployment rate for male Gulf War-era II veterans ages eighteen to twenty-four was 20 percent, higher than the rate for non-veterans of the same age group (16.4 percent). The rate for male veterans ages twenty-five to thirty-four was also higher than the rate for their non-veteran counterparts (10.4 and 8.1 percent, respectively), the report states.

In general, however, employment for veterans is edging in a positive direction. The report notes that for all male veterans, the 2012 unemployment rate declined 1.4 percent to 6.9 percent; the unemployment rate for female veterans has held steady at 8.3 percent.

There is still work to do, but thankfully, several promising initiatives aim to improve the current state of affairs.

Efforts from the top: promoting career success for vets
Two years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Jill Biden launched “Joining Forces,” a national campaign to rally support for veterans and military families (www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces). “With more than a million veterans returning home to our nation’s shores over the next five years, we have an unprecedented opportunity and a civic obligation to strengthen their pathways to success,” the initiative’s website notes. To date, more than 2,000 corporations have signed on as supporters.

The White House is also focusing its attention specifically on IT careers for veterans. In 2013, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the IT Training and Certification Partnership to help veterans gain “industry-recognized, nationally portable certifications necessary for twelve high-demand technology professions, including computer programmers, quality assurance engineers and IT security analysts.” The partnership was formed as part of the DoD’s Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, announced in 2012. The partnership expects to generate more than 1.8 million high-paying IT job opportunities for veterans by 2020.

The public-private effort will help veterans translate their military experience into industry-recognized IT certifications. This program has already signed on several IT-focused companies and organizations including Cisco Systems, CompTIA, Hewlett Packard, Oracle and Microsoft.

Wounded Warrior Project
Veterans’ initiatives have been fighting the good fight for some time. Since 2002, the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) has provided comprehensive assistance to wounded service men and women transitioning from military to civilian life. Rick Willis, the director of WWP’s Transition Training Academy (TTA), knows the value that veterans bring to the corporate table, especially in IT. The TTA is a hands-on, warrior-tailored program designed to help veterans explore IT career opportunities.

Willis says the key is making sure veterans get to the academy in the first place. “We have several different methods to reach veterans even before they leave the service. Outreach coordinators go to hospital rooms and talk to wounded warriors and help them join a Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB). Veterans can also join through our website. And we’re about to roll out our first online program so we can reach out to students who are not close to a WTB. It’s also important that veterans know that all of our courses are completely free. And we have a one hundred percent success rate,” Willis states.

WWP’s Warriors to Work director Dan Lessard concurs. “Last year we assisted with the placement of 500 warriors who earned an average annual salary of $40,000. This year we’re on target to place 1,000 warriors with the same average salary. Many of these warriors came to us with only a GED or high school diploma; they leave our program with a career. We help them translate their military skills and experience into something the corporate world wants and can understand, from soft skills to national certifications.

“Veterans need to know that we help anyone who served on or after 9/11 with a diagnosed injury. But that injury does not have to be physical,” Lessard stresses. “Around seventy percent of WWP wounded have ‘unseen’ wounds. But the biggest issue on both sides of the table is fear. We give warriors training and support to remove their fears. But we also help dispel the myth that hiring a warrior with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or PTSD is problematic. Statistically, fifty to sixty percent of non-service adults experience TBIs or PTSD from life events. It’s much more common than people realize. So we give employers a greater context of what it means to hire a warrior with those experiences.”

U.S. Coast Guard Office of Civilian Human Resources civilian recruiter Shelly Campbell (Baltimore, MD) echoes these sentiments. “The Coast Guard actively recruits veterans, especially wounded warriors. I’m the veterans employment program manager, so I attend events aimed at this group. And this works very well for us. At the start of 2013 veterans made up about fifty-four percent of our 8,000-plus civilian employees.”

Veterans benefit from efforts like these. Once they’re on board with companies, especially companies that work to provide a supportive environment, many veterans are finding the transition from the military world to the corporate easier than they anticipated. And employers say it’s a win-win. They find that veterans bring “can-do” attitudes, as well as tremendous leadership and skills, to their new civilian jobs.

Navy veteran Jeff Walter delivers IT programs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield
IT portfolio solutions delivery senior manager Jeff Walter uses his knowledge of IT systems and processes to deliver projects and programs for business intelligence and data warehousing. He works with the technical team and the information technology group at Health Care Service Corp (HCSC, Chicago, IL), an operator of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Walter has been with HCSC for the last seven years. He describes his role as mostly IT program management, but a host of other skills have come into play.

“Right now my team is involved in several large projects, so every day is filled with new and different challenges and successes,” he says. “In this job, you must be highly organized and a good multitasker. You must take charge and know how to lead, be an effective communicator, know how and when to negotiate, be detail oriented, and recognize and solve problems quickly.”

Walter earned a BS degree in science and finance in 1991 from the University of South Florida (Tampa). He earned a 1997 MS in science and manufacturing management from the University of Toledo (OH), and an MBA in 2004 from the New York Institute of Technology (New York, NY). Walter joined the Navy in 1978, and left as a master chief petty officer in 2000, after nine years on active duty and thirteen years in the Naval Reserve. While on active duty, he got an AA in Spanish from the DoD’s Defense Language Institute (Monterey, CA).

Valuable tools for leadership and success
“I wouldn’t trade my military experience for anything,” Walter says. “From the time you get to boot camp you are taught to lead and get things done. Throughout my career I have always been given roles to hone my leadership skills, and now I work at a company that allows employees to be creative and use their experiences to help strengthen the organization.”

Walter is chairman of the Supporters of Military Veterans (SOMV) business resource group (BRG), one of twelve BRGs at HCSC. SOMV works with HCSC’s executive leadership team and departments to implement veteran initiatives, including the veteran hiring task force and transition assistance programs, which provide comprehensive training and mentoring for separating service members.

HCSC was named a Military Friendly Employer by GI Jobs magazine, which cited its programs to identify, recruit, hire and train veterans.

Marine Sarah Wallis: electrical system development at Bombardier
Sarah J. Wallis is an electrical systems work package manager for Bombardier Aerospace (Dorval, Quebec, Canada), the world’s third-largest civil aircraft maker. Wallis works in the Wichita, KS facility. She manages a team responsible for development of Learjet 85 electrical systems, and keeps the team on schedule. She also identifies and manages risk.

“I had been working at a small engineering office right after college. When the economy went south in 2009, the company closed. During college, I had a co-op job with Learjet, since acquired by Bombardier, and that allowed me to get my foot in the door.”

Wallis joined the Marine Corps in 1995 and served five years as an electrical/avionics technician on AH-1Ws and UH-1Ns, separating in 2000 as a sergeant. In 2005, she finished her BSEE with a minor in math from Wichita State University (Wichita, KS).

Wallis says her military experience was “life changing! The military opened my eyes to the world and gave me the roots of a career. It taught me a skill and trained me on some awesome military machines. I also learned to never give up, believe in yourself, and find a balance between work and play.”

Navy vet Aaron Nanny provides IT administration for Bombardier
IT systems administrator Aaron Nanny, also based in Wichita, KS, has worked in IT support at Bombardier for the last seven years.

Nanny joined the Navy in 1993, where he trained as a carpenter in the Seabees. He separated from the Navy Reserves as an E4 in 2001. He’s also a trained aircraft assembler and a Catia draftsman and holds many IT certifications.

Nanny attended various schools including Friends University, Butler County Community College, and Cowley County Community College. But he graduated magna cum laude from Wichita State University with a BBA in management information systems in May 2003. Even with his strong academic background, Nanny considers his military service pivotal to his success in the corporate world.

“The military taught me a lot of good character traits like ambition, drive, tenacity, confidence and teamwork. One of the most important things I learned was teamwork in a diverse environment, which easily translates into working with others every day. But the most important aspect was that I served my country.”

Bombardier representatives regularly attend career events aimed at veterans. Bombardier Aerospace training leader Sharina Decamp reports that veterans are “great to hire and train.”

Former Airman Jason Lish balances security and opportunity for Charles Schwab
Jason Lish has been a principal in security, technology and operations at the Phoenix, AZ campus of Charles Schwab (San Francisco, CA) for the last two years. He manages the security operations and architecture team for Schwab Technology, where he covers security threat management, incident response, security engineering and architecture, and access and risk management. Lish believes his work is all about balancing business objectives with IT security risks.

“There’s a new challenge every day. The threat landscape is always changing, so it’s a continuous chess game to keep one step ahead. But I love that,” he says.

Lish got a great deal of his education while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He joined the Air Force in 1997 and left in 2001 as a staff sergeant. But he missed it. So he joined the Air Force Reserves, where he served from 2002 to 2005. In 2004, he earned a BS in management information systems from Bellevue University (Bellevue, NE). He followed that with an MBA from Ottawa University (Ottawa, KS) in 2005. And in 2007, he was named one of Computerworld magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 IT professionals.

Lish credits the Air Force with guiding him to his rightful place. “The military was the best experience I ever had. I was nineteen and didn’t know what I wanted to do. The military helped me find that path. But the military did more than just introduce me to IT. They asked me where I wanted to be stationed after basic. I chose Arizona, California, Nevada or Colorado, as I was homesick. They sent me to Iceland, to Naval Air Station Keflavik, where I learned to find myself. And Iceland was amazing.”

Championing veterans at Charles Schwab
Schwab actively seeks out and supports veterans in the workforce, particularly through its military veterans network (MVN) employee resource group. The MVN provides a support network for veterans and their families at Schwab. Schwab has been recognized as a top employer of veterans and military spouses by several national publications.

Dominion’s James Evans engineers the relocation of gas mains in Ohio
Akron, OH-based distribution design engineering technician James E. Evans, Sr relocates gas lines for Dominion (Richmond, VA). He’s had that job for more than a year, but he began his work for Dominion as a contractor.

“After a few weeks on the contract job I began to enjoy the culture. I had met quite a few people and everyone seemed to really like working at Dominion. I felt I had something to offer so I thought, ‘Why not become part of something so many others seem to enjoy?’”

Evans graduated from ITT Technical Institute (Strongsville, OH) with an AS in computer drafting and design in 2003. In 2012 he got his BS in construction management from ITT, graduating with honors.

In 2000 Evans joined the U.S. Army Reserves. As a communications equipment repair technician, Evans spent a year in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and left the reserves in 2009 as a sergeant.

“One of my most important experiences in the military was learning what it takes to be a leader. Earning the trust of those you lead can be the most difficult aspect of leadership. Also, I believe the U.S. military is the most diverse organization in the world. I met many people from different backgrounds. Learning to cooperate with everyone and working with so many different personalities was essential. And success was only achieved through teamwork.”

Dominion stands behind its veterans and their families
Teamwork is a strong theme at Dominion, as is its focus on veterans. Dominion’s HR strategic staffing supervisor Matt Kellam explains, “Dominion started a formal military recruiting program about three years ago. Today, veterans work in all areas of the company, including at our power stations and in information technology, engineering and corporate security.

“In May 2011, Dominion and six other utilities partnered with the Center for Energy Workforce Development in the creation of the ‘Troops to Energy Jobs’ program. Dominion spearheaded this program, which helps veterans identify accelerated educational and career pathways to rewarding careers in the energy industry,” says Kellam. “The company also supports active military and veterans and their families in other ways. We offer generous military benefits to deployed employees serving in the Guard and Reserves, and their families. We offer a one hundred percent pay differential and we extend the employee’s benefits for up to five years to make sure their families are taken care of while they are deployed. Veteran employees receive paid time off for Guard and Reserve duty in addition to vacation and sick leave.”

Dominion’s efforts have also been noticed by GI Jobs and other magazines.

Former Lt Commander Jack Fletcher manages projects for DRS Technologies
Jack Fletcher is a new program manager at DRS Technologies (Arlington, VA) in Gaithersburg, MD. Fletcher hopes to combine his technical and management abilities to ensure that projects stay on track for the defense contractor.

“Every day brings new challenges, particularly in the international defense industry. My position as a program manager gives me the perfect blend of technical interface and business development.”

A 1992 graduate of the Military College of South Carolina (the Citadel, Charleston, SC), Fletcher received a commission in the U.S. Navy after college. He attended many technical schools while on active duty: radar systems, steam and gas turbine engineering, damage control and more, along with language training in French, Spanish and Arabic. He served around the world as a surface warfare officer on board cruisers, destroyers and amphibious assault ships. He also served as a foreign area officer with multiple postings around the globe. Fletcher left the Navy in 2013, after twenty years, as a lieutenant commander.

The experience, he says, was invaluable. “The Navy provided opportunities in leadership and decision making that translate perfectly into the corporate world,” Fletcher says. “Being able to focus in on technical detail where needed, while still being able to think strategically, is paying off even in my first months of civilian employment.”

The value of family and workplace support
Fletcher says the “strong support of my wife and three children” has been fundamental to his success. He also commends DRS’s commitment to veterans. DRS human resources director Liz Fricke says, “Many of our employees have transitioned from the military directly into the DRS workforce. DRS is committed to ensuring that our dedication and values are reflected in the work we do for those who defend our freedom, both here and abroad. Many members of our leadership team have served in the military. They have taken their knowledge and experience from the service and applied it to their everyday duties and responsibilities at DRS.”

Rob West manages IT operations for DynCorp’s large aviation programs
DynCorp International (DI, Falls Church, VA) IT operations manager Rob West oversees the day-to-day network operations and all satellite links for a DI aviation program in Melbourne, FL. West enjoys the challenges at this services contractor, where he has worked for five years.

“IT is constantly changing. We’re always vetting new technology, improving processes and exploring better ways to do things. Every day brings a new challenge and I’m honored to be working alongside some of the brightest people as we tackle these challenges.”

During his military career West attended the University of Maryland-College Park and Warner Southern University (Lake Wales, FL), but expects to earn his BS from American InterContinental University (Schaumburg, IL) in 2013. He also attended military technical and leadership schools during his twenty-year service, and served in tours in Iraq as well. West entered the U.S. Army in 1988 and separated as a sergeant first class in 2008.

People are the key
“One of the most important things I learned is that people are the greatest asset to any organization,” says West. “During my career I have witnessed the most ordinary people accomplish the most extraordinary things through teamwork, perseverance and ingenuity. People are the key to any endeavor.”

West sees the same type of collaboration and leadership at DI. DI was named as a Military Times EDGE magazine Best for Vets employer for the second year in a row. Sixty-two percent of DI executives are veterans. Vice president of global staffing Dianne Walker says, “We are most supportive of bringing veterans into DI. They have a skill set that mirrors DI’s needs, and they have the leadership attributes, knowledge and understanding of our particular mission.”

“We are a great transition platform for veterans,” adds Eric Dodson, senior manager of global staffing and veterans outreach programs.

NAVAIR’s Adam Tanverdi is helping early-warning aircraft get airborne
Mission systems flight test engineer Adam Tanverdi conducts and analyzes flight tests to determine the mission effectiveness and suitability of aircraft systems for Navy fleet operations. He works for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR, Patuxent River, MD), a mixed civilian and military aircraft weapons system acquisition organization for the U.S. Navy. Currently he’s working on radar for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, a tactical early-warning aircraft.

“I enjoy most working with the great variety of people who support the mission. Each has a unique story to tell, unique skills to provide, and an important role in that mission,” he says.

Tanverdi earned a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware (UD, Newark) in 2001. He followed that with an MS in operations management from the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) in 2006. Tanverdi also has a graduate certificate in human resource management and has passed his Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam on his way to becoming a licensed professional engineer. He has specialized military training in basic and advanced aerial navigation, cross-cultural communication, water and land survival, airborne parachuting, and a variety of special operations applications.

After graduating from ROTC at UD, Tanverdi joined the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant. He advanced to captain and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom five times, flying more than 500 combat hours over 100 combat sorties, providing close-air support, armed reconnaissance, and convoy escorts. He joined NAVAIR in 2012 after meeting a representative from NAVAIR’s recruiting team at the 2012 Warrior Games in Colorado. He cites lessons in teamwork and leadership as pivotal to his military experience. But he adds another.

“Always consider the interconnectedness and relationships in the picture. Making a small change here or there can lead to big changes, unintended or not, elsewhere. Take these relationships into account from the outset and you can alleviate headaches down the line,” he says.

NAVAIR recruits and trains veterans
NAVAIR conducts comprehensive recruiting and training programs for veterans. NAVAIR Lieutenant Commander David Shutter explains, “We’re a recruiting function, so we don’t actually hire. But we find applicants and refer them to managers, and we provide all services to veterans in that effort. We travel to military treatment facilities like Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Brooke Army Medical Center, the primary care center for wounded warriors. In fact, at Brooke Army Medical, we integrated a one-stop hiring process,” explains Shutter. “It’s part of our Wounded Warrior Program.

“But it’s important to note that our program is not limited to combat wounded. We’re inclusive and accept any service-connected disability. So if a soldier is injured during training or support, they are included in our program. We help every wounded warrior we can, wherever they may be, however we can. Our program began in October 2010, and since then we’ve helped 575 wounded warriors find employment.”

Jamie Popiel facilitates tech training for the New York Power Authority
Jamie L. Popiel is a technical training specialist at the Frederick R. Clark Energy Center in Marcy, NY for the New York Power Authority (NYPA, White Plains, NY). She develops and implements technical training, and manages the technical training database and the future design and development of information systems.

“I enjoy educating others on how they can use technology to make their positions more organized and effective. The best feeling I’ve ever had in the work force is helping others learn about technology and seeing a light go on in their heads,” she says.

How military experience helped
Popiel graduated from the State University of New York-Delhi in 2007 with a bachelors in information technology, specializing in enterprise information systems design. She served as an adjunct educator during her senior year. She joined the U.S. Air Force in 2009, and currently serves as a Senior Airman in the 109th Civil Engineer Squadron, 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard. In 2011, New York State adjutant general Maj Gen Patrick Murphy awarded Popiel the state’s humane service medal for service during New York’s response to Hurricane Irene.

“Aside from the many teamwork lessons I learned, my military career offered me a well-defined set of skills that I use at NYPA. The skills are entirely transferrable and very useful at NYPA.”

Raytheon’s Christopher Collier keeps Patriot missile systems ready
Raytheon (Waltham, MA) field engineer Christopher R. Collier supports soldiers of the Army’s 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Bragg, NC. He maintains and repairs the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System manufactured by Raytheon. He joined Raytheon in 2012 after more than twenty years in the military.

“There are two things I truly enjoy about my job: serving with America’s finest men and women, and working with a system as complex and advanced as the Patriot. Sometimes the repair is quick and simple, but every once in a while you get a real brain buster and you get to see the full force of Raytheon brought to bear.”

Collier earned an associates degree in applied science technical studies at Excelsior College (Albany, NY) in 2008 and a BS in business administration from Trident University (Cypress, CA) in 2011. His schooling ran concurrently with his Army service and military training; Collier joined the U.S. Army in 1990 and served until 2012, when he left as a chief warrant officer.

He loved serving his country. And he considers the Army a great precursor for civilian employment. “Surprisingly, the military world and corporate world are quite similar. The necessity for teamwork and structure exists in both places. The skills needed to build a team to complete a task are taught in both worlds, and leaders are developed to take the reins,” says Collier.

Veteran support through Raytheon
Raytheon supports many armed services organizations. Retired U.S. Air Force captain and Raytheon EVP and COO Thomas A. Kennedy wrote in a 2012 editorial in the Orange County Register, “For our part, Raytheon supports several organizations making a difference today. The Student Veterans of America, for instance, focuses on supporting veterans enrolled in school, helping them socially adjust and reach graduation. The Wounded Warrior Project also does excellent work in helping combat veterans adjust and integrate. And Operation Homelink provides free computer technology to veteran families.”

System engineer Dion Moten’s technical skills keep Georgia Power flowing
At the Robert W. Scherer power plant in Juliette, GA, senior system engineer Dion Moten manages feedwater and condensate systems that recover steam from the plant’s turbine and convert it back to water for Georgia Power (Atlanta, GA). He joined Georgia Power in 2011 after returning from an Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment.

“I’ve enjoyed learning about a new industry. It’s been fascinating to discover how the electric utility industry works. Southern Company, Georgia Power’s parent company, has many different types of generating plants: coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro and more. I look forward to learning more about the various types of plants in our system.”

Moten earned a BSCE from the University of Kansas (Lawrence) in 1990 and a master of strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College (Carlisle, PA) in 2012. He joined the U.S. Army in 1985 and currently serves as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves Signal Corps. Previously he commanded the 392nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, the first U.S. Army Reserve expeditionary signal battalion to deploy during the Global War on Terrorism. Though it was a challenging time for him, Moten values his military experience.

“It taught me that I can do more than I ever thought I could. It’s given me the confidence to know that you only fail if you do not try. While the Reserve and National Guard may not always receive the credit they deserve because their members don’t wear uniforms daily, we transform instantly from our everyday civilian lives to leaders of soldiers,” he attests.

Southern Company’s work for veterans gets noticed
Veterans account for 11 percent, nearly 2,700, of Southern Company’s more than 26,000 employees. GI Jobs magazine has named the company to its Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list for the last six consecutive years in recognition of its extensive military recruitment efforts. Military Times EDGE also named the company Best for Vets in 2013.

In 2010, Southern Company was given the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom award, the highest honor given by the Department of Defense to employers for support of employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserve. And Southern Company is a founding partner of the Troops to Energy Jobs program, a recruiting source that provides veterans with a roadmap for entry into highly skilled utility and engineering occupations within the energy industry.

Gordon Cook optimizes cell phone coverage for Verizon
Gordon Cook is a network performance director in the Alpharetta, GA office of the wireless business unit of Verizon Communications (New York, NY). His team strategically places cell towers to optimize Verizon’s wireless network. He’s been with Verizon since 1994.

“I started working for Verizon after working on an assignment in Portugal as a contractor for a predecessor company. I moved to Atlanta out of the international division and into the domestic side of the house in 1998.”

Cook graduated from Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH) in 1982 with a BS in earth sciences. He joined the Alaska Army National Guard in 1983, “to help pay off my enormous college tuition loans.” He trained as airborne infantry and later as a radio operator, and joined a reserve Special Forces Unit out of Ft. Lewis, WA. He received additional Special Forces training at Ft. Bragg, NC in 1988-89, and became a Special Forces medic. His enlistment ended in 1992, but he was called back to active duty in September 2001, and spent two tours as a medic in Afghanistan. While serving in Sangin, Afghanistan in May 2006, he was wounded in the right wrist and left thigh. He retired as a staff sergeant, and by September 2007 he was back at Verizon.

“Verizon is an amazing company to work for and they treat their veterans right. Our military employees who deploy in support of the Global War on Terrorism receive up to thirty-six months equalization pay, as well as continuation benefits. This really helped my family when I was overseas,” he attests.

Ranked tenth on Military Times EDGE magazine’s Best for Vets 2012 list, Verizon was also named for the second consecutive year to the CivilianJobs.com Most Valuable Employers for Military list. Verizon employs nearly 12,000 veterans and hired approximately 550 last year.

Verizon chief talent and diversity officer Magda Yrizarry says, “With their superb training, mission-driven focus, discipline and experience in supporting our country, our veterans contribute their skills across the entire spectrum of jobs in our company.”

Army veteran Charles Hughes provides national IT support for Walgreens
Based in Bannockburn, IL, field services director Charles D. Hughes has worked for Walgreens (Deerfield, IL) since July 2012. Providing onsite and remote IT maintenance and installation support for Walgreens stores nationwide, Hughes relies on his organizational development skills to promote critical thinking and analytical skills in his team members.

“I enjoy helping the field teams grow and improve while they deliver outstanding service to the stores, and getting out in the field with the team and our customers,” he says.

Hughes notes that three of his children have served in the military, “including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea.” Hughes himself joined the U.S. Army in 1986, where he attended several training programs in leadership and other skills. He separated in 1999 as a first sergeant. He received an AA in computer science from the University of Maryland-College Park, and a BA in business from Baker College (Flint, MI) in 2006. He also received an MBA in 2008 from the Baker College Center for Graduate Studies. He credits the military, however, with outstanding leadership training.

“If you treat people with respect and set the example, you can motivate them to do unbelievable things you could never force them to do. Whether you are leading a team of soldiers on a fire-support mission or a team of field techs deploying a new system, the principles are the same.”

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