Congratulations to veterans working at Irish Chamber Corporate Member companies named to the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2018 Veterans of Influence Awards. Click HERE to read more and view photos.
Michael Brown, Villanova University
Michael Brown is director of the Office of Veterans and Military Service Members at Villanova University. Brown was invited by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr. to participate in the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee’s roundtable discussion in February 2018, where he advocated strongly for increased education assistance to veterans.
Branch of service & highest rank achieved: Army, E-5
What was your proudest moment during your years of service?Deploying and serving alongside the best unit I was ever a part of. We did our job, accomplished our mission, and grew as a group.
How did you choose your post-military career? When I was deployed, a U.S. senator came to our base from my home state of Michigan. Our platoon sergeant asked if anyone wanted to speak with them, and I was one of three people who raised my hand. I wanted to get away for a minute, and this was a good excuse. He really opened my eyes to foreign policy, reasons for interventions, and sparked my interest in politics. I began my career after the military working for the first Iraq War veteran elected to congress, and it was a meaningful experience, and shaped the rest of my professional career.
How do you use your military experience/skills in your business? I think my military experience has helped create the person I am today. I use the skills I learned in my leadership style, in my attention to detail, and in my work ethic. Before the military I knew nothing of discipline, but now it is part of who I am as a person.
What qualities make veterans great job candidates? Our work ethic, our commitment to service, our ability to work well with others, and our discipline make us great candidates, but more importantly, great assets for the community and company.
Would you advise young people to consider the military? Yes, I think it can be a great springboard for future success, for learning the importance of service, and for developing the skills that I talked about in the previous questions.
Your advice to recently discharged veterans? Find some mentors, be a professional asker of questions, pursue your passions, and find your niche. Also, of great importance, is make sure you fully transition to civilian life, meaning, don’t expect the civilian job sector to change, you need to be able to adapt, overcome and be flexible in order to be successful out here. Did I say find a good mentor? For me, that was and still is the single most important thing that helped me become the person I am today professionally.
Laura Lee, Comcast Corp.
Laura Lee is vice president of operations transformation, at Comcast Business. Previously, she held executive positions with Wells Fargo and General Electric. A graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Lee served in the Army Corps of Engineers, where she – among other duties – provided technical assistance, personnel, and equipment to construct, rehabilitate and maintain pipeline systems and civil engineering construction projects.
Branch of service & highest rank achieved: U.S .Army Corps of Engineers, 1st Lieutenant (Three years active duty)
What was your proudest moment during your years of service? My most memorable moments were when my soldiers got promoted. It was incredible to see the joy and pride on their faces when they moved up in rank. They also knew that with the promotions came more responsibility for the others around them. I was also extremely proud of leading the training for one of the first gender integrated basic training units at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. This was vital in ensuring our male and female soldiers trained together like they’d work and fight together in their regular Army units.
How did you choose your post-military career? I searched for roles in organizations where I could not only leverage my leadership and engineering skills, but also sought organizations that valued military veterans. Ultimately, my entire career has been anchored on three things: identify problems, address the problems and the professional development of my team members.
How do you use your military experience/skills in your business? While I was in the Army, I took initiative, didn’t fear change, remained calm in high-stress situations, always assumed ownership and got the job done. I’ve been able to leverage this experience throughout my civilian career; it’s enabled me to lead organizations through significant changes and drive successful outcomes.
Would you advise young people to consider the military? Becoming a U.S. military service member is about serving your country and making a difference to protect our country’s freedoms. It is a decision and a commitment that should not be taken lightly. Joining the military changes your life; it becomes part of who you are forever. You form lifetime relationships with your fellow soldiers, learn about self-reliance and also get trained on skills you never thought you could accomplish. Being in the military was extremely rewarding, but difficult. The hours are long, the days away from family are difficult and the environment is very structured.
Your advice to recently discharged veterans? If you haven’t gone to college yet, take advantage of the GI Bill. I’d also advise discharged veterans to develop a career plan, work with a coach to create a résumé that translates your military experience into civilian terms, and network, network, network.
Sean C. Sanders, Independence Blue Cross
Sean Sanders is the veteran liaison for the IVets, an associate resource group for Independence Blue Cross that supports the company’s goal to recruit and retain veterans and provide them with a forum for networking, camaraderie and service. He is the spokesman for external engagements in the community, and he is responsible for ensuring that Independence Blue Cross vets maintain a connection with the veteran community. Sanders became involved with the Wounded Warrior Project when his military career was cut short by a severe leg injury.
Branch of service & highest rank achieved: U.S. Army, First Sergeant
What was your proudest moment during your years of service? When me and my Civil Affairs Team help build an all-girls primary school in a small town in Iraq. Prior to us coming to town the adults didn’t put any importance on girls getting an education.
Most memorable place you were stationed and what makes it stand out? The memorable place was during my first tour in Iraq. I was stationed in one of Saddam’s palaces in Al Hillah Iraq. The palace was on the ancient grounds of the city of Babylon.
How did you choose your post military career? My plan once I retired from the Army was to work for USAID or the State Department, but the government was going through sequestration so there was a freeze on all government hiring. So I moved back to the Philadelphia area and started job hunting. I was fortunate because Independence Blue Cross has an associate resource group for veterans which conducts a veteran only recruiting event twice a year.
What qualities make veterans great job candidates? Veterans live by a set of value and norms. Veterans take accountability of their actions. Veterans are trained leaders. Veterans are excellent in planning and executing missions, so they are naturally goal-oriented. Veterans are decisive decision-makers.
Would you advise young people to consider the military? Yes, I would because I believe every citizen should serve their country in some capacity of public service. I learned more about leadership in my first four years in the Army than I did my four years in college.
Your advice to recently discharged veterans? Register with the Veterans Administration and VA hospital in your area regardless if you’re disabled or not. There are bunch of benefits available to veterans that you might not be aware of. Work with a Veteran Service Organization to help you transition your military skill and assignment into a civilian or government résumé.
Tom Karinshak, Comcast Corp.
Tom Karinshak is executive vice president of customer service for Comcast Cable, where he oversees all call center operations including phone, chat and social media agents. He was part of the customer experience team created in 2015 to lead a multiyear plan to reinvent Comcast’s customer service culture. Before joining Comcast, he was customer experience director for Barclays Bank of Delaware. Karinshak was a Combat Engineer Captain in the U.S. Army for six years.
Branch of service & highest rank achieved: U.S. Army, Captain.
What was your proudest moment during your years of service? There are so many. The work we did, the people we helped, the units I was a part of, and the leaders I was able to learn from were all proud moments. For me, it was very special to be able to serve my country, and to also join a heritage of service that is part of our family. There is a strong history of public service in my family, which includes not only service in the various military branches, but also in different law enforcement agencies.
How did you choose your post-military career? I really focused on great companies that I also knew fully supported veterans, and that would value the skills that veterans bring. Ones that I could see a career path and a long-term future with. Fortunately, I’ve been able to work for some amazing companies.
How do you use your military experience/skills in your business? The military is a great place to learn or enhance many skills that are crucial for business. From problem-solving techniques, to leadership, to a laser focus on mission accomplishment, to teamwork, you are given the opportunity to hone these skills in the Army and they get used every day in my work.
What qualities make veterans great job candidates? In addition to strong leadership skills, veterans generally have the capacity for rigorous training, are very committed, cool under pressure, have a knack for problem solving, display clarity of thought when making decisions, and they know how to be an integral part of a results- and achievement-oriented team.
Would you advise young people to consider the military? Yes. The military is still a place that offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to both serve your country and grow as an individual every day. The investment the military makes in you and the investment you make in yourself while serving and seeing the wide world we live in is invaluable, and prepares you to be successful at whatever you choose to pursue post-military.
Your advice to recently discharged veterans? Any transition can be scary, but the skills you bring from the military are valuable, impactful, and in demand. Smart companies know that and will support you, so seek out companies that recognize that. Any company that doesn’t offer that support is missing out on great talent that will have a positive impact on their business.
Patrick Fisher, Wells Fargo
Patrick Fisher leads Wells Fargo’s business banking team in Greater Philadelphia, where he supervises a team of 13 bankers who call on companies that gross between $5 million and $20 million. As a major contributor to the Twilight Make-A-Wish Foundation, Fisher – on his own – made it possible for a Korean War veteran to make one last trip to a reunion of the “Chosin Few” – a gathering of veterans who fought in the battle of the Chosin River.
Branch of service & highest rank achieved: U.S. Marine Corps, E-4 Corporal
What was your proudest moment during your years of service? My proudest moment is simply being a part of something larger than just myself. Being a Marine taught me selflessness. With so much of today’s society being about self-promotion through various outlets. I am most proud of my time being a part of an elite team that comes together to handle the toughest of situations putting other’s lives before their very own.
Tell us about the most memorable place you were stationed and what makes it stand out. Okinawa, Japan. What made it stand out was learning about a culture so very different than ours. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. At the time I was a young man learning so much about myself and what kind of man I was going to become. It left a great impression on me. The Japanese culture stresses family, loyalty and respect. The culture was very welcoming and genuinely kind. It helped build my foundation of how I treat people and raise my family.
How did you choose your post military career? I consider myself very fortunate to stumble upon commercial banking. I went to school to learn about business and finance. I went to a job fair at a bank that I saw in the newspaper and the rest is history.
What qualities make veterans great job candidates? They are loyal, hardworking and focus on solving the problem rather than dwelling on the problem. The ability to adapt and overcome is one of the best qualities veterans can bring to the work force.
Would you advise young people to consider the military? Yes, I would. It gives a great base and perspective on life. It pushes you in ways that our normal course of life won’t. The lifelong relationships and lessons learned I believe would benefit most people for their entire life.
Your advice to recently discharged veterans? Be proud of what you accomplished and the title you earned. Secondly reach out to veterans for help. Our network truly takes care of their own. This will help you with job placement and the adjustment during the tough transition from active duty to becoming a civilian again. Most companies have a veterans group. Try and track down the contacts in that group to broaden your network.