The U.S. celebrates Veterans Day each year, and in honor of those who have served, Sapient will be highlighting our own military veterans during the month of November. We will be sharing their stories and insights on how they successfully navigated the switch to the private sector and their advice for those looking to do the same.
When I speak to veterans I can’t help feel the pride when they speak of service to their country. Being raised in a military family, I was always taught to say thank you to veterans, even when passing them on the street. Even in these simple exchanges, you could feel the pride of the man or woman of having served. I recently spoke with Cooper Steele who is a veteran and SapientNitro employee and learned this pride can even be felt over the phone; that’s how strong a commitment veterans have to serving the United States and its citizens.
In addition to having possibly one of the best names ever, Cooper served in the military for twelve plus years, starting at the young age of seventeen. After a few years of serving in the Marine Corps, Cooper transitioned to the Air Force, feeling that that branch of the military most closely echoed his commitment to great work and supporting good ideas regardless of where they came from. He described the Air Force as a very collaborative organization and mentioned that the culture is very similar to what he experiences at SapientNitro.
I asked Cooper to elaborate on that, as in my mind private sector jobs are the furthest thing from serving in the military, but he explained how working in the military prepared him for a job outside the government. Sometimes at your job, you’re assigned a task that you may not be excited to do. “You can’t expect everything to be rainbows and butterflies,” he laughed. “But you can take those assignments and do the best you can to prove you are ready for the next challenge, and the next challenge, and eventually you’ll get to be put on a task more aligned to what you want to do.”
Having worked with veterans, I know they are great employees, and I asked Cooper why that is, he gave me two reasons. The first was problem-solving skills – often times in the military you’re given minimal information and you have to figure out the best way to accomplish the given task. Military service men and women are taught to use internal motivation to figure things out and accomplish the “mission.” The second was the ability to learn rapidly – in the private sector, job titles are similar but actual jobs can be vastly different. In the military your job and job title change quickly and you need the ability to learn and get going quickly so nothing is dropped during transitions.
Cooper offered great advice to members of the military looking to transition to the private sector too: “Figure out how to demilitarize your resume, make your resume speak to the requirements of a civilian job.” He explained that veterans need to highlight their skills, not just their direct technical knowledge. “Just because you were an aircraft mechanic doesn’t mean that’s all you know how to do,” he mentioned. “Odds are you can also problem solve, work quickly under stress and are a great team leader.” Cooper also encouraged current military personnel to reach out to veterans for advice, ask them about working in civilian companies, and inquire as to what those companies see as assets in employees and how to highlight them in a resume.
I mentioned earlier Cooper has “twelve plus” years of service. That number will continue to grow, since in addition to being a part of SapientNitro’s Learning and Development Team, Cooper still serves in the military reserves. He explained it was something he wanted to do, citing his love for his country and need to serve. When asked if this was a challenge given his life outside the military, Cooper clarified that it was anything but; the leaders at SapientNitro support the needs and demands of his continued service, and also view it as an asset, because they know it will continue to help him grow as an employee and an individual.
Cooper’s service in the military is not only a sacrifice I admire, but has brought him encouragement, commitment and knowledge as a SapientNitro employee. He had great advice for veterans and anyone seeking a job or looking to improve in his/her existing job, and he was a fun and uplifting guy to talk to.
To Captain Cooper Steele and all United States military veterans, I sincerely thank you for your service.