Adapt and Overcome
I have very fond memories of being underway conducting counter illicit narcotics operations off the coast of South America as a young sailor in the world’s finest Navy. The ocean spray dancing across my forehead as our 220-foot frigate reached 25 knotts. We crashed through rolling waves as we chased down the drug running “go-fasts.” My adrenaline pumping through my body, eager to detain another drug running vessel and their crew. That is one of many memories and feelings I will never forget, we (veterans) all have ‘em. It was all about the mission – we were all programmed to execute the mission in some capacity. I was never a “lifer,” but I did enjoy what I did, I enjoyed the adventure, I enjoyed my purpose, and I enjoyed the relationships I formed with my brothers and sisters who served with me. I knew it was going to be a tough decision to not re-enlist but I wanted to tackle a new challenge after serving my enlistment. I had my sights set on a degree and job that allowed me to sleep in my bed every night. My EAOS arrived and just like that I was a civilian again, but so much of the military was still with me, ingrained in me, and I was proud of that.
After completing an undergraduate degree at Texas Christian University, I met my first civilian challenge; who needs a gunnersmate/rescue swimmer? I’ve got 4 years experience doing some really cool $h!t! Follows directions well, a self-starter, attention to detail oriented, and outcomes driven, those people have to be in high demand right? I got this shiny new degree and I am ready to WORK and make some money! A few months after sending 3 resumes per day to every industry under the sun, a close veteran friend of mine helped my resume reach the desk of David Gregorio at MedSynergies, Inc. Little did I know at the time, this would be the start of a new life for me, a life that I would be proud of after serving my country and passing on the watch. I had a thousand questions about starting a new job in the corporate world, I mean this was like heading off to boot camp in a sense!
After an interview, Dave took a vote of confidence in me and offered me a shot, a young military veteran with zero corporate experience, just a good attitude and a thirst for success and purpose – somehow, he was able to see my military skills translated into the corporate world before I was able to. I didn’t need all that corporate jargon and experience in his eyes, he understood why I called my “colleagues” shipmates, and he spoke to me like we had served together for years, with respect for who I was. When I was offered a position with MedSynergies to attend his healthcare academy program, I could not have been more excited. I didn’t know a lick about business and had minimal knowledge about healthcare, but I knew I was determined to learn everything I could and employ my military disciplines and routines to a new challenge. I was in a class with about 15 people, most of which were veterans or military affiliated. I felt proud to be part of a program where I could interact and grow with these people whom I had a lot in common with, something that can be tough to find in the civilian sector. I felt like I had been given orders to a great command. Dave invested his time and energy into training us, molding us into healthcare professionals, and guiding us into the correct roles that complimented our strengths and helped build upon our weaknesses. I want to share some of my experiences and how I was able to adapt some of the military disciplines that were engrained in my brain. Adapt and overcome, my chief used to say it daily during morning muster – adapt and overcome was the mission again and I was ready.
Emails, calendar invites, and meetings – holy crap when do these people actually get to work on something?! The first thing I had to adapt and overcome was a never-ending supply of emails, complicated calendar coordination and more meetings than I knew what to do with. Have a question? Book a meeting. Need some feedback? Put something on the calendar. Need a decision? I’ll meet with some other folks and find out, then we can book a meeting to discuss. Man, learning to navigate the “daily routine” was tough. On my ship, when I needed to talk with IT I just went up to the radio room and knocked on the door. When I needed a piece of gear safety checked, I went to central engineering and grabbed an electrician. The corporate world was emails, calendar invites, and meetings – a new daily routine. It’s not so bad! I learned to adapt quickly in boot camp, I got this! Although my day looked nothing like I had ever experienced before, learning a new way of doing things was nothing new to me. I learned to like it, then love it, then attempt to master it – a technique I had employed while out to sea. I didn’t wake up one day and desire being out to sea for 6 months, but I learned to like it, then I loved it, then all I thought about was mastering it. That attitude took me far in the military, and it serves well in the corporate world too – hang on to that military-grind mentality.
Success, what does it look like in the corporate world? I struggled with this one. In the navy, I knew exactly how to feed my hunger for success. Get quals, put out excellent work, and stay in shape. On my ship, many watch standing positions or important shipboard functions required a “qual” in order for you to do it. For example, driving the ship was a qual, investigating a potential shipboard fire or flood was a qual, and becoming a shipboard rescue swimmer was a qual. Where were all the corporate quals? I need someone to show me the list of quals I can get at this job so I can get started. But, no list existed. The second thing I had to adapt and overcome was the definition of success. There are generally no ribbons or “chest candy” worn in the corporate world, strangers don’t know your rank, and the advancement structure/timeline can be very ambiguous. Success no longer took the form of rank or who’s list of quals was longer, but it was more about doing your job well and becoming the subject matter expert in your field. You no longer need to worry about driving the ship because that is someone else’s job. You shouldn’t anticipate checking out any potential safety issues at your office like fire or flooding, someone else has that job and is the subject matter expert in how to investigate and solve those issues. I had to redefine what success looked like to me, I had to redirect my energy to achieve what the overall mission was, not having a hand in everything. My mission was to learn everything in my area of responsibility, know it like the back of my hand, and do it quickly – roger that. I applied a work ethic that I learned in the military and it has seemed to serve me very well. My chief used to say, “a stress-free chief is a happy chief, and a happy chief equals a good day at sea.” He was a very influential figure in my military career, and he taught me that I needed to learn to plan ahead and think like the layer of management up. What are they thinking about? What is keeping them up at night? Success became about being a master of my craft and keeping my eye on the larger picture/mission. If I could see and solve an issue before my boss had to worry about it, I knew I was achieving success – a stress free boss has had the same outcome as a stress free chief, I tend to have a pretty good day when the boss isn’t stressed. Adapting to a new definition of success has been a challenge, but like many other things in life, my military experience prepared me to remain versatile and execute the mission.
The last experience I will share is with regards to the work environment in the corporate setting. When I was bar tending in college I used to tell people who would apologize for offending me by cussing or telling a vulgar joke, “you can’t offend me, I was in the military.” In the military, you hear it all and often. I had to change this approach and change it quick. I had to adapt to an environment that didn’t tolerate that. I had to adapt to a new responsibility, I mean this company had a whole department that was in charge of keeping some of that behavior that I may consider normal to an absolute minimum. Human resources, if they would have ever walked onto my ship they would have screamed in disbelief at the mountain you would have to climb. Learning a new way of communicating was a challenge, but just like my earlier experiences, I had been prepared throughout my military career to adapt and overcome. Anytime I would talk with our executive officer (XO), commanding officer (CO), or any officer for that matter, I knew I had to clean up my language and remain very professional. I had to pretend I was in the company of a bunch of XO’s and CO’s! In the corporate world, people choose to work where they work, they often aren’t obligated by a service contract like in the military. It’s very important that the environment remains professional so people desire to stay and work, keeping that at the forefront helped me overcome the “military” way of doing things.
Those cherished memories and momentary flashbacks of cruising full speed ahead in the South Pacific still creep up in my head every so-often. I welcome them to drop in and visit anytime but I always come to the realization that I have changed, just as I did upon entering boot camp. I have learned, I have grown, I have transitioned, I am now a healthcare professional in the civilian sector. I have a new mission that is focused on our patients, on our healthcare providers, and on our healthcare systems. I owe endless thanks to Dave Gregorio for assisting me in my transition from a newly separated sailor to a successful healthcare professional. Dave has an amazing quality, and if you have ever met Dave you’ll know exactly what I am talking about, his genuine and relentless dedication to our mantra – no man/woman gets left behind. Dave would do everything in his power to help each and every veteran transition successfully to an industry that needs us. We have protected our country from foreign nations and we are perfect candidates to transition into protecting our communities – all it takes is a little help and guidance. As veterans, we occasionally receive thanks for our service – Dave, thank you very much for your service to our veterans.