In our Q&A styled blog, we had the pleasure of interviewing two of our veteran employees, Conor and Maria. We sat down with them both to discuss how their military experience has helped shape their careers and how Disaster Tech, a company at the forefront of disaster technology, can benefit veterans. Conor, a former Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy, and Maria, a retired US Army Logistics Officer, bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to their roles at Disaster Tech. Their leadership, problem-solving abilities, and dedication to teamwork have been instrumental in driving the company's success. Join us as we delve into their experiences and discover the valuable contributions veterans can make in the field of disaster technology.
1. Can you briefly describe your military service and the roles or responsibilities you held while serving?
Conor: I was a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy. As a junior officer and SWO, I helped many different positions on, but my main responsibility was to learn, lead, and operate US Navy warships.
Maria: I am a Retired US Army Logistics Officer with 30 years of service. I held leadership positions from Platoon Leader to Brigade Commander, and key staff positions, such as G3 (operations), J4 (joint logistics), Director of Congressional & Public Affairs, and Assistant Executive Officer to a 4-Star General.
2. How did your military experience prepare you for your current role at Disaster Tech?
Conor: My experience in the Navy not only laid the groundwork for my leadership and management skills, but it also taught me a lot about being innovative and scrappy to solve problems and get sh** done, which comes in handy at Disaster Tech.
Maria: My experience provided the foundation for clear and concise communication, the requirement to be goal-oriented, the training to be agile, the discipline to expect high standards, and the skills to build and lead teams.
3. Are there specific skills or qualities you developed in the military that you find particularly valuable in your current position?
Conor: Being able to navigate difficult situations, relate to and work well with people from all walks of life, and a strong sense of servant leadership.
Maria: The ability to assess an issue, identify critical/relevant aspects of the issues (vulnerabilities, risks, and required resources), and provide viable solutions, and lastly, the ability to communicate effectively (written, verbal).
4. In what ways has your military experience influenced your approach to problem-solving and decision-making at Disaster Tech?
Conor: My time in the Navy taught me how to be extremely resourceful and come up with creative solutions to hard problems, often exasperated by government bureaucracy, which comes in handy at Disaster Tech and helping our clients and team navigate similar issues.
Maria: My experience taught me to be and act with: purpose - every action needs to be effective and efficient; understanding risk - my actions must consider 2nd and 3rd order effects; knowing of my role - knowing when to lead and when to follow; and being a productive team member - be accessible and helpful to the best of my capabilities.
5. Have you been involved in any projects or initiatives at our company where your military background has been especially beneficial? Can you provide some examples?
Conor: We have worked very closely with the US Army and the US Navy, so my experience working for both services while on Active Duty has been very valuable (I was augmented to the US Army in Iraq for a year - my time in the NARMY, as I like to call it). Just being able to speak and understand the same language and being able to help "translate" and fill in context for our engineering and other non-military/veteran teammates is instrumental in keeping projects moving along efficiently.
Maria: The purpose of our Army efforts and its application to installation mission assurance, at Disaster Tech, directly aligns with my military experience. As a former Garrison Commander, I recognize the capabilities of our Army efforts are what military leaders require, but currently do not have in place.
6. How do you think your military service has contributed to Disaster Tech's overall success or productivity?
Conor: For me and the other veterans on our team, it's important for us because we are helping solve some of the same problems we dealt with while we were in uniform. We have felt the "pain", as they say, and so are in a unique position to be able to help drive our development to solve those pain points.
Maria: Military service and culture have unequivocally contributed to Disaster Tech's successes for a few reasons: 1. Mission completion - understanding Disaster Tech leadership's intent and contributing to accomplishing the mission with my skills, knowledge, and expertise. 2. Teamwork - teamwork is essential in mission accomplishment. It involves collaboration, utilizing available resources (all personnel skills and talents), communication (vertical, horizontal, and continuous), and being a committed member of a group.
7. Are there any leadership lessons or principles from your military service that you've applied in your current role?
Conor: I apply them every day, particularly being able to zoom in and out from the strategic big picture view of "why" down to the tactical level of "how". But none more important than the cornerstone principle that our people are the backbone and heart of our organization. Take care of your people and they will take care of the mission.
Maria: Leadership principles in the military mirror that which are applied in the civilian work environment - visionary/strategic thinking, empowerment, adaptability, communication, and self-awareness. I try to apply these principles in all that I have been involved.
8. Have you encountered any challenges in transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce, and if so, how did you overcome them?
Conor: I transitioned many years ago, and I encountered almost all of the typical challenges, like how do I translate my military skills into business skills. There is no magic sauce. You just need to get out there, do your best, learn, and keep doing the right thing. The good news is there are a lot more resources to help transitioning members now, use them! Do your research! Get your hands dirty and don't be afraid of "looking stupid". If you drop your ego and enter the civilian workforce with a Rookie Mindset ready to learn and contribute, you will be able to quickly apply your military experience in a valuable way.
Maria: There are a variety of challenges in transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce: 1. Mindset intensity: each service member's role and contribution to the military (small or large mission) is accompanied by the fact that "lives are at stake" - the risks are high. I had to learn not to take things so seriously and that there are some things we cannot control. 2. Meetings: accustomed to a more structured conduct of meetings and video conferencing. I had to learn to adapt to meeting virtually and to instinctively capture actionable tasks where I can assist.
9. Can you share specific instances where your military background has directly contributed to the improvement of our products or services?
Conor: My experience as a Training and Exercise Officer has been extremely valuable as we developed our exercise workspace software. As I stated to some of our colleagues, this software is everything I wish I had when I was an ATFP Training Officer. I can tap into my training and exercise experience in both the Navy and FEMA to help the development team improve our software to save current training and exercise professionals save countless hours and frustrations that I once experienced.
Maria: I have direct experience working with military senior leaders during the last 10 years of my military service. This has helped me in providing recommendations to Disaster Tech's leadership with engagements and relevant products for decision makers at the strategic levels.
10. What advice would you give to other veterans who are considering a career in our company or a similar industry?
Conor: Go for it! When you find a mission driven company, like Disaster Tech, you can apply both hard and soft skills from your experience which a great feeling and a huge value add to the company and your team. There is no better feeling in that transition time than when you can tap directly into your military expertise to drive real business results.
Maria: Disaster Tech is a very welcoming and mission-focused company. The level of technical expertise is unmatched and, although it's a small company, the quality of the people (good natured, helpful) coupled with competency are what make it a safe environment in which to transition.
11. How can Disaster Tech better leverage the skills and experiences of veterans like yourself to further enhance our products and services?
Conor: We do a pretty good job of that every day. We not only hire veterans and practitioners, we have brought on other military experts as 1099 employees to help inform our software, projects, and provide Subject Matter Expertise as we work with our Defense clients.
Maria: Disaster Tech can continue to leverage the informal and formal relationships of each veteran to promote their mission. Secondly, Disaster Tech can actively utilize these veterans in targeted symposiums and training venues - let them be Disaster Tech's outreach team.
12. Do you think there are any specific areas where Disaster Tech could benefit from more actively recruiting or supporting veterans in their transition to civilian careers?
Conor: Disaster Tech can acquire some Skillbridge interns. DoD Skillbridge is a program that helps transitioning service members partner with companies and organizations to work on real industry projects while they are still on active duty. It is a great program for service members and the organizations they partner with. I would love for Disaster Tech to be able to be more involved with Skillbridge... as a matter of fact, as Chief of Staff, that will be one of my priorities for 2024!
Maria: Disaster Tech can be an integral part of the Army Transition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP is a program that transitioning Soldiers MUST attend prior to separation/retirement from the Army. Potential employers are asked to talk about their company and employment opportunities, on occasion, company leadership share their transitioning experiences and how lessons learned during the transition process apply to how their company operates.
13. In your opinion, what unique perspectives do veterans bring to the workplace that can benefit Disaster Tech and its product, PRATUS?
Conor: As for the product, all veterans have experienced exercises, so they all can contribute their unique perspective to PRATUS from an exercise management perspective. They also have extensive experience with incident management, common operating pictures, task management, reporting, continuity, and resilience. All of these things are ingrained in the military culture, so they can help our team build those nuances into better software solution. But more holistically, our company and software are mission focused, and no one knows mission better than our veterans. Bringing that passion to Disaster Tech will always be value add.
Maria: Veterans bring a variety of perspectives including: 1. Military service members are taught risk management and risk mitigation skills: Embedded in the military problem solving process, risk is an aspect we ALWAYS consider and is an aspect that is vital to our company's mission set. 2. Requirement to understand the problem and to provide solutions - veterans' daily experiences, training exercises, deployments, and varied cultural exposure (by way of service member backgrounds and/or deployments enable them to see things from several and different perspectives. This is helpful in finding innovative solutions.
14. How does Disaster Tech show its appreciation and support for employees with military backgrounds?
Conor: I think our company, staff, and leadership do this every day just in how we operate. We show our appreciation not only by recognizing our veterans whenever appropriate, but also in how we highlight their contributions to the work we are doing with our defense clients every day.
Maria: Disaster Tech shows its appreciation and support through trust. All employees (individual to leadership) demonstrate trust on the capabilities of veteran employees. There is an atmosphere of autonomy and flexibility in work products; no micro-management! Secondly, Disaster Tech pleased emphasis on "who" will benefit from our work, there is always mention of service members, their families, and agencies who support the military in everything we do.
The Q&A with Conor and Maria has shed light on the valuable contributions that military veterans bring to the field of disaster technology. From their roles in the Navy and Army to their current positions at Disaster Tech, Conor and Maria have demonstrated the unique perspectives and qualities that veterans can offer in shaping disaster technology. Their experiences have directly contributed to the improvement of products and services, and their military background has been leveraged to enhance the overall mission of Disaster Tech. As this Q&A has highlighted, veterans bring a wealth of knowledge and skills that can greatly benefit companies like Disaster Tech.
To learn more about our exercise management workspace, visit www.disastertech.com/pratus.
About Disaster Tech
Disaster Tech, a veteran-owned public benefit company, offers decision science technologies for situational awareness, intelligence, and crisis management. We provide practitioner-driven, crisis management software for smarter decision making in preparedness and response to ultimately save lives and protect the environment. To learn more, visit www.disastertech.com.
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