Adam Smith had military experiences similar to many transitioning JMOs participating in the Alliance Careers program. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Middle Eastern Studies in 2000. Upon graduation he was commissioned into the U.S Army, serving as an Armor officer for just over 6 years. After multiple deployments and gaining an assortment of leadership skills, he decided it was time to focus more on his family and accomplishing his personal career goals outside of the military. This decision didn’t come without challenges, however. “The biggest challenge was not knowing where to start. As a junior officer you get postcards in the mail from companies about jobs, and you talk to peers about their experiences; it can be a pretty daunting process. I think it is important to find the right fit for a JMO recruiter before you can focus on your career transition.”
Looking for a quality recruiter proved to be more difficult than Adam initially expected. After conducting some research, he decided to attend a hiring conference with Alliance Careers. He was pleased that the Alliance team made an effort to spend a substantial amount of time with every candidate before placing them in front of companies, and that they provided quality interview and resume prep. To keep his options open, Adam discussed other hiring firms with friends; what he discovered surprised him. “It was clear Alliance had better prepared candidates. I had friends who went through [another hiring firm] and they explained all the difficulties they had while working with other companies. I ended up not even pursuing one company because of the hurdles candidates had to jump through just to get a job.” Adam did decide to go to [another company’s hiring conference, and he found Alliance’s approach to be of higher caliber. “There was a tremendous difference in the preparation Alliance put in compared to [the other hiring firm].” He went on to say, “Another thing that drew me to Alliance was the fact that your company pays for the candidate’s flight and hotel room for a conference. Candidates may not have a lot of disposable income before their military transitions. [Alliance] paying for our hotel room and flight shows that you are willing to make an investment in us as well.” In the end, due to his positive experience with the Alliance team, Adam decided to discontinue any relationship with other hiring firms and dedicated himself fully to the Alliance program.
After attending Alliance’s hiring conference in 2006, Adam was offered a job with Kinder Morgan Terminals. He began his corporate career as a Terminal Manager in Louisiana, managing the daily operations of a bulk liquid storage terminal and three pipelines. Early on, he found that the basic leadership skills he learned in the military helped him to be successful in his career. “I recognized that I had to put forth the effort in order to be successful. The military taught me about hard work and that I had to rely on the people who were there longer, even if I outranked them, because they knew more and could provide insight.” By using these skills, Adam was able to progress within the company in only one year and seven months of employment. When asked what he felt was different about his career progression with Kinder Morgan he said, “I progressed within Kinder Morgan pretty rapidly. Part of that was timing.” He went on to describe why he felt he progressed so quickly”. I moved to New Orleans at a time when no one really wanted to live there. I never said no. If that meant I had to drive 3 hours a day to work and solve a problem then that is what I did. I think from a performance standpoint, that is what set me apart from my peers.” Clearly this strategy worked, and it shows. In 9 and a half years, Adam has held four positions with increasing responsibility, and now presides as the youngest Vice President within the company. When describing his trail of success within his career he said, “My biggest contribution has been putting processes in place at different facilities to make the organization better, for the business and for our shareholders.”
With increasing responsibility over the years, Adam has had the opportunity to hire a number of junior military officers for Kinder Morgan. In this experience, he has gained a great amount of insight into the characteristics that separate the successful and unsuccessful candidates within the company. “The number one thing that I have seen that leads to success is initiative. JMOs that come in willing to learn, have a desire to learn, and seek out opportunities are the ones that are successful. These candidates seek out problems and offer solutions. They aren’t worried about earning a title or promotion in a certain amount of time.” He then went on to describe the characteristics of unsuccessful candidates. “Candidates who look for a title within six to nine months, rather than working to learn about the position, are the least successful. There is no clearly defined path and they need to be comfortable with that. The folks that aren’t successful expect for things to be given to them because of where they have been. You have to remember that nobody owes you anything, you have to earn it. No one is going to hand you anything in the corporate world.”
Adam is now working toward completing his tenth year within Kinder Morgan Terminals. Upon asking what excites him most about his line of work, he simply replied, “The thing that gets me out of bed every day is the people I work with. What I liked most about the military is the team around me and the people I worked with every day. At Kinder Morgan, we ask a lot of our people and we have a lot of demands. Even with all of those demands, everyone gives quality work.” Overall, he feels deciding to pursue his military transition with Alliance helped guide him toward a career of which he can be proud. In the end, Adam has proven that skills gained from leadership in the military, hard work, dedication, and perseverance can all lead to success within Corporate America.
Kacey Kemmerer, a United States Naval Academy graduate, was commissioned in 2004. He served as a naval officer for nearly 8 years before separating in 2012. Deciding to separate proved to be a very personal decision for Kacey. When speaking of his decision, he stated, “At the time I had 2 children that were pretty young…I felt like I accomplished what I wanted to do in my military career, and I was ready to make a move. For me, it was a decision for my family and what I wanted to do with my future.” Moving forward, Kacey decided he wanted to transition into Corporate America but felt overwhelmed by the endless possibilities. He wasn’t sure what was out there or what he could pursue for a career. In his words, he didn’t know what he didn’t know.
To gain more insight, Kacey began searching the internet for a variety of resources. He also spoke with friends who had previously transitioned out of the military and found many used hiring firms. After listening to his friends’ experiences, he could tell Alliance Careers was the company he would choose. “All of my friends who went through Alliance had positive things to say, even if they didn’t get a job right away. For that reason, it was easy to go through Alliance instead of somewhere else. There was a clear difference between the experiences Alliance candidates had compared to those who went with other companies. Once I met with Alliance and understood how I would be prepared for the interview process, I saw that as a clear differentiator. I felt like I would be able to walk in anywhere and be successful.” Due to this, Kacey pressed forward with Alliance and didn’t look back.
Alliance’s coursework proved to be more beneficial than Kacey initially anticipated. Upon learning about each corporate career field, Kacey was able to find his true calling: corporate sales. “When looking at all of the career fields, it wasn’t something I was initially interested in. When John taught me about corporate sales, I realized it was the perfect fit for me. I thought it was awesome to consistently compete against others and manage my own day…. I never would have picked sales if it wasn’t for Alliance showing me what sales really was.” Kacey then took his new passion and understanding for Corporate America into his first Alliance conference experience. Due to his heightened confidence and newly gained skill set, Kacey was able to come out of the interview process with a position at Empirix, a software company providing contact center and customer experience assurance solutions for some of the largest companies in the world.
Upon starting his sales role at Empirix, Kacey began to notice his Alliance training coming into play. While walking through the Alliance program, he learned how to sell a “product”, himself, to hiring managers. This helped to prepare him more than he could have imagined, and gave him the confidence needed to move forward with his new career trajectory. When describing his first few weeks on the job, Kacey said, “Alliance educated me and gave me the ability to talk at a basic level about business consistently, at the conference and at follow-ups. When I got to the first business meeting with Empirix, it helped me to sell myself more. The overall general knowledge of the career fields really helped me to understand how a company really works. I understood what the marketing and operations personnel did every day. Even the basic finance knowledge helped me when looking at finances within the company.” With the background knowledge he had gained from Alliance, Kacey moved forward with his career on the fast track to success.
Over the past four and a half years, Kacey has used his enthusiasm and skillset to make an impact on Empirix. In the short amount of time he has worked within the company, he has progressed rapidly through the system, holding three different positions along the way. He now holds the position of Director of Sales for Contact Center Assurance in North America. When asked how he had been so successful, Kacey spoke about his experience as a leader in the military. “The thing that helped me the most was working on staff. When you are a staff officer, no one reports to you and you have to gain buy-in to get things done. The same thing goes for sales; you have to get people to buy-in to your vision in order to bring support to the company. I was also able to brief leaders while in the military. I had to learn to communicate with senior level leaders with a lot of experience. That really prepared me to be successful at Empirix.” With all of these tools, Kacey has been able to lead his sales teams with gusto. In fact, within the last year he has worked diligently to build a strong sales team and improve sales growth by 20%. Though he was proud of the hard work and effort put in, he attributed much of his success to building strong teams and gaining top-notch talent from Alliance Careers hiring conferences.
Kacey and other Empirix team leaders have begun to regularly participate in Alliance hiring conferences. When describing his experiences, he stated, “Matt Ainsworth, EVP of Global Sales, has seen the value of working with former military personnel; he works diligently to mentor new hires in the program, as well as drive the program throughout the company. That level of sponsorship and dedication speaks to the organization’s commitment.” Kacey further commented on the differentiation Alliance offers, “We have worked with veterans who haven’t been through a hiring firm. When comparing Alliance candidates to candidates who haven’t gone through the Alliance process, it is like night and day. Alliance candidates execute their interviews better, because of the way they articulate what their skills mean and the value their skills can bring to the company. We have learned Alliance candidates are well prepared. Now we wait to go to an Alliance conference, because we know we will get quality candidates who know what to expect and what is expected of them… I think we have hired twenty plus Alliance candidates in the past 5 years, and Empirix is only a 250-person company.” With the quality teams that are being built up with Alliance candidates, Kacey doesn’t foresee Empirix withdrawing from conferences any time soon.
It is clear that Kacey has had a positive transition experience and a great start to a new career. With hard work, dedication to the Alliance program, and skills gained from the military, Kacey has now found a new passion in corporate sales. When asked what excites him most about working for Empirix, Kacey stated, “We have a great sales culture…. We’re like Alabama, we just win. No one comes in saying ‘I am going to lose today’; we expect to win. We also have a great executive team. Our CEO, John D’Anna, is a former Global sales leader with a wealth of knowledge and experience; he has driven the company to the next level. Empirix is doing great things. Our technology is being validated by the market, and it is highly innovative.” When listening to Kacey speak of his experience with Empirix, one thing is certain: Kacey no longer has to worry about how he will fit into the corporate world, because he has already found his calling.
Alliance has been fortunate in gaining clients that have partnered with our firm for several years consecutively. In forging those strong relationships, we have also been able to gain insight from multiple candidates who have entered into these organizations. In this Alumni Spotlight, we have chosen to focus on two candidates, Bill Ball and Michael Landes, who entered the corporate workforce by participating in API Group’s Leadership Development Program. Though they entered the Alliance program at different times, Bill in 2009 and Michael in 2011, they have similar stories to share about their military-to-corporate transitions.
In many cases, the choice to leave the military can be a very personalized decision. Bill, after serving as an Army Special Forces officer for 9 years, realized he had accomplished all he set out to do in the military and was ready for a new challenge; in his words, he “had a great career and great opportunities in the military, but there was something exciting about the civilian world.” Michael, on the other hand, was ready to have some more stability for his family; after serving nearly five years as a Marine Corps artillery officer, and missing a year of his child’s life through a deployment, he realized the civilian workforce had more of the stability he was looking for in a career and for his family. Both being unsure of the opportunities available in the civilian world, they began seeking advice from others. In both instances, a close relative was able to point them in the direction of Alliance Careers.
While in the Alliance program, Bill and Michael were both appreciative of the personalized attention the Alliance team placed on each candidate’s transition. Alliance was willing to assist Bill during a deployment to Afghanistan, making his transition a smooth process from start to finish. Michael, on the other hand, was especially impressed by the fact that the CEO and president of the company took time out of their busy schedules to speak with him individually. In the end, Bill and Michael both had positive experiences with Alliance, and felt they gained a wealth of knowledge that prepared them for starting their new careers.
When learning about the Leadership Development Program with API Group, Bill and Michael shared similar viewpoints about the organization. They both felt it was a company that valued the leadership skills veterans could bring to the team. In fact, Michael remembers a hiring manager saying, “We know what leadership skills you have; we can teach you the rest.” This, paired with the structured training program, made Michael and Bill feel very comfortable and confident in pursuing a career with API Group.
Once in the training program, Bill and Michael were able to gain a lot of insight into the corporate world. Their training consisted of real-life work situations, allowing them both to immerse themselves in company operations, participate in project planning, and listen in on company meetings. They were able to gradually gain more responsibility and independence throughout the training program while maintaining a high level of support and feedback from higher leadership.
Upon completing the Leadership Development Program, Bill and Michael were able to progress within the company rapidly, each becoming the president of their respective organizations in 2 years or less. When asked what helped them to progress so quickly, they reported that their willingness to take on new challenges was a pivotal part of their success. Bill stated, “I just worked hard and tried to earn people’s respect. Whatever opportunity that the business was ready for me to take on, I was willing to do.” Michael added to this statement by saying, “If you are not tied to one area, your opportunities will exponentially grow. When it came time to make a move, I asked the CEO ‘What can I do to help API group? Where is your biggest need?’ The answer to those questions was to move into my most recent role as the president of Classic Industrial Services.” This willingness to take on new challenges has helped to set them up for success, opening more doors for their future in API group.
Upon reflection, Michael and Bill were able to gain insight into the most important skillset a veteran can bring to the table. In both of their experiences, they learned the leadership skills gained in the military can help propel a veteran further and faster in any corporate career. “JMOs need to learn the value of their leadership experiences; they have led groups of people at an age that is far younger than junior leaders in Corporate America,” Michael explained. “It is necessary to figure that out and sell that to Corporate America. I think Alliance does well in setting candidates up for that. I don’t think I appreciated that until I worked for API group and I started to hire former military members and JMOs.” In addition to this, Bill added one more tip for transitioning candidates by saying, “First it is important to understand yourself; become self-aware of the kind of leader you are and what kind of environment you are going to be happy in. I would hire a JMO for any role in our business, because they are going to be able to figure it out. The biggest risk is knowing whether they are going to match the culture. The more self-aware you are to recognize your interests, the more successful you will be in your career.” With this said, knowing your skillset and being self-aware of your leadership style can ultimately set you up for success in any corporate career field.