By Keith Brickell, Director of Business Development
Here at HGS, we’re proud of our military personnel, and we recognize their value as some of the best trained and most highly skilled people in our workforce. Recently, more companies are understanding the resource potential. The Hire Vets Act of 2017, for example, promotes private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program. HGS’s veteran employment program supports active recruitment and employment of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protect us. Today, our El Paso site, in cooperation with Fort Bliss, best represents our dedication to our military. At this location, military personnel account for a significant percentage of our program support.
This July 4, to honor our military commitment, we spoke to these HGS team members about how their armed forces backgrounds align with their HGS roles:
- Janice Atwell, HGS IS and Compliance Officer, has dedicated 25 years to the US Navy as Chief Petty Officer.
- Abel Velez, HGS Senior Account Executive, served as a third Armor Calvary Regiment Combat Medic and Officer Candidate School (OCS) Instructor for seven years.
- John Weathers, HGS Team Leader, was a Fire Control Technician Guns Third Class in the U.S. Navy for 4 years.
- Frank Romo, HGS Team Leader, was an Army Specialist
Here we share how this extraordinary talent pool is sourced with common attributes: strong leadership, calm under pressure, and a compassionate, service-focused mindset.
Q: How did your experience in the military shape how you approach your work at HGS?
Atwell: In the military, I worked in cybersecurity on a tactical level, with Special Forces. I delivered strategic intelligence to admirals, generals, and Senate committees. This translates well to my IS compliance work at HGS. It helps me to lead a team of five to protect and secure our network. Because of my military background, I know that good leadership means presenting the full picture and being straightforward with expectations.
Velez: I agree, just being in the military teaches you the value of good leadership. Military-trained leaders are highly task-oriented. They are consistently optimistic and focused on getting the job done—no matter the obstacles. It’s a “yes, we can do this” mentality.
Weathers: In the military, there is a strong emphasis on leadership skills, as well as accountability, leadership and a no-excuses attitude. I carried these traits over to my role at HGS as one of three team members leading a staff of 25. Undoubtedly, there was more stress when I was on a submarine dealing with weaponry—and some of it nuclear. But I have been able to bring calm and focus—as well as technical skills—to my current customer support role. I often deal with escalations—the point when something goes wrong for the customer. I am able to keep composed and support that customer. I can rely on things the military taught me, like methodology and attention to detail and structure.
Romo: In some ways, HGS can be viewed as structured like the military. There are team leaders, who are the squad leaders. Then there is an HGS operations manager, who works like your platoons, with a director who works like the company commander. This structure alignment makes it easier for everyone to learn and perform their roles and that structure really helped me in adapting to the civilian life.
Q: What advice would you give to military personnel transitioning to civilian work?
Atwell: The transition from the military to civilian life isn’t always easy. The military moves at the speed of light. Lives matter, and it’s a very disciplined atmosphere. But you can take what works in the military and apply it to your civilian role. With IS and compliance, we are always under the gun, so the military has really prepared me to set a fast pace in my HGS leadership role. For example, anytime there is a malware concern, we have to address it immediately. Because of our work, our clients are safer from threats.
Velez: Back in the day, they used to say that those in the military accomplish more by 9 am than most people do all day long. I remind others that that’s because military members are awake and done with Physical Training (PT) by 5 am. So adjusting to the civilian world means understanding differences in terms of pace and approach and being open to resetting your expectations. If you are patient and adaptive, willing to learn and understand the private sector, you will learn much from the HGS environment.
Weathers: I tell fellow servicepeople, ‘Don’t forget where you came from. Embrace it and make it a positive.” Use your technical skills as an advantage. Because military experience is valuable and can take you far in civilian life. It’s all about building on your past experiences and being open to learning.
Romo: Continual learning is very important. I tell other military personnel to go to as much training as possible as they transition. Attend interview training, learn how to write a resume, and find a job that you’re really interested in. Many of us go into the military for the adventure, being able to jump out airplanes or helicopters. We want to be part of the infantry or Navy seals, but we never think of how our life is going to be once we decide to leave the military.
Q: What should employers know about the benefits of hiring veterans?
Atwell: In the military, it’s very important to show progress and improvements. You can’t achieve without knowing what’s working and not working and how to improve. And that is as important in the private sector as the military. At HGS, I‘m highly focused on documentation and reporting. I make sure our department is transparent, and our reporting is available and shared. For customers who know about my military background, it inspires a certain confidence. I can almost hear their relief when they are aware of my service. They understand that everything will be done correctly, and reporting will be good.
Velez: I have also brought that attention to detail and reporting—for example, I’ve introduced missing standard operating procedures (SOPs). And I’ve emphasized the importance of learning pattern recognition and where mistakes are made, in order to find those best practices. Ultimately, our clients and their customers appreciate the hard work, compassion, and empathy they find with employees who have served in the military. I do not know a serviceperson who, when asked, wouldn’t go out of their way to help someone out. We have many things in common, including that strong willingness to assist others. As a result that translates well to our roles at HGS.
Weathers: Military personnel are empathetic, probably because of the service mindset. When it comes to my work at HGS, I am able to take control and be confident and assertive, while also respecting and honoring the client or customers who are having an issue. The military teaches a level of respect and code of conduct that can be employed to handle tough situations well. We work with a good moral compass, and our clients and customers seem to understand and appreciate that.
Romo: I think military personnel get a satisfaction helping others, because you were able to provide that excellent customer service. I believe that dedication to getting the job done helped me succeed in the military and that aligns to my work at HGS. The day is not over until the work is complete.
Q: For those still in active service as reservists, how do you balance your work at HGS with your duties as a reservist?
Weathers: When I transitioned from the Navy, I had a position coaching others in the military on how to adapt to civilian life. I taught with mock interviews and provided guidance on how to integrate skills learned in the military. I advised to use technical skills as an advantage. I made sure to focus on emphasizing military background and highlighting that experience. Because those unique skillsets help maintain balance and bring out the best in employees, whether in the military or in the workplace.
Atwell: Over the years, I have been deployed places like England, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. HGS has been really good working with my deployments. There is definitely an alignment of values. Less than 1% of the US population is active military personnel. So it means a lot that people recognize the courage it takes to join the military. I wouldn’t change a second of my service.
Being part of the military means protecting what we have. When it comes to protecting client data, I look at it the same way. I tell my team members to protect customer and client data—whether it’s credit card data or personal health information—like it is their own. We make sure to set that military standard of excellence in the workplace.
HGS Thanks Our Team
At HGS, we take great pride in recruiting and hiring military personnel, veterans, spouses of military members, and reservists. These individuals have made tremendous contributions to our country, and HGS has made significant effort to help them transition to employment – creating a winning situation for HGS and, particularly, our clients. We want to take this moment to thank these team members for their unique skill sets and work ethic, and the difference they make every day.