Whether from the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, vets don’t entertain notions like “quiet quitting” (not going above and beyond the job description), walking out on a job before the mission is complete or leaving a difficult problem for someone else to solve.
But not every veteran leaves the military and settles into their forever career right away. Take Hemanth “Ray” Nalamothu, 33, for example. The Queens native served as an Army paratrooper in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Jordan from 2011 to 2018.
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Upon leaving active service, he landed a prestigious job as the assistant to the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. But, after two years, Nalamothu decided a different path might be better. When he approached Amazon, which employs more than 45,000 military veterans and spouses, the company scooped him up.
“The leadership principles, unique perspectives in problem solving and ability to deliver results make [veterans] highly desirable recruits,” said Beau Higgins, a senior manager of military talent acquisition at Amazon. “They also have a bias for action, one of our guiding principles.”
Nalamothu was assigned to Amazon’s JFK8, where he ran one of the largest fulfillment engines on Earth, all during the height of the global pandemic. He got the job done.
More recently, Nalamothu joined the 10-month Amazon technical apprenticeship, securing a full-time role as an associate cloud consultant at Amazon web services. He’ll take that on when he completes his rotation as the chief of operations for the United States Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.
While veterans have always had plenty to offer to employers, their experience and know-how is especially needed in uncertain times, said experts. “Veterans are not only diverse as a population, but they also bring with them a diversity of thought,” said Higgins. “They just look at problems differently and are really good problem-solvers.”
Mills credits veterans’ decision-making abilities for helping them stand out from the crowd. “At a very young age, veterans are instilled with great responsibility and decision-making,” he said. “They learn to use what they have or become very resourceful in finding things they need to accomplish the mission/job.”
But it’s not just what vets bring to the workforce that matters — it’s how they transform it as well.
“The entire US military is based on teamwork,” said Mills. “If you don’t have a can-do, team-oriented mindset, you will not succeed. As a soldier, sailor, airman or marine, that can-do attitude can be infectious in any organization. Couple that mindset with their focus on looking on teamwork, and you will find veterans are a force multiplier in your workforce.”
You don’t have to tell that to corporate leaders like 38-year-old John Perez. He decided to join the military after he saw the World Trade towers come down just miles from his home in North Arlington, NJ. He was in high school at the time.
Perez joined the US Army shortly after, first via the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. He found a way to cram four years of college into three. Upon graduation, Perez was deployed to Iraq twice in four years before spending two years in the Army Reserves as a captain.
Perez has since climbed the ranks at Johnson & Johnson over the past 10 years, initially leveraging his experience in logistics. He now heads the department of military and veteran affairs, helping members of the military shift into the private sector.
“The military provides experience that you just can’t get in the private sector — open ears, open eyes, coordinating and collaborating by default,” said Perez. These qualities are prized at Johnson & Johnson, where the executive chairman and most recent CEO, Alex Gorsky, is also an Army veteran.
Tamara “Tam” Sonon, 42, a CUNY graduate, is a new recruit at Johnson & Johnson. She spent more than 20 years in the Navy, doing everything from managing finances and serving as an advisor to the United Nations in Mali to managing supply chains throughout the Pacific as well as Australia, Croatia and Egypt.
“I loved every minute of my time in the Navy,” said Sonon. “I didn’t plan to stay long at first.” But as time went on, “I didn’t think I’d leave before I became an admiral.”
Yet with her husband also in the service and two young children, parental responsibilities prevailed. Even so, she finds her experience in the Navy to be of great use as the marketing lead for gastroenterology at Johnson & Johnson, a position she’s held for more than a year.
This transition is, in part, thanks to the GI Bill. “The current military has a higher level of education than the current population,” said Perez. In fact, post-secondary education isn’t an anomaly among veterans.
“This is the most educated military in the history of the world,” said Mike Sarraille, the founder and CEO of management consulting and executive search firm Talent War Group. He spent two decades as a Recon Marine and Navy SEAL lieutenant commander in the elite Joint Special Operations Command.
Sarraille joined the military when the war on terror was raging in 2001. “I couldn’t leave until I finished my job,” he said. “It ended up taking me 20 years, but in the military, we understand that our job is to make this place better than we found it, and if you’re working and doing the bare minimum, that can’t happen.”