Why to Listen:
The Commit Foundation is a fantastic and free resource to help veterans get where they want to go… just a whole lot faster. They take a very individual approach with each veteran with whom the work, and tailor their approach to help instill veterans with information, confidence, and imagination. Having worked with so many veterans over the years, Anne Meree has some fantastic advice for listeners about interviews - it’s some of the best advice this subject I’ve had on the show.
About our Guest:
Anne Meree Craig is the Executive Director and Co-Founder, The COMMIT Foundation, which is changing the way highly talented veterans think about transition and creating serendipity for them by fostering mentorship, networking, and inspiration. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for Bunker Labs.
If you’re interested in sports and entertainment - either as an enthusiast or as a potential career option - you’ve got to hear James’ story. He went from 31 year Army Veteran to being an Executive Vice President for Hornets Sports & Entertainment. Not only does this entail the logistics for each and every Hornets basketball game… but that is literally less than 20% of the events that occur at the Spectrum Center each year, and James oversees all of them. We talk about how much of our military experience translates well to operations. We talk about why Veterans may love a career in sports and entertainment. And we talk about swimming in your own lane. James’ younger brother is a guy you may have heard of - Michael Jordan… the Michael Jordan. Towards the end of our conversation, James and I talk about this, and his response to my question about this made me respect James even more. James has a wonderful perspective on the military transition, and I hope you enjoy this unique conversation.
If you enjoy this episode, I’d recommend checking out four other similar episodes, each listed in our show notes, which are:
1. BTU #93 - Matt Ufford: Marines to Editor & Host at SB Nation - https://beyondtheuniform.org/blog/btu-93-matt-ufford-marines-to-editor-host-at-sb-nation?rq=ufford
2. BTU #74 - Nate Boyer: Army Green Beret to the NFL - https://beyondtheuniform.org/blog/btu-84-nate-boyer-army-green-beret-to-the-nfl?rq=nfl
3. BTU #258 - Army Ranger to HBO and Writing & Directing Movies (Brian Hanson) - https://beyondtheuniform.org/blog/btu-258-army-ranger-to-hbo-and-writing-directing-movies-brian-hanson?rq=hbo
4. BTU #302 - Navy SWO to ESPN Reporter and Host (Sal Paolantonio) - https://beyondtheuniform.org/blog/btu-302-navy-to-espn-sal-paolantonio?rq=espn
James Jordan is the Executive Vice President of Operations for Hornets Sports & Entertainment, where he has served for nearly six years. He started out in the Army, where he served for over 31 years, most recently as the 35th Signal Brigade Airborne Command Sergeant Major as a part of 18th Airborne Corps Task Force supporting Combat Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. After his military service, he worked for over seven years as the Director of Operations and Administration for the EPS Corporation, Field Service Company.
In this informal episode, I go through two announcements, answer one listener question, and delve into more personal info than you’d ever want to know.
I’m embarrassed to say this, but my interview with Jason was an eye opening reminder of how many positions there are in public service that are not elected office. When I think of public service, I think of previous guests I’ve had on the show, like Sean Barney from episode #66, who ran for a seat in the House of Representative. However, as Jason points out in this interview - for every one of those positions, there are thousands of others, working behind the scenes, making things run efficiently, all serving their country in their own way. Jason makes some great points about why Veterans might love a career in public service. He is also an exceptional example of someone who has done the heavy lifting to uncover and identify his personal values. As you’ll learn in this interview, this has helped him keep an open mind when new and unexpected opportunities arise, and decide whether this is the right change for himself and his family. Changes such as leaving Intuit after over 8 years in the private sector to make the switch to public service.
Jason Jackson is the Director of Administrative Services and Chief HR Officer to the Governor for the State of Nebraska. He started out at the Naval Academy as part of the illustrious class of 2002, served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy for over five years, worked in a variety of roles at Intuit for nearly nine years, and has been working for the State of Nebraska for nearly four years. He holds an MA in Political Science from San Diego State University and a Juris Doctorate from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
A plug for our events, a request for recommendations, and a recap of an interview this week that will be broadcast in mid-November.
Sign me up for the Danny Hwang fan club. We cover some fresh terrain for Beyond the Uniform, as we follow Danny’s story of leaving the Army - and just weeks later - traveling to Shanghai, and growing an education startup until - three years later - he and his brother successfully sold their first company. In doing so, they achieved a lifelong goal they committed to at age six, of being able to retire their parents and move them from their home in Atlanta back to Seoul, Korea. Now, Danny is at it again, this time in Vietnam, joined by co-founders who were his classmates at West Point, and friends in the Army. If you are interested in taking a risk in your career, in setting goals and achieving them, in maintaining a great family life in addition to a great work life, in starting companies, or just hearing a story from an inspirational veteran doing great things in the world. This episode is for you.
If you enjoy this episode, two similar episodes that I would recommend are:
BTU #114 - Founding an Inc 500 Company While Traveling Southeast
Asia (Justin Cooke) - where Justin Cooke talks about founding Empire
Flippers all while traveling through Southeast Asia.
2 - BTU #11 -BTU #111: Two sibling Army Vets and Their Two Successful
Startups - the story of Jon and Chris Boggiano, both West Point grads
and Army Veterans who co-founded two different successful startups
Danny Hwang is the Founder & CEO of Point Avenue. Based in Vietnam, Point Avenue is a private education technology company offering K-12 educational services and admissions consulting across Southeast Asia. He started out at West Point, after which he served as an Army Ranger for six years, including two tours in Iraq and over 25 months overseas. After his military service, he co-founded New Pathway Education & Technology Group with his older brother, Sam, in Shanghai, China, which was acquired in 2014 by CVC Capital Partners. He currently serves as the Chairman of Ignite, a professional services company that specializes in human capital development, and CEO of Odyssey, a joint venture company developing AI technology. Danny's hobbies include traveling the world with his wife, Honda, racing in ultra-marathons and Ironman competitions, reading, and spending time with his family.
This episode is sponsored by Point Avenue. Based in Vietnam, Point Avenue is a private education technology company offering K-12 educational services and admissions consulting across Southeast Asia. We are grateful for the financial support of Point Avenue on this episode, which helps us further our mission at Beyond the Uniform and have a bigger impact on the military Veteran community.
Well, you know you're enjoying a conversation when midway through, you're already planning the next interview. Tyler is awesome. I just really appreciated so much about this interview. The thing that stands out to me most is his mastery in sales. He talks about his career, which is a variety of different experiences in the functional role of sales while also having most of that in the industry of energy. What I appreciated about his story is hearing about how throughout his career he's picked up different tools, different tricks, different skills that over time have allowed him to really have a mastery of this field in sales. I also appreciated his ability to communicate extremely effectively why veterans are well suited to sales, why this may be an appealing career path, even if you think it's the least likely career path that you would want to pursue. We talk about executive MBA, why he chose to pursue it, which is pretty unique for most guests that I have on the show, and a whole lot more.
Tyler Johnston is a Sales Director on Black & Veatch’s Corporate Strategic Accounts team. He is responsible for managing global relationships in the technology sector and helping his clients build critical infrastructure solutions that consolidate the EPC’s power, water, telecom and consulting offerings. He started out at the Naval Academy, served as an Infantry Officer in the US Marine Corps for 5 years, and has held positions at NRG Energy, Genera Electric, and Shift.org. He earned his MBA at Columbia Business School.
In this episode, I answer three listener questions, talk about our upcoming webinars, and review three upcoming interviews and what I learned.
What I appreciate most about my conversation with Tom is his authenticity. After 30 years in the Army, it took Tom a while to find his new home in the civilian workforce. While he was able to land incredible opportunities - General Manager at Mercedes Benz USA, Senior Manager at Amazon, Academic Dean at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy - each of these proved to be a poor fit for him. I respect Tom’s willingness to talk about what this process was like - the frustrations, the disappointments, the uncertainty - these are all challenges I’ve faced in my own career, and challenges other guests have experienced as well. Yet, Tom brings an openness to this conversation that I found refreshing. More importantly, the new home that he has found is incredible. Tom’s career journey has led him to work as the Financial Wellness Vice President at Wounded Warrior Project. I have to say, I was extremely fired up about learning more about the work that Wounded Warrior Project is doing. Not only are they providing an incredible support to the military community, but they’re also supporting other organizations in a way that is broadening their impact. Every Veteran would benefit from learning about Wounded Warrior Project and their mission, and I hope you check them out.
Tom Kastner is the Financial Wellness Vice President at Wounded Warrior Project. He started out at West Point and served for 30 years in the Army, including serving as the Director of the Dean’s Staff at West Point. His career since the Army has included time at Mercedes Benz USA, where he worked as the General Manager for Learning and Performance, Amazon, and St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy among others. He holds a Master of Arts in National Security Studies at the Naval War College, a PhD in Industrial Engineering at Georgia Tech, an MS in statistics from Georgia Tech and an MS in applied mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.