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Beyond the Uniform

Beyond the Uniform is a show to help military veterans navigate their civilian career. Each week, I meet with different veterans to learn more about their civilian career, how they got there, and what advice they'd give to other military personnel.
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Nov 20, 2017

"I was trying to put myself in a position to meet as many people as I could that I could learn from to help with [my transition from active duty]. And while you're making those connections, you're also - in parallel - refining your own story, so that you're finding ways to tell your story in a way that resonates."
- Francis Ebong

Francis is the Director, Global Operations & Partnerships at Facebook. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served as a Supply Corps Officer in the Navy for six years, while also earning his MBA at the George Washington School of Business. After his transition to a civilian career, Francis worked at Deloitte as a Management Consultant, at Apple as part of their Global Business Operations team, and the startup Postmates as their Director of Business.

Why to Listen:

Francis went directly from the Navy to consulting at Deloitte, and has worked at Apple, in startups, and now at Facebook. He talks about each of these career paths, why veterans may love operations, and advice to help in interviews and finding your ideal career.

Our Sponsor:

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books

Show Notes [typed hastily while interviewing... please apologies misspellings or grammatical errors]

  • As someone on Active Duty thinks of transitioning to a civilian career, what advice would you have for them about the interview process?
    • There's a lot of publicly available info - blogs, publications like Bloomeberg, businessweek, NYT and Business Week), as well as using your network. The Naval Academy was a great resource, as was the broader military community. It really helps to see other vets and hear their stories. I try to make myself open to sharing my experience as well.
    • It can be a scary transition. A lot of the time we spent at the Naval Academy during the summers learning about leadership, our peers have been working in the corporate sector. There's a completely new world - understanding how to interview, where to get information, the best resource can often be another veteran
    • One of the best resources out there is LinkedIn.  It's a great research tool and understanding different paths to a career. You see people working in industries and try to understand how someone went from the military to one of these jobs. Just understanding those pathways can help you understand how to make different ways to get there.
    • There's also a tool called ISABER for those who have gone to a Service Academy. You can share your skills and experiences with people looking to connect in different markets.
  • How to explain a military background to a hiring manager
    • this is the biggest challenge - how to explain your military experience to a layman.
    • Our unfair competitive advantage is the life and work experience we have. You are placed in situations that cannot compare to  civilian workforce in terms of intensity. Many people shy away from talking about their impact in their military experience.
    • Really trying to find a way to articulate your experience without a lot of acronyms and military terms. the biggest challenge you have is explaining your background. Watching CNBC to learn these terms through osmosis.
  • What advice would you have for someone on Active Duty as they try to figure out what they would like to do in their civilians career?
  • What led you initially to Deloitte, and why might this career be of interest to a veteran?
    • My last two years in the military I was at business school, trying to meet as many people as possible to learn from for the transition. I went to every networking event I could find, and tapped into every network I could think of. Heard experiences of their transition and continued to make these connections. This helped me refine my own story - find a way to tell it in a way that resonates.
    • At one of these events I met Ed Vanburen, who was a Naval Academy graduate at Deloitte. And this led me to Deloitte, where I worked for 2.5 years for public and private sector clients. we helped them think about doing a digital transformation in Oil & Gas and different industries.
    • I always endorse consulting for veterans. For me it gave me to exposure across a bunch of different verticals and see typical prblems that companies see. It helped me to learn as quickly as possible from as many people and companies as possible.
    • With Deloitte you pick up a lot of structured training that helps you learn very
    • It's actually ver similar to an military environemtn - you're working with a small group of people in a tight time frame to accomplish something. You're exposed to so many different challenges that require different skill sets for each problem you face
  • What led you to Apple?
    • With consulting you get a lot of exposure to different companies. YOu also have time to think about what you want to do next and to train for it. I was General Science at the Naval Academy and was always interested in the intersection of technology and business. I wanted to get that on-the-ground operational experience.
    • So I looked at companies, and Apple was at the top of the list. It was an opportunity to join their BD and Operations team at Apple. they were focused on developing and launcing displays for all Apple products. we would work with suppliers and engineers.
    • Apple is a large company but it's run like a startup in terms of working with different teams
  • How would you explain Global Business Operations to someone on Active Duty?
    • Operations & Business operations means something VERY different at each company - it's different at Apple, Facebook, Postmates, etc. It at Apple was about negotiations, supply, and bringing things to market.
    • This may be appealing to veterans:
      • you work with teams outside of your function, just like you did in th emlitary. It's all about relationships. The lead up to a product launch and hte stressful situatiohns that lead up to this are similiar to my ilfe in the military. We had to set our goals, communicate them, and execute against those goals. It may be a different industry or technology, but the guiding principles are all the same
    • What led you to Postmates, and how would you explain this startup to someone on Active Duty?
      • I was at Apple for a little over 3 years. It was a very intens time of launching iPHone 4, 5 and 6. I was in Asia for a lot of that time, and I learned a lot very quickly. I was looking at cojmpanies at the center of technology and supplies and logistics, and Postmates was near the top of that list.
      • Postmates is an on-demand delivery and logistics platform. you can order from any business and it'll be delivered within an hour. It's the Uber for delivery. It was an experience in helping them grow - joining as employee #75
      • Operations was launching new markets, growth marketing, the supply side of the marketplace, and our strategic partnerships. You have to be an "Athlete" - come in and do anything. No task is too small. you're leading a team and also doing data analysis and everythign you can possibly think of
      • It was such a good and intense experience. that intensity really drives a lot of rapid learning
      • There is nothing that is another person's problem - they are run lean (there are not a lot of people) but there are a lot of problems. It can be very stressful and you'll have to build a lot of things from scratch with very few resources. But you always find a way to win. This makes veterans well suited for startups.
    • What led you to Facebook?
      • Postmates is still doing really well and is still growing. The Facebook opportunity was a great personal opportunity for me. they were looking for someone to lead operations for some of their new products across: New Media Products, Marketplace, Workplace, Messenger, and AI for Messenger. Across these there are new products that each require a new operational approaches.
    • How would you explain your current position at Facebook?
      • The team I started with was 150 people and focused across each of the five verticals. We were helping each one grow and each of them were at a different size of growth and development. We focused on translating the consumer experience back to our engineers so they could build better products.
      • For the Artificial Intelligence product we launched for Messneger, we had a team of 90 people who worked with the product and eningeering teams, and also focuwed on the consumer behabior and how the platform connected people with businesses. So we looked at the data to see what people were doing, how often they were doing and the opportunities there.
      • Now I work more with partners - people building on our platform to connect with businesses. Every day is different - size of team, type of team, sometimes working with a global team.
      • Two months ago I traveled for one week to Singapore and then London.
      • The key is to be flexible
    • What resources - books, programs, websites, etc - have been helpful to you in your civilian career that you would recommend to veteran listeners?
      • I work with a lot of resources that help veterans
      • Breakline has a structured program to help veterans transition through case studies, office visits, and different techniques they need to learn. this is really helpful.
      • I also advise the Commit group - they help veterans transition to the private sector.
      • Blogs & podcasts where you can hear about people's experience - no one's path will be the same as yours; a
    • What was one of the most difficult parts of your own transition to a civilian career?
      • The entire process is a challenge. Every conversation you have is an interview
      • 32:02
      • There's a lot of doors that will be shut in your face; you'll say something you regret in an interview. Its the process that will get you where you need to be, but it can be very discouraging. Understanding that in the end you will make it.
      • Even if 50 people say no, one will say yes. A veterans advantage is their grit - the challenge is more of a technical piece. Learning to go through the gauntlet of understanding how to interview. How to do research. how to speak the lingo.
        35:15 You are hunting for your next meal evert day; there is no net. You really are out there on your own.
      • Relationships, relationships, relationships - it's how you'll find and get those opportunities. ERvery discussion you have is an interview - do the research before the meeting.
      • It is tough but with high risk comes high reward. You'll learn something new to take on the next opportunity. As you build up these new industries you'l l
    • Final words of wisdom?
      • We are more powerful than we think.  You have this insecurity starting out; you don't know that your skills will relate to the civilian sector and are intimidated by the competition. Once you realize the strength of your experiences and the relationships you've built - that's when you really become powerful. There will be failure and disappointment - you will get SO MANY no's but you only need one person to say yes. It's going to be tough but it does end up in the right p
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