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From Airman to crew member: Presenting the best of myself

I began my working career as an Airman in the US Air Force. After serving 8 years, I recognized the strength of the core values I gained: Honesty, Integrity, and Service before Self. Those values, coupled with the foundation set during my childhood, created the woman I am today and help to drive every decision I make.

In 2003, I separated from the Air Force after determining that one of my goals of becoming an officer could not be realized due to a prerequisite change in the application process. Feeling a bit lost and unclear of the path ahead, I began the search for the next chapter of my career journey. I relocated to Charlotte, NC and was introduced to Vanguard. Shortly after, I was extended the opportunity to join the company–officially transitioning from Airman to crew member.

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Joining a company with a variety of growth opportunities was an important factor for me. Fortunately at Vanguard, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally in countless ways throughout the duration of my career. Often times it has been through a job assignment which required an expanded set of skills. However, I’ve also grown by being in tune with my abilities and knowing when I needed to enhance a competency. One of those competency’s I knew I wanted to gain more knowledge on—and be more effective at—was communication.

I always knew how critical it was to be an effective communicator, but also knew I wanted to become stronger in this area. To that end, last year I signed up for our internal Toastmasters club. While I was reluctant, I knew that only positive results could arise from the experience.  Since becoming a member, I’ve become more comfortable with speaking in public settings, more confident in presenting ideas, more assured to share input. For example, I’ve agreed to take on key roles in events such as moderating a Fireside Chat (or Meeting with the North Carolina Leadership team and) with our Chief Human Resources Officer at Vanguard, and on a more personal front I recently served as the master of ceremonies and also a presenter during a women’s conference at church.

To shift gears to written communication, a few years ago I sought out a class on the topic of business communication. While I walked away with many tips, I regularly leverage a couple best practices for communication via email specifically.

  • Balance when to leverage email vs phone. For example: if the email will take more than three exchanges, make a phone call.
  • Keep information succinct to capture the reader’s attention. For example: if the reader has to scroll down the email to obtain all of the written content, chances are: the email is not succinct enough. Make it a goal to ‘eliminate the scroll’.

There are situations when a more thorough communication is relevant (perhaps in written form and/or planning for a presentation). In those instances, it’s important to find the right mix of information to share and I like to use the “5 W’s + How” as my template:

  • Who is my audience
  • What does my audience need to know
  • When is the decision needed, the change occurring etc.
  • Where is the impact if applicable
  • Why is the change or recommendation needed and
  • How will the plan be implemented

These steps have helped me to keep messaging as concise as possible while sharing what the audience really needs to know.

In closing, I share my complete gratitude to be part of an organization who truly cares about our Clients, our Crew, and our Communities. I feel honored that Vanguard cares enough about our crew to support and encourage continued development. I was proud to serve our country and I’m equally proud to serve our shareholders.

-Dru J.

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