Boots to Suits: Transitioning to the corporate world as a veteran

Recently, I was invited to be on a panel at Vanguard that focused on the experience of female veterans transitioning into the corporate world. Why did I receive this invitation, you ask? Because I’m a proud veteran of the United States Air Force, having served from 1990-1999.  I left the USAF after serving in a variety of roles stateside as well as in the Middle East and Japan, and I consider those years to be my most formative as a professional.

What struck me about my fellow panelists at that event was that our respective transition experiences varied greatly. After I separated from service, I spent a short period of time as a stay-at-home parent before taking on part-time roles as an instructor of economics and later as a financial advisor. In 2011 I finally transitioned back into the workforce full-time at Vanguard. In contrast, one of the other women on the panel served as a reservist and the third went directly into the corporate world after leaving the military. Although how we all got to this company differed greatly, being a part of that event reminded me of why I feel so energized and happy to work at Vanguard.

Leadership

At Vanguard, as in the military, leaders are expected to prioritize their people. I learned very early on that if you take care of your people, they will take care of you. Vanguard does an exceptional job of prioritizing and committing resources to crew development—and the results of that focus are crystal clear to me each and every day. We push crew to embrace and take advantage of training, some of which is mandatory and a lot of which is voluntary and available on-demand. As a leader at Vanguard, I spend an enormous amount of time coaching crew, in one-on-one sessions with my direct reports, and meeting with crew in my line. Everyone has their own passions and career aspirations, but I have always believed that my first priority as a leader was to figure out how to best support each and every one of the people who report to me on a daily basis. When our crew feel supported and valued, they in turn dedicate themselves to providing our clients with a world-class experience.

Mission driven

As an Air Force officer, I came to deeply appreciate the importance of having a clear and unified mission. Vanguard stands out within the financial services industry not because we have a mission (lots of financial services companies have one), but because the mission at Vanguard is simple, clear, and applicable to each and every one of us. If you want to get a team to make progress towards a goal, every member has to know precisely where you’re going. Ideally, they also understand why you’re going there. How you get there can be different across the organization, but the final destination must be a clearly defined point on a map, whether literally or figuratively. I love working at this company because I know precisely where we’re going in the very confusing world of investments and what we are all collectively trying to do.

Responsibility

A final similarity I’ll share between the military and Vanguard is that in both cases the people doing the job feel a strong sense of responsibility to those they are serving. Every day I overhear our crew working through very challenging client situations; without fail, what strikes me is the deep sense of ownership and accountability exhibited by those I work with. The best comes out of people when they are taking care of other people. At Vanguard, we take care of our clients, and we never stop trying.

On Veterans Day this year, I am grateful for the years I served and for those with whom I served. I am also extremely grateful for the chance to work at this company, because I can honestly say that I usually leave work feeling like I made a difference. More than anything, I’m grateful to spend my days, my energy, and my intellect at a place where smart, ethical people devote themselves to achieving the Vanguard mission of giving every investor the best chance for investment success.

-Anne-Marie G.

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