Veterans at ZEISS

November 11 marked Veterans Day, a day to honor everyone who has served in the Armed Forces. At ZEISS, we are proud to welcome everyone and unite different perspectives in our teams. We talked to some of our colleagues who transitioned from the active service to a corporate environment. Read their stories here.

Aubrey Bowman is working as a Field Service Supervisor in the ZEISS Medical Technology segment. She joined ZEISS five years ago.

Can you tell us how you transitioned from your active military duty to a corporate setting?
Aubrey: I joined the Navy when I was 17 years old. I served eight years as a Nuclear Electrician's Mate, and then when I got out, I knew I did not want to work in the power industry. So I went to college and decided to work in the medical field. Before ZEISS approached me, I worked for another medical technology company as a Field Service Engineer for six years. Five years ago, I joined ZEISS as a Refractive Field Support Engineer. Recently, I have taken a new position as the Field Service Supervisor for the US South Region.

What helped you to navigate the differences between military culture and a corporate culture, such as ZEISS?
There are some differences between the military and the corporate cultures. But if you look at the big picture, not that many. As a Navy Nuke we support reactor operations on a nuclear-powered submarine or ship, and part of our job is performing preventative and corrective maintenance. Starting off as a Field Support Engineer, there really was no difference in the fundamentals of the job itself. Your chain of command is your management team. Instead of answering to Naval Reactors, we answer to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). So, finding similarities like these examples has helped me maneuver through the change from military to corporate life.

What recommendation would you give ZEISS to improve even further?
My recommendation would be to make ZEISS more present, so it's easier for people to discover the company. This is something Kevin  already touched on his story when he mentioned talking to the management team. I’ve also asked management to start looking for ways to find more veterans. For example, I used several military hiring firms when I was looking to get a job, which ultimately landed me at my previous company. At one point, I was in training with another Field Support Engineer at that company. Eventually, he became part of team ZEISS. Subsequently, he recommended me for the position I got here at ZEISS. So if it weren't for my training with him, I wouldn't know of the company.

What recommendation would you give other veterans joining ZEISS?
To find the similarities between ZEISS and the military, but also appreciate the differences. For example, no long deployments, being home on the weekends and most weeknights. Also, reach out for support – whether it's to your colleagues, the management team, or the soon-to-be-launched Veterans Network. ZEISS has been extremely supportive across the board. Although those you reach out to may not always have the answer, they will work on putting you in contact with someone who does.

Why would you recommend ZEISS to hire veterans?
I think that our experience in the military has made us well-rounded. We know how to work as a team in highly stressful situations and with a diverse group of people and personalities in less-than-ideal conditions. Attention to detail and following instructions is engraved into us. Working long, hard hours is not foreign to us. Regardless of what is thrown at us, we will handle the situation and ensure the job, or rather the “mission,” gets done.

 

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Jarren's Story

Jarren is working as a Field Service Engineer in the ZEISS Research Microscopy Solutions strategic business unit. He joined ZEISS five years ago.

Can you tell us how you transitioned from your active military duty to a corporate setting?
Jarren: This is my third job outside of the military. The first job I got was with an automation company down in New Orleans. Luckily, it was a pretty good place to land on my feet straight out of the Navy. Certain companies, such as ZEISS and tech companies, require the skills that we learn in the military.

There's also a program that works as a "transition assistance", a program you can take before getting out of the Navy. It is a weeklong course to advise on everything that might help you, from how to dress to conduct yourself during interviews. It's a decent program that may need a little updating, but it puts you in the right spot for what you need to do to move on from the military.

What helped you to navigate the differences between military culture and a corporate culture, such as ZEISS?
Luckily, the companies I've worked for had a lot of veterans. So being around like-minded people who have similar upbringings helped me a lot. It's almost like being in the military without the restrictions of being in the military. A good thing about the military is: everyone is new to each other. That helped us learn how to cohabitate with others, trust people, and become a family. Something that the military ingrains in you is the ability to befriend people and mix in with everyone, not just your colleagues. So, if other people have that same mentality, transitioning becomes much easier.

What further recommendation would you give ZEISS to improve even further?
ZEISS is an excellent company. There are a lot of veterans working at ZEISS, and I've never felt like I was just “one of a select handful of people”. From what I've seen, ZEISS loves to hire veterans, especially in technical positions. But that's just my experience. I don’t know how it is on a higher level. Are there any? Do we have any representation of veterans at an executive level? If anything, I can recommend is being more visible and transparent about that aspect. But other than that, ZEISS is good about bringing us into its culture.

What recommendation would you give other veterans joining ZEISS?
Don't forget where you came from, but also know that you did your service, and now you're reaping the benefits of being a civilian. We served our country, and now, we can enjoy the benefits of having a different job outside the military.

Why would you recommend ZEISS to hire veterans?
Generally, the military provides us with troubleshooting skills, leadership skills, and knowing how to handle the admin side of things. And that's something that the military prides itself: building leaders. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why ZEISS should hire veterans, especially as some of those skills are parallel within ZEISS' vision. The military made us perform under pressure – the training you go through builds a mindset of maintaining calm under intense pressure.

 

Brian's Story

Brian is working as a System Installation Coordinator in the ZEISS Research Microscopy Solutions strategic business unit. He joined ZEISS nine years ago.

Can you tell us how you transitioned from your active military duty to a corporate setting?
Brian: To be honest, when I got out, I didn't have a plan on what to do. I took the first opportunity that came around and went from there. I even undervalued myself. When I was asked for the first time “What do you want as your starting wage?” I didn’t know what to answer. Luckily, I had an employer that did not take advantage of me and recognized that I was quite close to minimum wage for a skilled position and proposed to bring up the salary. For me, this was kind of shocking, but in a good way.

After that first “big” transition, my path continued to be pretty normal, but some things weren't the same. For example, I didn't have to constantly get permission to do something. Also, the topic of accountability is handled differently in a corporate environment and this still bothers me a little. I was on submarines, so the phrase “All for one and one for all” really meant something, either you all came up from a dive or none of you did. To this day, I still hold that a lot.

What helped you to navigate the differences between military culture and a corporate culture, such as ZEISS?
What helped me navigate it truly was time. It took some time getting used to the different cultures. I don't think an employer or colleagues could have helped me here in any kind of way, I just needed to adapt to the new situation.

What further recommendation would you give ZEISS to improve even further?
Be upfront, as military is very structured. And I'm also speaking from the perspective of the Navy. One thing that was almost bizarre after coming out of the military service was when I put in for vacation: In military I also had duty on the weekend, so as usually I handed in seven days of vacation to get one week off. So you can imagine my face when HR handed me two days back and I still got a whole week off. It was just completely new to me, that the weekends were included from now on!

What recommendation would you give other veterans joining ZEISS?
I would say to just take your time and adapt to the new environment. Also, don't be afraid to ask. A lot of times back in the military, most of the time I didn't want to talk to my boss, or deal with the officers. I think at ZEISS your manager is really here to support you. I got some of the best support from my managers! Even if you want to change position or the department, managers are not going to hold you back – but they're here to support you.

I would recommend ZEISS, I personally think it's a good company to work for as a veteran, and I think veterans are a great fit at ZEISS.

Why would you recommend ZEISS to hire veterans?
Speaking from my experience, when working in the Navy you're not just an electrician, but you're an electrician on the ship. You have to know the whole shipboard system, not just how an issue affects your work area. I also think the mentality that you may have differs from those that haven’t made similar experiences. I guess veterans probably have a stronger mindset that allows us to work better in stressful situations.

 

Kevin's Story

Kevin is working as a Field Service Supervisor in the ZEISS Medical Technology segment. He joined ZEISS seven years ago.

Can you tell us how you transitioned from your active military duty to a corporate setting?
Kevin: Well, prior to getting out of the army and transitioning, I wasn't really sure where I wanted to go with my career. It's funny because, before the military, I worked for another medical device company in the field service. So I had prior experience in a corporate environment. But at the time, I wasn't really looking at my career path, since I was planning to join the army for quite some time. Specifically, I was a Paratrooper in the United States Army for eight years. When I got out, I ended up working as a private contractor for about a year. After that, I took a few months off, and in November 2015, I joined ZEISS.

What helped you to navigate the differences between military culture and a corporate culture, such as ZEISS?
To answer this question, I have to go back to my experience before joining the army. In fact, what helped me out the most was that I already knew the structure of a big corporation. I also tell a lot of people that there are quite some similarities between the different Armed Forces, the branches of the military, and corporations. For instance, the size of your chain of command or the organization structure. Of course, they are very different in many ways, but at the same time, more similarities than many people may think. So, what helped me was my prior experience in another corporate company. Also, being able to find similarities and not focus too much on the differences.

What further recommendation would you give ZEISS to improve even further?
I recently talked about this with my direct manager. I think there's a lot of untapped potential in the military recruitment area. For instance, when I came across the job opening within ZEISS, the position and the company weren't yet at any military fair or military recruiting event. In the army, there are a lot of jobs and duties in the different branches that translate to careers here at ZEISS. There is also a lot of leadership training that we go through within the military, which can directly be transferred to management positions or similar roles. So, I think being present at specific events can have a huge impact.

What recommendation would you give other veterans joining ZEISS?
For me, the biggest thing I would recommend is to focus on the skills and attributes you were taught in the military! All the things that helped you lead to success during that time. Skills such as time management, attention to detail, accountability, and ownership, which are highly preached in the military daily. And even though the corporate environment can be different, applying those same attributes will ultimately lead to success.
Additionally, there are many resources within ZEISS that can help you: from your manager to HR, many people can and want to support you immensely. They are there to assist you the moment you're struggling.

Why would you recommend ZEISS to hire veterans?
I talked about the skills and attributes we achieve in the military before. A lot of veterans are excellent at those attributes, especially when it comes to time management and handling tasks under pressure or stress. We are also very adaptable - as your job can sometimes change in the army, even daily. As we say: "Many different heads, many roles". Additionally, most veterans are team players, loyal and selfless – all valuable attributes we can bring to ZEISS.

One thing is that many veterans, when getting out of the military, may lack purpose. But as long as they can find that purpose and have a clear-cut mission, they can easily succeed and excel. Overall, much of what we learned in the army applies to what we do at ZEISS. We always look at the differences between military and corporate culture, but there are just as many similarities. And I do believe that ZEISS is a great company, especially for transitioning veterans.