National University Podcast Series

CAVO Ep. 25: Navigating Diverse Skills and Abilities in the Virtual Workplace – The Transition from Service Member to Civilian

December 02, 2020 Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr. Season 1 Episode 25
National University Podcast Series
CAVO Ep. 25: Navigating Diverse Skills and Abilities in the Virtual Workplace – The Transition from Service Member to Civilian
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr., retired Army Captain, President of Wallace Bros and Associates, Mayor of Manor, Texas, and NCU alumnus, joins us to share his experience about making the transition from military life to the virtual workplace. He shares his perspective of diversity in terms of skills and abilities and how we can translate those skills from one industry to another during a transition.

Stephanie Manefee  0:02 
Welcome to the Center for the advancement of virtual organizations podcast episode 25. Navigating diverse skills and abilities in the virtual workplace, the transition from service member to civilian. I'm Stephanie manaphy. And today we're joined by Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr, retired army captain, president of Wallace brothers and Associates, Mayor of Manor, Texas, and NCO alumnus, Dr. lawless welcome. And thank you so much for taking the time to come chat with us about making the transition from military life to the virtual workplace.

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,   0:32 
I appreciate the opportunity. As an alumni, you know, I'm always here to help out and support where possible.

Stephanie Manefee  0:39 
Thank you so much. So the theme this month for Cabo is diversity. diversity in the workforce is something we've been hearing a lot about lately. And as we know, there are many facets to diversity. So today, we kind of like to talk about diversity in terms of skills and abilities, and how we can translate those skills from one industry to another during a transition. And when I think about workforce transitions, military comes to the top of my mind, and even more specifically, in our current global environment. Those individuals transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce virtually, you know, I know you have a great deal of experience in this area. So thanks so much for coming and speaking with us today about a very important topic. You know, before we get started, I know you have 20 plus years experience in this area, and I'm really excited to get your perspective. But to get us started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  1:31 
born or raised Texan. The after high school, tried college a little bit didn't necessarily work out. So I ended up going into the military, the army as a human resources person. enlisted, did that for about four years in then went to the reserves, went to drill sergeants school as well, and went to University of Texas Arlington, where I did ROTC got commissioned as an officer, went back on active duty and then ended up deploying to Iraq in charge of all of southern iraq post offices, and then redeployed with infantry organization. And from there went to NATO where I served as their deputy of operations and intelligence. It before I took command in Serbian command of a NATO organization for roughly almost three years before going to Fort Bragg in serving as the human plans and operations. Division Chief for the Army Special Operations Aviation command, and then went over to serve as their Secretary General Staff executive officer and then retired out of there, as our Deputy Chief of Staff, since 2017, moved out here to the city of Manor were served as executive and residents for a vetted organization called vetted that helped with transitioning service members also worked with the University of Texas System as a director of veteran support and leadership programs for the 14 different campuses before i o simultaneously, but before I actually became the mayor for the city of Manor, which is the seventh fastest growing suburb in America right now. Lastly, I currently serve as the chair for our local community veterans engagement board, which is partnered with our central Texas healthcare system, VA health care system, I now serve as the chair for the military spouse economic empowerment zone for the state of Texas. And I think that's about it other than the things I'm already doing here at North Central University, serving on the school of business professional Advisory Committee, now leading the military work group to help increase the great things we're already doing for the military population here at North Central University as well.

Stephanie Manefee  4:05 
Wow, you're busy. This is awesome. Thank you so much, I, I really appreciate hearing your background. And you know how you got until this point, I think it's really valuable and our listeners are, are going to really enjoy hearing what you have to say to us today. So first, I'd like to talk a little bit about, you know, military transition and what it means. For so many. I think this transition is just a really, it's a whole new life experience. And we often hear that transition is less about leaving the military and more about integrating into a new culture. And so can you tell us a little bit about what transitioning means and the challenges retired service members face during their transition away from military life?

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  4:49 
Absolutely. And so, you know, with this question, I think this really hits home with the book that may my former boss and I did together class. Word of late, which is approved to go on the shelves within the army, Army and Air Force exchange system. And we had it vetted and reviewed by senior leadership of the Department of Veteran Affairs as well as a lot of other entities just to make sure we're we're hitting on message. And when you're talking about transitioning, it's, it's the mindset, preparing your mind for the expectations, realizing and understanding what the real environment looks like you have 200,000 individuals transitioning out of the military every year. So it's not just, you know, you and a couple hundred, it's 200,000. Plus you have the 200,000, the year before, they may still be looking for jobs in the year before that they may be looking for jobs in the veterans that are also already in jobs, looking for jobs, and then a non veterans that are probably looking for jobs. So we start realizing that and understanding reports like the 2018 military transition reports and seeing what the commonalities as stressors, and then also realizing that the Transition Assistance Program, by the Department of Defense is is legislatively designed to provide only the mechanics meaning meaning the basic templates of how to put together a resume how to do interviews, not tailoring to your specific knowledge, in intellect and experiences. But only giving you those mechanics, you quickly realize you have to now build relationships and in the systems and structures you're so used to in the military, like the like the sponsorship programs, and the soldier support Institute's and so forth, you now have to create in and duplicate that in your civilian life that you're getting ready to go into. And how do you do that using LinkedIn using these different resources to try to identify who are the who are the right people, both from the veterans, both from the military population, but also to civilian. And the civilian population is so crucial, because documents tell you, only 20% of the US population has any affiliation with the military. So you are coming from a culture that 80% of the population has no no affiliation, or correlation to. So transitioning really is about how do you start to understand that new environment, what things mean and how you can correlate your environment to that environment to then begin to translate how you talk, dialogue and engage.

Stephanie Manefee  7:45 
That's really great insight. And I you know, I understand that the culture piece of it is a lot different. And I think that, you know, within that military culture, our servicemembers are learning different skills and abilities. And so can you tell us a little bit about what types of skills and abilities service members bring to civilian groups that might not already exist on this civilian teams?

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  8:08 
Right. You know, the, the main thing most people always go to is the loyalty, the trustworthiness about the hard work and dedication. Yes, that's true. But some of the things individuals don't really realize is, just because we don't have the corporate or the civilian credentials, doesn't necessarily mean they don't have the the Lean Six Sigma waste management, or the project management, knowledge and skills and experiences. Because the number one asset for the military, is human capital development, having to make sure that an individual is training both academic wise, self development, and on the job training to be able to assume two levels higher than what they're currently working in, in a lot of times, is that what we call the military decision making process, it's basically saying, this is where I want to be, this is where I am now, let me backwards plan where I want to be to figure out what I needed to do as far as milestones, small milestones, large milestones, so that I get there at the time date designated. In this the same thing is Lean Six Sigma. So you have that piece in it the other pieces. For us in the military, we just can't quit a job is very different than any of our first responder peers, any of our law enforcement peers. We can't quit our job if we don't like who we're working with. We don't like the organization, we have a contract and that also creates a ability to persevere to work through differences, to to work through disagreements, because at the end of the day leadership by the military's term is accomplishing the mission and enhancing the organization through motivation, purpose and direction.

Stephanie Manefee  10:16 
Thank you I am hearing you say that our service members are really kind of getting the same experiences as those in the civilian life, but just under incredibly different circumstances. So in that light, how can leaders and managers and even even co workers recognize and help retired service members integrate into their new teams and how to how to bring those skills over,

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  10:43 
you know, the best way to assist a service member, or retiree, a veteran, whatever the affiliation is, is is assisting them to understand the civilian professional timeline. We have our military professional timelines that tell us at this rank, you should be doing these types of jobs and, and these are your your core jobs. And these are your broadening jobs. And you should have this type of education level and you should be doing these types of positions. And if you want to get to this next level, or you want to get to these fancier jobs, these are the things you have to do. So it's kind of laid out as far as what I need to do, am I above with or below my peers in this progression airy process, if we don't have that coming out, and we don't even know where to go coming out of the military to the civilian world. So that's where a lot of the reliance in kind of being lost even with 20 3035 years in even up to two four star generals level where we've been in these leadership positions. But we probably also didn't do profit and loss. We didn't do a budget management. We didn't do EEO complaints in recruitment, retention, we didn't, we didn't do those specific things that are that are common with a local hiring, firing in in budget management. So we need corporate America to really be able to sit down with us and say, all right, what's your experiences? I know, that's what the title says. But what did you really do? And I know you were in these different types of organizations, and there are a lot of infantry organizations, there are a lot of military police organizations, but what was the population you supported? The population you served with have a bosses, peers and subordinates you have. Because even though those organizations may have had the same purpose, mission, and maybe the same outcome, the way you had to go about it, the way you had to build relationships, the way you had to navigate is probably totally different. And so now you're able to figure out your value proposition and what you're going to bring to the table day one. Now, let us identify within my industry, my company, my department, if it's a fit or not a fit. And if you still want to be here, then these are the different types of civilian credentials or education, or training or prerequisite positions you need to go to, to be able to get to where you want to be.

Stephanie Manefee  13:17 
That's really fantastic advice. So how about on on the other side? Do you have any advice for retired service members working on making meaningful connections in the civilian centric workplace,

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  13:29 
I think every person that has gotten out the military has turned around and said the same thing to the ones that are still in that waited too long to really put any attention and focus on it. Because by culture, we're so used to doing the job that we're currently there for, and having the services and the systems there. While we're active duty, that are no longer there, when we actually make that transition. So it's really about, hey, once you take that suit off, how have you prepared yourself to take care of you in your loved ones, and you're going to probably have to burn the midnight oil to do both of them. But if you don't properly plan a year, two years out, then you're setting yourself up for failure to utilize your transition leave to utilize those last few months of being paid as your time to try to quickly compensate for the year two years when you could have been paid and you had some time to really work on that. The other piece is the how much effort you put into creating your master resume of everything you've done. Both meaning volunteer stuff, everything in what was the financial impact financial meaning, you know, even if it was volunteer hours, you know, that's worth time to somebody. That's worth time in time means money in how you actually monetizing the benefit of what you've done. And if you can't put a value to it, then it then in most businesses is perceived as wasted effort wasted time. So how you creating that master resume that's going to list all these things out. So then you can look at it and figure out what you normally do, where your successes have always stemmed and resulted that regardless of the organization, regardless of the unit, regardless of the situation, you've always did these things from day one. Or you always did these things, once you learn how to operate with that new environment. When you do that, you're going to become self aware of what you bring to the table, and also enhancing the conversations when people ask you, well, what do you good at? What do you like to do? What are you looking to try to do, because if you don't take that time out, now, that's going to end up being why most people end up spending about a year to two years still trying to figure out where they fit.

Stephanie Manefee  16:10 
That's really fantastic insight. And, and I heard you say, at some point a little bit about the work life balance, and you know, now, we're kind of all in a virtual work environment. So how does everything we're talking about now fit in the virtual environment, you know, the service member is now doing all of these things that they would usually be doing in a face to face setting online, sometimes at home and kind of trying to get that work life balance, all together all at once. So, you know, can you tell us a little bit more about that,

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  16:47 
when when you start talking about doing things more virtually, I can recall, early on when I retired, I started doing radio personality for for, for a studio, and how I naturally talk to a person face to face versus talking to someone having to be recorded on video, especially now as may or doing a lot of public service announcements. When I felt I was being engaging and dialoguing and having my true character come across. After I recorded something I wrote down as a as a snippet between songs being played, it sounded as if I was reading it directly from the paper with with with no emotion. And so when you start talking about, you no longer have your ability to read off of what other people's emotions words, or to be able to provide that additional clarity of even though I gave a joke, you can see me to know that I'm joking, and I'm not really being honest, or trying to come off rude. You have to really be more conscious and cognizant of those things. And sometimes doing more of the, is that clear? Does that make sense? Is there anything that um, you know, anything additional that you may have questions or concerns on, because you have to make sure you're really truly getting across to the other individual, when all those other nonverbal signals are no longer available? Um, you know, they may just be seen you waist up. Also, you're talking about how to make sure lighting or, or the background, you know, the virtual background, when when it doesn't operate as I need it. How does that detract in that first engagement that first encountering, you have to take all those things? to a higher degree than just making sure I got the right clothes on? I didn't put too much perfume or cologne on? And am I not wearing anything that may be a competitor and going in there and making sure that I just have my quick wit on me to be able to answer and respond to the questions they have.

Stephanie Manefee  19:03 
And kind of chuckling to myself, as I hear you tell your story and all of these considerations, because, you know, they're things that most of us in the civilian world have had to deal with recently this year. And so I can understand that it's really amplified for someone who, you know, is working already on transitioning and then having this on top of it. And, you know, it seems to me and I think that we have a lot of listeners who would be interested in in helping their fellow service members kind of come into this virtual environment that we're all living in now. So do you have any specific advice, you know, for leaders or managers or you know, team members, help, you know, trying to help with those meaningful connections and considerations in the virtual workspace?

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  19:52 
Definitely. There are a lot of different groups. Like I said, you have the military spouse economic empowerment zone, that That was last through Hiring Our Heroes. And they have quite a few of these local zones throughout the nation in about four states now that are trying to now have a state level support to these local, local entities. And so you can look out to those and see how to be able to help out in support. You have the community veteran engagement boards here within Texas, we have 10. And they're national as well. And they're chartered with the VA is experience office and in a lot of the community veteran engagement boards are actually service providers. The one in Houston combined arms provides actual services and tries to assist people transitioning. So you can look through that as well. Um, some some other things, like I said, I mean, you can always go if you want to, and take a look at our book, the transition, preparing, preparing for financial combat, that the name behind that is every decision you make will have some type of financial impact on you. And so planning properly, having your mindset ready, building the right connections, engaging with organizations the proper way, all those things have some type of financial impact on you. And then I know the army is currently talking and trying to plan to put together a ETS exiting, I forget the acronym for but when servicemembers leave the military, now they're trying to create just like they have the mentorship program, one for those exiting the military. So the Services Department of Defense is starting to realize they do need to provide more opportunities and segways of assisting individuals transitioning you probably have local, county level County Veterans Service Officers, you have other organizations and entities out there. The campuses have their own veteran service departments, centers for veteran successes. So nobody has to do it alone. There are entities organizations that are out there.

Stephanie Manefee 22:11 
That's great. That's really great advice and really great resources that you're sharing with us some I'm wondering, more specifically, you know, if I, you know, say I get a new team member, you know, retired service member and I can kind of tell maybe they're having a little bit of a hard time acclimating Is there anything that I can do, you know, as a civilian team member to kind of help them feel more comfortable in the new space?

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  22:41 
Yes, there's a lot that you can do, honestly, and this kind of probably falls into what we try to do, as far as coaching and mentoring with Wallace brothers and Associates, is helping people to be able to correlate their natural experiences with the new environment is not a full, you know, 180 I have to, I have to basically, forget everything I was taught learned in my military time, no, the same type of leadership that didn't talk to you, or the leadership that didn't give you a lot of information or leadership that was too busy. Does that relate to someone that you're working with? If you're now in an environment that people just don't talk? And in have this free decor in and hang out afterwards? Right? Can you reflect back to a time and how did you manage that? The same way as when you go into a new organization? You know, what did you do to set yourself up for success, even though you didn't know how that organization operated, because you're a part of that organization, you can help that individuals start to see where some commonalities are, so they can, they can be able to adapt quicker. And they can start to bridge that that common knowledge factor. So they can be able to utilize their already learned experiences to utilize that in this new environment to help them succeed quicker.

Stephanie Manefee  24:14 
Yeah, that's fantastic advice. You know, really, thanks so much for all this wonderful information you've shared with us. Are there any additional pieces of advice or bits of wisdom, you could leave with us today pertaining to that transition from the military to the virtual workforce?

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr, 24:31 
You know, right now working with the university, serving as the as the lead for the military workgroup and strategy development. And what we're looking at is how can we continue to enhance even that transitioning that assistance, that personalization, that mitigating dropout, enhancing enrollment as well as graduation rates, maximizing veteran benefits assessing how their military experience may better align with one degree versus another, and so forth. We're working on that right now as we speak with North Central University because they realize this is an area that is oftentimes not truly focused on or appreciated just across academia. And one of our goals here is to try to establish a best practices model for online institutions. I mean, most people know about the Institute for veteran military families from Syracuse University is great to provide a lot I've gone through almost most of their programs. But some of the hardest things for servicemembers, veterans, retirees, even if they're still in or out of the military, is how they get that support and assistance from online universities. Because they don't have that physical ability to walk into a place and ask questions.

Stephanie Manefee  26:07 
Yeah, and that's something that I'm, I personally have to say I'm selfishly, so glad that you're here with us to help us navigate. Dr. Wallace. Thank you so much for joining us in support of the Center for the advancement of virtual organizations. We truly appreciate your insights and we know our listeners will benefit from your experience.

Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr,  26:26  
No problem. I appreciate it. Anytime.