Retired Col. talks advantages of veterans in corporate America during VetConnect Dinner

Veterans, alumni, current students and faculty had the opportunity to meet and network during this year’s 4th Annual Veteran Connections Reception and Dinner.

The night served as an opportunity for veterans in business to network with industry professionals, as well as hear from this year’s keynote speaker, retired U.S. Army Col. John Tien, a managing director at Citigroup. Tien currently serves as the national co-head of Citi’s Military Veterans Initiative, which provides firmwide support to U.S. military veterans and spouses both internal and external to the company.

Tien’s 24-year military career included more than a decade of overseas assignments in Europe and the Middle East, as well as three combat tours in Iraq. Tien’s last military assignment was a three-year tour of duty at the White House, where he was a senior national security advisor to both President Obama and Bush.

With the skillset military personnel acquire during their service, Tien touched on how veterans can better leverage those skills while transitioning into corporate America.

“I wasn’t sure what my skillset would be going into corporate America, especially as a managing director at Citi,” Tien said. “As it turns out, there’s a range of ability — not because of who I am, but because of what the U.S. Army, West Point, my soldiers and my noncommissioned officers taught me, particularly in times of war.”

One of the key skills veterans can bring to corporate America is having a laser focus on priorities. Because Tien served in a leadership role during his military service, he knew that would bring a certain level of responsibility.

“There’s nothing like facing your own mortality,” Tien said. “And, if you are a leader, like many of us in this room, you are responsible to help protect the mortality and extend the mortality of those who serve underneath you. You have to bring a laser focus to your priorities in terms of what you’ve got to get done.”

There are many perceptions of veterans in the corporate world, both positive and negative. Tien listed off several positive descriptors of veterans: teamwork, good culture and good leader. However, he also listed off several less positive descriptors: less educated, socially debilitating post-traumatic stress, not good at business, myopic and inflexible.

“For all of us who are veteran leaders in a corporate space, what you have to remember is, there are some misperceptions about veterans out there.

“What we have to do is, through our own actions, say, ‘We’re strategic thinkers. We’re planners. We’re fast learners. We’re analytic. We’re visionary. We’re relationship builders. We’re good client managers. We’re negotiators. We’re deal makers. We have great command presence.’ You need to take advantage of that — not by lording it over your colleagues, but by simply being you. Don’t forget how useful that’s going to be and how much value you’re going to be bringing.”

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