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Honoring our Veterans

  • 11 November 2020 / By Amy Parker

At Kin + Carta, we feel an incredible amount of both respect and gratitude for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who defend our freedom. And we are proud to honor our Kin + Carta veterans. In thinking about their sacrifices, one can learn a lot about courage, servant leadership, and compassion—values we strive for as a firm, and ones that veterans all over the world fully embody. 

This Veterans Day, we took a moment to talk to some of our Kin + Carta Veterans, not only to learn more about them, but to give them an opportunity to share insights for transitioning military members looking to start a new career. 

With that, I introduce you to Brendan O’Brien, Carl Grin, Jeremy Sumpter, Mark Overstreet, Mark Sage, & Steve Richardson—you’ll want to hear what they have to say.

 

Veteran Headshots

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

Brendan O’Brien, Director of Global Growth Operations:

Veterans Day is a time to remember and honor all those who have served in the defense of democracy, freedom and our way of life. In particular, we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. Veterans Day is a reminder that we should not take our safety and liberty for granted, they come at great cost.

Jeremy Sumpter, Scrum Master

Veterans Day is all about showing your support to the veterans that sacrifice day-in and day-out to protect the country’s greater interest! On a more personal note I always thought of veterans day as a great day for me to thank other vets for their service and get a chance to connect with some of our older veterans.

Mark Overstreet, Senior Product Consultant

Veterans Day is an opportunity for me to think about the people with whom I’ve served and people I know who have served, like my grandfather (WWII) and uncle (Vietnam). I also appreciate the opportunity to go to local schools through the VFW to represent veterans by giving a short speech.

Mark Sage, Technical Consultant

It is a time to honor those that have served in combat, given their lives or health in service of the United States.

Steve Richardson, Scrum Master

I see Veterans Day as an opportunity for people to seek out service members and have a conversation around the “why” behind their service to America and the world. Any opportunity we have to bring people of diverse backgrounds together and share their stories is a defining moment for the people involved. Overtime, my personal hope is that veterans are seen for who they truly are as individuals and what they sacrificed in their personal and professional journey of service.

Steve Richardson
Captain Steve Richardson after holding one last huddle prior to the Change of Command ceremony. The Marines in the photo represent the Plankowners for the newly activated unit that was led by Capt Richardson. The group grew from an original 8 to 265 Marines while conducting operations across the US and the globe.

What are some unique challenges you’ve faced as a veteran in the workplace throughout your career?

Brendan O’Brien, Director of Global Growth Operations:

Perhaps the greatest challenge I’ve faced is learning to lead outside the “chain of command.” In the service, it is a common refrain to “respect the person, not the rank,” but the rank is there when needed in critical situations. Modern organizations follow many different operating structures, and authority does not always come from position. I’ve had to learn to lead more through influence than through authority. Frankly, that is a much greater challenge than expected.

Carl Grin, Senior Director of Solution Delivery & Office of the CTO

In the military you are often driven to a common goal as a team. In the workplace, you will experience more differences in priorities with others. This can be fine, it is just different.

Mark Overstreet, Senior Product Consultant

I’ve been lucky in that all of my civilian employers have been 100% supportive of my Reserve status and obligations.

Steve Richardson, Scrum Master

I am about a year out from exiting the service, but am still in my transition from the Marine Corps. Before now, I saw myself entering into the civilian workforce as a challenge that forced me to adapt to civilian life as quickly as possible. I’m not sure that fully encompasses the reality of the transition.
My previous perspective was that my transition was the last mission I received and I had a responsibility to carry out that mission alone. After a year of reflection, I realized how wrong I was.
A successful transition is one where the individual veteran meets their success criteria. One part of that is service members seeking out opportunities to be part of a Veteran service organization (VSO) or finding a veteran mentor in the area of their relocation. The other half of the success criteria for the veteran would be the “cultural add” they bring to a company. Far too often I have heard veterans say they are trying to prove themselves as a valuable team member to companies. After much thought, I disagree with that mindset. We as veterans may have had a different path in life, but that brings with it a wealth of knowledge and experience. When this is coupled together with the experiences of the paths of civilians, some amazing results are produced!

Veterans 1
Left: Brendan from his time in service as a fighter pilot. Right: Mark Sage in a parade in West Berlin, carrying his home state flag of Idaho.

How has your experience as a veteran translated to working at Kin + Carta? 

Brendan O’Brien, Director of Global Growth Operations:

In the service, great leaders balance Mission, People and Safety. At Kin + Carta, we make the same critical decisions every day balancing People, Profit and Planet. You can’t abandon one in pursuit of the others. There will always be contingencies who believe one is paramount and the other two take a back seat. As veterans, we understand running an organization well means a cross-check of many important factors. We’re willing and prepared to make the tough and sometimes unpopular decisions to find the right balance, and we hold ourselves accountable.

Carl Grin, Senior Director of Solution Delivery & Office of the CTO

Servant leadership is a big part of being in the military. This is a key skill to being a great consultant at Kin + Carta.

Jeremy Sumpter, Scrum Master

I think the most important attribute or skill that transferred over to civilian life is the ability to feel comfortable in developing situations. The military preaches that as a leader you must be comfortable with ambiguity. Personally I’d argue that to be successful in any organization you have to be comfortable with ambiguity. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to figure out later on down the line, it just means you can still progress through a situation even if all the information is not yet available.

Mark Sage, Technical Consultant

The military experience for me was a constant state of change and new experiences. It was the most diverse environment in which I have worked. I got accustomed to working with people coming from backgrounds very different than my own. When I was in a combat support battalion as a sniper, twelve of us lived in a single space with no interior walls. We respected each other's music and agreed upon times when we could play our own stuff loud. We set up quiet time for reading. We worked together as a team. I bring that to Kin + Carta, respecting the background and various skill sets that different people can bring to a team.

Veterans 2
Left: Carl from his time in service in the Military. Right: Jeremy rushing back towards the assembly area after his first jump at airborne school.

How has military service prepared you for the challenges presented by the tumultuous events of 2020?

Brendan O’Brien, Director of Global Growth Operations:

Resilience and adaptability. Our service men and women are put into uncomfortable and dynamic situations from day one of basic training. They go through lengthy field exercises, and, of course, combat deployments. The saying “embrace the suck” is a common one in the service. It’s a light-hearted way of helping keep focus on what really matters, which is not your discomfort or the original plan, but accomplishing the mission and taking care of your people. When the operating environment is austere or even extreme, the situation is highly dynamic, and you’re enduring mental and physical duress, veterans remain resilient and adapt to win.

Carl Grin, Senior Director of Solution Delivery & Office of the CTO

In the military no problem is too hard to solve and within a unit, everyone works together for the purpose of the mission. Being a team player and doing your part to combat the COVID pandemic is just a normal part of being a veteran.

Jeremy Sumpter, Scrum Master

2020 came out of nowhere, and I was by no means prepared. However, having spent some time in the military I’ve gone through countless hours of resiliency training. Resiliency training is pretty much an interactive session where the instructor will go over some fundamental resiliency pieces, along with common negative thinking traps and how to overcome them. In those classes we focused on everything from “Hunt the good stuff”, to what it really means to catastrophize and how damaging that can be to someone, especially when that person is isolated. By having some of that training in my back pocket, I’ve been able to curve those negative thinking traps when they start to creep in because I can’t responsibly go see my friends or go to see one of my favorite movies with my wife. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and usually our strongest critic is ourselves!

Mark Overstreet, Senior Product Consultant

“Adapt and overcome” is a mantra in the military. Since COVID, I joined a new team, onboarded to a new project, integrated with a new working culture, started writing requirements, and started leading as quickly as possible to provide value to the client.

Mark Sage, Technical Consultant

I have always disliked virtual meetings and when given a choice, I always come to the office. I have been on two different teams since the pandemic started and didn't know anyone on the teams prior to starting the engagements. The military got me used to talking to strangers and establishing relationships. "There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't yet met. :)”

Steve Richardson, Scrum Master

Most military members have been deployed in some way in service to America. Those deployments are typically arduous, complicated, and emotional parts of our lives that last months to years. So in some respects, service members have experienced tumultuous events before entering 2020. My experience and advice to veterans is two fold, first would be to treat our current environment with the same fervor of effort pre-deployment training has placed on us all, and to be prepared with a personal mission statement and end state that allows us to succeed. Secondly, is for us to use our experience in demanding and stressful situations to help those in need. Remember, service doesn't stop when you take off the uniform.

Mark Overstreet
Mark O in Afghanistan during his 2012 deployment.

What advice would you give military members looking to transition into technology consulting?

Brendan O’Brien, Director of Global Growth Operations:

Start networking about 12-18 months out from separation. Leverage LinkedIn to find fellow veterans or alumni in your target industry, and ask them for a 15-minute informational interview. Ask them about the various roles available, what good days and bad days look like, and companies they recommend. Finally, ask them for two or three other people they recommend speaking to and ask for an introduction. Before you know it, you’ll have built out a nice network and you’ll be much more informed on the companies and roles you should be targeting. You’ll be surprised how many people will go out of their way to help you. Just remember to show gratitude and then pay it forward.

Jeremy Sumpter, Scrum Master

Read! Read! Read! There are a zillion different resources out there to help you better understand Agile frameworks, project management and everything else in between.
Secondly, if you have questions, be sure to ask them, and ask them early. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask a question.
Thirdly, be confident and remember your military training. It will come in handy and help you to be successful as you transition.

Mark Overstreet, Senior Product Consultant

I’d tell them that technology consulting isn’t really about technology or about consulting...it’s about people. Put together the right group of talented people, give them a task they find interesting and challenging, and go for it. Using those terms, I think any military leader would recognize the challenge as something they have seen before. The technical elements of what we do can be learned over the course of time (which isn’t to discount the importance of those skills).

Mark Sage, Technical Consultant

College isn’t a requirement. You can get a start in the field with a high interest in technology, fantastic self-study habits and some quality boot camps.

Steve Richardson, Scrum Master

Start early. Set a date for your transition that allows you to reach your goals and then move it to the left 6 months. Find and read books and articles on corporate America’s strategic initiatives, agile implementation, emotional intelligence, interviewing skills, and technology trends.
Begin your certification process as soon as you can. There are a lot of programs out there to assist service members in this challenging transition.
Build your brand. There are plenty of resources to help you build, refine, and adjust it as necessary. Don't forget that being a veteran is part of that brand, and attempting to hide that in any way is a disservice to America and your co-workers.
Build your Linkedin profile to be an asset for your transition not another “social” media platform to spend time on. Then network online and in person at every moment you have available.

veterans lunch
Carl, Brendan, and Mark S. after a Kin + Carta Veteran's Lunch last year. The team communicates within a slack group and coordinates time together (when possible!) as a way to support one another.

Honoring the past and present of our Kin is not just important to us, it’s at the core of our culture. Sending a big thank you from Kin + Carta to all veterans across the world today!

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