Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Veteran Spotlight: David Gentile

Orion is continuing its 20th anniversary celebration this month by featuring another one of our early placements, David Gentile. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1988 and completing Nuclear Power School, Nuclear Prototype Training and Submarine School, Gentile spent the next three-and-a-half years as a Nuclear/Submarine Qualified Division Officer aboard USS Baltimore (SSN-704), a Los Angeles class fast attack submarine based in Norfolk, VA. When it came time for Gentile to transition out of the Navy, he followed the advice of his fellow JMOs and began to work with Orion International. He was subsequently placed with International Paper as a Plant/Manufacturing Engineer by Orion in 1993.

Aside from word of mouth, Gentile recalls that he chose Orion because when he was transitioning “there were fewer JMO recruiters, and a lot of them insisted on exclusivity. They would work with you only if you would commit only to use them to find a job.” Gentile says that he found Orion to be much easier to work with.

Gentile obtained his job with International Paper through a Mini-Conference® held at their Memphis corporate headquarters. He was one of about 15 JMOs interviewing for positions in International Paper’s manufacturing facilities within the corrugated container division in the United States. It was the combination of salary and location with a big name company that attracted Gentile to this position in the management training program. “In a very short time there, I got incredible exposure to all aspects of manufacturing operations,” says Gentile.

Since his initial position outside of the military, Gentile’s career has shifted from manufacturing operations to wireless/software service management. After 18 months with International Paper, Gentile took his experience gained, and parlayed that into a Production Manager role with Brown & Williamson Tobacco. He was at Brown & Williamson for about three years before deciding to take a Plant Manager position with Seaward International. The role at Seaward turned out to be much more than a Plant Manager role, however, and Gentile gained experience in Sales, as well. While at Seaward, he attended George Washington University and received his MBA.

After graduating from GWU, Gentile made the jump into the high-tech field and took a Program Management position at a wireless IT startup in Northern Virginia named Ztango. “What on paper looked like a step backwards, actually ended up being a great decision. There, my leadership and management skills served me well, as I developed the reputation for being able to get complex revenue generating services launched quickly and profitably,” explains Gentile, “Even though the IT bubble burst about nine months after I got to Ztango, I was one of ten people of the original 150 that survived and built the company up that was subsequently acquired by a South Korean company (WiderThan) and later by Real Networks.”

Eleven years later, Gentile is still with Real Networks and is now the AVP – Service Management, responsible for all services to wireless carrier customers in the US. He has a team of about 40 employees and an annual revenue stream of about $50MM. “In my current role, I am effectively the CEO for my part of the organization with P&L responsibility and a large amount of autonomy. I’m looking to translate that into a COO or CEO role in a technology firm hopefully in my not too distant future,” says Gentile of his future plans.

Gentile credits not only the leadership and management skills he obtained in the Navy, but also his ability to confront any challenge head-on with his success in his career. “There were no challenges in industry that came anywhere close to the pressure and intensity of submarine and nuclear power operations. I always seemed to be the calm in the storm,” says Gentile. He also points out that the frequency with which he changed duty in the Navy prepared him well for increasing responsibility in his civilian career.

“I learned that you had to build upon what you knew and then question everything else,” explains Gentile, “This served me incredibly well when I moved from traditional manufacturing to wireless IT with Ztango. When I got to Ztango, everyone other than me had an IT background or a wireless communications background or both. I had neither, yet I was effective. My effectiveness came from my strength as a leader and my willingness to admit what I didn’t know and quickly learn from there.”

During his time at Real Networks, Gentile has hired three JMOs, all of whom are USNA graduates. All three were well-regarded and effective in their roles. Gentile suggests that other hiring managers value veterans for more than just their directly transferable skills. “Subject knowledge can be easily taught. Instead, value veterans for the qualities that are critically important in industry today, including integrity, aptitude, and strong and effective leadership and management skills,” advises Gentile.

As for transitioning veterans, Gentile has three pieces of advice. First, he suggests not jumping too quickly on the first opportunity to come along, as it may not be the best fit. He also suggests that the best job for them may be the one where the prospective employer seems to value veterans the most. And, finally, Gentile says not to be afraid to try new things and to volunteer or accept new challenges. “I have found in my own experiences that I was sometimes promoted and even survived the two acquisitions because of additional skills that I possessed or experiences that I had that started out by my volunteering or taking on a new assignment,” explains Gentile.

David Gentile’s career path reveals the flexibility and wide-ranging skill set that veterans bring with them to a civilian position. From our earliest placements like Gentile to our very latest placement 23,000 veterans and 20 years later, Orion continues to herald the value of veterans and is proud to represent them in their career transition.

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