Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Veteran Spotlight: Maria Carolina Gonzales-Prats

(Carolina Gonzales-Prats, left, at a "Stand Down for Homelessness" event)

It has been almost two-and-a-half years since Carolina took her position as a Field Consultant with 7-Eleven Inc. in the Sierra Nevada region through Orion International and seven-and-a-half years since she left the Army, where she served as a Supply and Logistics Officer. Although she is no longer the rookie or the “no kid on the block” in her job, she tells From the Battlefield that she finds herself as challenged and engaged as her first day.

Carolina explains that her first month looking for a job was extremely humbling. "I left the Army with a multitude of real world experiences that made me extremely self-confident about my capabilities, even in fields or industries in which I had no prior experience or training. Interview after interview, I felt like I was being told ad nauseam what I DIDN’T have to OFFER (conventional education, industry experience, etc) versus the breadth and depth of what I could offer my employer and my teammates," recalls Carolina.

After trying her hand at a few different careers, Carolina settled into a position as Field Consultant/District Manager for 7-Eleven in 2009. In this position, Carolina serves as a business consultant and coach for a group of eight 7-Eleven stores with $4 to $6 million in revenues. Her duties include collaborating with the store operators and/or owners to implement corporate and merchandising strategies, while supporting the development, reassessment and execution of employee training, annual budgets, business plans, and 24-hour store operations.

"I rely on my various management and leadership from my experiences as a Supply and Logistics Officer in the Army and my earlier civilian career in social work and school counseling to succeed in this industry. Working as a Field Consultant enables me to continually challenge myself by cultivating my analytical and business acumen," says Carolina of her career, "This step outside my “comfort zone” represents a steep and humbling learning curve that rivals even my first days as a Platoon Leader or Company Executive Officer, but I’m nonetheless grateful for the opportunity to diversify and strengthen my existing skill set."

Working for an organization like 7-Eleven with a strong commitment to supporting its communities has allowed Carolina to combine her professional development with her passion for community engagement. In the last couple of years, she has been given the full support and encouragement of her supervisor and peers to participate in several projects to include the Muscular Dystrophy Association “Shamrock Program” and “Cops and Kids Program”, supporting positive relations between the community and law enforcement.

"Although I have enjoyed all the community projects, I am most proud of the partnership and corporate sponsorship initiated with the local Homeless Veteran Program, participating in last year’s 'Stand Down for Homelessness' event, which became the highlight of 2011 for me. A team of local franchisees, field consultants, and store employees participated in a daylong event at the local VA Hospital providing coffee, glazed donuts, and coffee mugs to the homeless veterans," Carolina tells From the Battlefield, "More importantly, our store operations team was able to thank these men and women personally for their service, and, in turn, put a real human face to a segment of our population that is often overlooked and forgotten about, despite their service to our country."

The seven-and-a-half years since Carolina left the Army have been a roller coaster of changes for her. For Carolina, connecting with other fellow veterans really helped make the difference. "I have no regrets. I accomplished all that I wanted in the Army, and, in my own way, know that I left the Army better than I found it. I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2012 will bring as I continue the post-Army chapter of my life!" explains Carolina.

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