Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Veteran Spotlight: Will Simmons

Will Simmons was placed by Orion International as a Manufacturing Supervisor with Actavis, a leading generic pharmaceutical company, in November 2009, exactly two weeks after leaving the military. Previously, he served in the Air Force as a Captain in the Office of Special Investigations. Since his transition, Simmons tells From the Battlefield that he has already received a promotion and that he can truly say that beginning a civilian career with Actavis was the best move he ever made.

When he transitioned, Simmons found searching for a job to be a full-time job. “It's very difficult to finish your military duties while also going home each night to spend another three to five hours working on resumes and applications, only to start it all over again the next day,” recalls Simmons, “It is very frustrating to send out applications and hear either nothing back or be rejected while also going through the myriad of paperwork and meetings that the military requires for separation.” That frustration, however, changed to relief when he teamed up with Orion and landed a job with Actavis.

Since starting with Actavis, Simmons has progressed to be the Senior MRF Supervisor. He went from the low-man-on-the-totem-pole in November 2009 to the Senior MRF Supervisor by January 2011. Simmons tells From the Battlefield that his immediate boss and director told him the promotion was based on his attention to detail, ability to execute under stress, and his ability to connect with the personnel that worked for (and with) him, producing excellent results. “They recognized my ability to connect with people,” explains Simmons. As an example, Simmons describes a time when he used his military skills to solve a disconnect between the operators and management:

Just as I did when assuming a new command or new reports in the military, I sat down with them as a group and went over my expectations but then took the time to meet with each one of them to go over where they felt their strengths were, what weaknesses (in both themselves and the organization) they saw, and where there was room for improvement. I gathered all this information and then met with them again as a group to go over (with no attribution) some of the information that was brought to my attention. As a group, we went over the information that had been presented.

This allowed me to explain why some issues that were brought up were the way they were (federal requirements), but then also to explain some issues that could definitely be improved upon. Together, we drafted a list of achievements we would like to obtain by the end of the year. At the end of the year, we went through them. Praise was given for those that were achieved, and we discussed lessons learned regarding those that weren’t met.

It may sound like common sense, but the approach of reaching out to those that worked for him truly made a difference. Simmons attributes this approach to his experience in the military. He also accredit his military background with helping him develop the ability to think clearly and make decisions under stress, which is critical in a manufacturing environment that operates 24/7/365—often with products that can cost in upwards 1 million dollars in raw materials.

Simmons advises transitioning veterans to have patience. “Be proactive but realize that it will take time. Make back-up plans in advance with the realization that your job search may take longer than expected,” he reminds fellow veterans. To Simmons, the transition from military to civilian is a continuing evolution. “You just don’t wake up one morning and the transformation is complete (even if that’s what you really want). Parts of the military, your experiences, and lessons learned stay with you,” reflects Simmons, “While some might diminish in their effect on how you operate in a civilian world, they have all shaped who you are now and will more than likely continue to shape who you will become in the future. It’s really up to you how you want to incorporate it all.”

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