Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Veteran Spotlight: Chris Pieczonka



From the Battlefield to the Boardroom recently interviewed Chris Pieczonka as part of our ongoing series of Veteran Spotlights. Pieczonka, a United States Naval Academy graduate, is a former Surface Warfare Officer who accepted a position through Orion within Siemens Energy’s Sales and Marketing Development Program. His career has taken him from the USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN to sharing a stage with the First Lady as part of The 4th Annual Business Steps Up, Hiring Our Heroes Conference held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and he shares his transition experience here.

Pieczonka’s preparation for a civilian career began during his tour with Destroyer Squadron 23. While attached to that command, he was the Training Officer for five destroyers. “This was an incredible job, because the staff was comprised of senior department heads and NCOs. It was a very flat organization and incredibly informal relative to other Navy commands,” explains Pieczonka, “Additionally, I had four training officers out of the five ships, who were my year group and responsible for reporting their readiness to me. This proved to be an invaluable education on management and support of a team.”

He attended the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, an accelerated part time program, and graduated before he PCS’d from the Navy. It was during this time he began working on his resume. He explains that a resume is an iterative process that requires dozens of revisions. He was constantly polishing and refining his resume to be directed to different industries and job responsibilities.

In addition to job-hunting on his own, he also worked with Orion and received an offer for a Siemens Energy Sales and Marketing Development Program (SMDP) position. The Program started in June 2011 while Pieczonka was on terminal leave. He was one of three JMOs in the pilot program. The program consists of four three-month long rotations through various divisions of Siemens Energy.

In September 2011, he was chosen as one of four Orion alumni at Siemens to participate in The 4th Annual Business Steps Up, Hiring Our Heroes Conference. There, he sat on stage with Michelle Obama during her address to the Conference.  “Attending the US Chamber of Commerce event was a tremendous experience that highlighted some of the incredible things the Federal Government, Chamber of Commerce, and various companies are doing to utilize the talents of military service veterans,” says Pieczonka. 

From the Battlefield asked Pieczonka how his military experience came into play in his civilian career. Pieczonka recalls, “One of the most direct ways my military experience applies to my new job is the fact that I earned an EOOW on my first command. Siemens Energy’s competitive advantage in energy industry is its leading edge gas turbine technology. Having some intimate knowledge of how a gas turbine plant works was a huge advantage in the interview process.”

He goes to say, “But the military experience goes well beyond directly transferrable skills. Conflict resolution, team building, change management, ability to speak confidently and directly to subordinates, superiors, and especially contemporaries; as well as experience in developing and executing plans, are all strengths I honed in the military.

Specifically, his experience came into play during one of his first assignments when the Chief Marketing Officer wanted him to provide projections on the need for renewable power generation, per state, in 2015, based on renewable portfolio standards set by each state. There was very little guidance beyond that. “Having worked in the Surface Warfare community, I was extremely comfortable taking on a project that had very little direction as to how to accomplish the final goal,” describes Pieczonka.

Pieczonka tells From the Battlefield that if he had to advise fellow veterans on how to execute a successful transition, he would say to make finding your next career a part-time job. He explains that to find a truly fulfilling and worthwhile second career, you are doing yourself and everything you accomplished in the military a disservice if you don’t focus on your career search.

“As a veteran, you understand hard work, team-first mentality, competence, and most importantly - integrity. With these attributes, and some specific training, you can do some incredible things for an organization", he explains, “And you can learn and ramp up at a much faster rate and provide additional value added sooner. If you do things the proper way, with discipline and thoroughness, it may be challenging and difficult, but the reward on the other side is that you get to start another career that you will truly enjoy.”

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