While he has a desk at Verizon’s Global Network Management Center in Cary, North Carolina, you’ll rarely find Aaron Francis seated on the job. Despite the injuries he sustained during his years in the Army, Francis says he prefers to spend his days “on the floor,” building rapport and resolving network issues alongside his team. As the network operations and engineering supervisor, Francis spends every day putting the leadership skills he developed in the Army into practice with his diverse team of engineers, many of whom are reservists or veterans themselves.
“I’ve had to deal with people from different walks of life who were under extremely stressful situations, including those who were facing death,” Francis says. “[This] has definitely honed my ability to be a calming and steadying influence, and to actually lead – not to be a boss, but to be a leader.”
Bringing a passion for people to a technology company
In the Army, Francis served as a squad leader for a group of seven soldiers who operated and maintained a Patriot missile system. In this role, he was responsible for the welfare, training and job performance of his junior soldiers. He also completed a year-long deployment in the Middle East. After five years of service, however, the physical demands of Army life took its toll on his back, and Francis was medically discharged in 2017.
Post-military, Francis completed a variety of IT classes at a local college and eventually landed a job with a major technology company. After two years in a highly technical position, he began to miss leading, building and collaborating with cross-functional teams during his time in the Army.
“I was ready for a change,” Francis recalls. “I have a passion for people’s skills and development, and I want everyone to be successful. When I was given this chance, I decided to grab it because I remembered how much I enjoyed leading soldiers when I was in the Army. It made me want to go to work — and because of that, coming to work every day here is awesome. I get to impact people from all walks of life.”
Francis noted that a positive work environment was also essential to him in his job search, which ultimately led him to Verizon.
“One thing that sold me in the interview and still impresses me is the culture,” Francis says. “My manager told me they’re trying to build up the culture here. They want to create a supportive and inclusive culture – a place where people enjoy coming to work. That supportive culture is definitely the biggest thing I love about working here.”
From supplying weapons to supplying generators
LaToya Hayes, a former unit supply specialist for the Army, is a network engineer in the same Cary, North Carolina location where Francis works. In search of more work-life balance, she transitioned to the Army Reserve in 1999 after three years of active duty.
“Being a single mother with upcoming deployments, constant training, and an uncertain work schedule was very difficult for me,” Hayes recalls. “I came to a crossroads in my career and decided to separate from the military to spend more time with my newborn.”
Hayes’ brother, who is also an Army veteran, recommended that she apply to Verizon and join him at the company. He encouraged Hayes to pursue a career that aligned to the skills she took away from the Army. Once she began working at Verizon, Hayes found leaders who were supportive of both work-life balance and her commitments to the Army Reserve. Twenty years later, her Verizon career has brought her diversity and inclusion in the workplace, opportunities for growth and a positive work environment that keeps her motivated to come into work each day.
“There’s a genuine spirit of cooperation and shared goals among the groups, all of which revolve around helping the customer,” Hayes says. “The diversity of the work that we do ensures that no day is like any other, so I’m always focused on bettering myself and learning more about the network.”
As a network engineer, Hayes ensures that Verizon’s network infrastructure is protected from power outages and environmental threats, such as natural disasters. While her current role may differ from her role in the military, the skills she learned in the Army have translated well in the civilian workforce. As a unit supply specialist in the military, Hayes used collaboration and exceptional communication skills to interact with everyone in her battalion, from soldiers to the battalion commander. She draws upon these experiences and skills in her role today as she communicates effectively with Verizon personnel at all levels to resolve network issues.
“Military soft skills are critical when working in a structured environment with a small window of error,” Hayes says. “I would say skills like teamwork, work ethic, and flexibility stand out the most because they are the core of the Army’s mission and also align with Verizon’s credo. Leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills come to a close second because they help me with my day-to-day tasks here at Verizon.”
In a similar way, the Army has also provided Francis with a coping strategy he uses when his work becomes particularly challenging.
“There are times where I’ll literally be swamped and I’ll take a step back mentally and just say, ‘You know what? No one’s trying to blow me up today. I’m doing just fine,'” Francis says.
Hiring veterans with intent
Verizon is one of many companies that recognize the unique skills and experiences that veterans bring to the workplace. Through Verizon’s website, veterans and military spouses can search for Verizon jobs related to their experience that are located near their military installation. They can also contact a military recruiter directly and read helpful tips for transitioning into the civilian workforce. They can even join Verizon’s Military Talent Network, which provides more information and opportunities that best suit their interests and expertise.
In addition, Verizon has a dedicated military recruitment team that organizes and attends career fairs and hiring events for military spouses and veterans. As a result of the company’s dedication to service members, Verizon has hired over 10,000 veterans and counting.
“Two weeks ago, we had a military interview day,” Francis says. “We had 15 different applicants come in and we hired a few of them. I was pretty excited about that.”
These hiring practices, along with Verizon’s veteran-friendly culture, have earned the company multiple awards, including Military Times’ Best Employers for Vets 2019 and 2018, #1 Military Friendly Company 2019and 2018, Top 10 Military Spouse Friendly Employer 2019, and VetFriendly.com’s Veteran Friendly Employer designation.
Francis recommends that veterans seeking the pay, benefits and growth potential that come with working for a major corporation should consider working at Verizon for its commitment to veterans.
“You’re not going to find a company that’s more veteran-friendly than Verizon,” Francis says. “Verizon is one of the best moves I’ve ever made in my life, other than joining the military.”
This post is sponsored by Verizon