Nov 1, 2021
Veteran Spotlight: How the Military Prepares You for Corporate Life

Members of the military and veteran community are a long-standing part of the culture here at Cigna we’re proud to call them our co-workers, friends, and family. While we often spotlight the sacrifices they’ve made and the challenges they’ve faced to protect our country, we wanted to take a moment to hear from our Cigna veterans and learn how the military has prepared them for the lives they lead today.

We recently spoke with five Cigna employees, who shared some of the lessons, skills, and experiences from their military service that have shaped their careers.

Lee Heaton, Cigna Solutions Delivery, Former Information Operations Commander, U.S. Navy

Transitioning from a lifetime of military life to civilian life is difficult. It’s moving from a well-structured, highly disciplined environment into a more loose, free-form setting. Sometimes I just wanted to turn around and tell the U.S. Navy I had only been joking when I decided to retire. But that wasn’t how I’d been trained – to run from an obstacle.

Complex project management and organization translates directly to working in solutions delivery at Cigna. As an officer, I was given tasks or jobs and expected to bring them to successful fruition – in my 22 years, I worked a myriad of projects. I worked on exciting issues and saw some great things come to light. One of my last projects involved a network of vendors spread around the world. The task was to repair and install cabling across the main NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan – a complex project that required bidding for funding, scheduling delivery into a hostile environment, scheduling outages of critical communication infrastructure during war, and travelling to and from Afghanistan, to name a few.

Managing tasks that can change at the drop of a hat, making sure the project or initiative brings value to the business, working with a multitude of requirements from various areas of the business, meshing team members with their own priorities into one champion team, being fluid and flexible, and adaptive to change are all a part of initiatives at Cigna.

I also learned to transition to corporate culture in other ways. I have learned to be less staunch and now begin my emails with “Hi!” or “Good Morning” instead of just launching into the work. But I carry my military experiences and use them when facing those obstacles that are bound to appear.

Shawn McBeth, Cigna Network Operations, Former Computer Operator Sergeant, U.S. Army  

When I think back over my military career, I realized that the most important skill to prepare for corporate life was discipline. The corporate world is filled with structured governance and a code of ethical behaviors – my training in the military focused on the importance of obeying rules and displaying the code of honor. This preparation helps keep that same mind frame in my work today.

[Another] skillset I brought to Cigna was my attention to detail and patience. I’ve been working at Cigna for the past 20 years and in every position I’ve held it has improved my work. The military [also] teaches patience without you realizing it. There was always an urgency to rush to meetings and formations but you ended up waiting long lengths of time before the events would actually begin. So whenever I have meetings on my calendar now, I always set a reminder and 5 minutes before the meeting I will call in and wait, that way I am always on time and I have the patience to wait no matter how long it takes to begin.

To all of my military veterans thinking about a corporate career, know that the military has prepared you in every way possible to be the best that you can be in everything you do. Know that you have the skills and would add value to any team. Even though we don’t all wear the same uniform in the corporate world, we all are still working towards the same goal.

Andre Edison, Cigna Global Security, Former Combat Engineer, Colonel, U.S. Army

The military has given me the perspective of accepting what you cannot control, and the ability to move forward. We as a society get so caught up in losing time over “why,” that we lose focus on the task at hand.

The military is founded on the team concept, you do not think as an “I.” You survive by being a teammate. Your battle buddy has your back and you have theirs. Intent and flexibility is also important.

As a military leader I always understood my leader’s intent. …understanding the final goal gave me the ability to be flexible but still accomplish the mission.

Patience is [also] key. It’s a perspective I learned early in my career. The military is fond of saying “hurry up and wait,” meaning it seems like you are in a hurry but once you get there, you have to wait on someone or something else. It helped foster that culture of patience and in an environment where immediate gratification is the norm this mindset is significant.

Kimberly Ferrante, Cigna Project Management, Commander, 126th Army National Guard Band

In my career I have experienced numerous opportunities thanks to my service in the military. In addition to my role at Cigna, I currently serve as a musician and the Commander for the 126th Army National Guard Band in Belmont, Michigan. In this role, I am responsible for both the musical effectiveness and the administrative, logistical, and operational readiness of the entire unit.

Although you may think the military is steadfast and consistent, I regularly observe many organizational changes that affect my unit’s strategic operation. This exposure and implementation of change management has significantly impacted my view towards resilience, dedication, and commitment that I carry with me in my corporate role. These changes often cause dynamics that must be analyzed and managed to achieve maximum effectiveness.

I attended many leadership schools through the rank of Master Sergeant. Throughout my military leadership courses, I was taught how to effectively manage by instilling a sense of discipline, attention to detail, and motivation in each mission. I began my career as a Private First Class in the active-duty Army and am currently a Chief Warrant Officer 3, after completing my initial active duty enlistment, I transferred into the National Guard and Army Reserve.

Each of these opportunities and skill-sets prepared me to engage and exceed in my civilian professional roles. I highly recommend consideration of military service. And while serving, take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself to you and your career will flourish.

Mike Ballon, Cigna IT Engineering, Former Construction Mechanic First Class, U.S. Navy

The Navy provided a vast amount of training that I’ve carried throughout my life. While learning is something you should never stop, you need a foundation. I never went to college, straight to the Navy out of high school was my path. The Navy not only trained me as a diesel mechanic, they trained me again in computers when I grew tired of my first choice. I had to show aptitude towards the opportunity, although once proven I was supplied with additional training to transition to a new job.

Your military stint will impact your future you and your career. While there are, as with all things, negative impacts – you take those as opportunities to grow as person. The positive aspects of the military and all things should always outshine the dark negativity. Take people for example. You’ll meet lifelong friends in the military and you build strong and respectful bonds because you know why they’re here and what they stand for. Fast-forward to life at Cigna, we’re all here for the customer number one, yes. But we’re also here because of the people.

My advice for new transitioning veterans: Relax. Don’t wear a tank top and walk around with flip flops, that’s not what I mean. The military has more than prepared you for corporate life whether you realize it or not. Take a breath, loosen the tie just a little, and keep doing what you’re used to doing.

Careers for Veterans and their Families

​​​​​​​Whether you’re a newly-transitioned veteran or have been a civilian for a while, one thing is guaranteed – you can continue your mission of serving others here at Cigna.

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