Event and panelists
Russell Reynolds Associates held a panel discussion on the topic of “Transitioning from the public to the private sector," in August 2016 at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA.
The event was attended by senior executives and experts from across the public and private sectors including top defense contractors and cyber security executives.
Mercedes LeGrand and Christine Yasaitis, leaders of Russell Reynolds’ Aerospace and Defense Practice moderated the panel discussion.
Expectations vs. Reality
Prior to the event we conducted an anonymous poll with the audience to better understand their current expectations as they prepare to transition from the military to the private sector
Key insights and advice from successful transitions
During the discussion, panelists provided insights and advice from their own experiences
Lessons for those in transition
Professionals looking to transition from the military to the private sector should consider a variety of issues
Our panelists described organizational culture fit as a crucial contributing factor to their success. Strive to understand company and office culture early in the process to determine a fit. Educate yourself on the different cultures in different types of industries and identify what your needs are. For example, there are significant differences between for profit and non-profit organizations. The size of the organization also plays a role in the culture. Knowing your needs will allow you to target specific companies and roles.
Leading and Influencing People
Leading in the private sector is accomplished primarily through influence, collaboration and consensus-building. Often you will be responsible for results in a matrixed environment. Make it your mission now to learn how to drive objectives to completion through campaigning and influencing, rather than through command structure. “You can’t give an order OR expect it to be followed”. You should also seek to understand how profit motivations can differ from mission motivations, and align your reasoning accordingly.
Create opportunities to network outside of the military or intel agencies. Seek contacts through friends/family and have coffee conversations – learn what a “day in the life” looks like and if it could be a fit for you. Consider speaking opportunities at industry conferences attended by companies that you’re interested in, as a way to network.
Hard and soft skills were a key focus of our panel discussion. All panelists agreed that it was critical to understand what a person brings to an organization during their transition. Innovative and creative leaders are in demand. Negotiating skills will play a role in the hiring process. Learn how to articulate what you bring to the role and organization. Learn the “hot” areas in the industry (e.g. cyber security, data and analytics and machine learning) to be better prepared for interviews as well as the for role you are seeking.
Lessons for HR professionals looking to attract and retain top military talent
Companies need a strategic approach to hiring military talent to ensure that both parties benefit
Train your new transitioning employees
Transitioning military executives may need assistance with networking and/or to improve their business development skills beyond their immediate network.
Encourage ex-military officers to leverage “mission driven” camaraderie skills to motivate teams.
Educate transitioning executives on the connections between “for profit” and “service mission” objectives. They are not mutually exclusive, and the most successful companies are those that most closely align the two.
Educate the internal workforce as well
Ex-military executives are used to working together towards common goals whereas civilian roles are often motivated by individual vs team targets. This can cause tension/frustration for those in transition.
Hiring managers should focus and align internally, on necessary skills they are looking for in ex-military hires.
Share with the organization areas where ex-military executives can typically add unique value: interpreting RFPs, for example – as they have direct experience of the field use of equipment/systems.
Work on office culture orientation
Work towards building a culture that understands the role of ex-military hires and the many benefits that they bring to the organization.
Provide coaching around influencing rather than commanding.
Provide guidance on cultural norms including dress codes (that typically are less formal than in the military).
Consider establishing a former mentorship program specifically focused on the needs of transitioning military and intel community members.
Mercedes LeGrand is a member of the firm’s Technology and Industrial and Natural Resources Sectors. She focuses primarily on defense-related technology companies and associated market and leadership trends. She is based in Washington D.C.
Prior to joining the firm, Mercedes was a Managing Partner at Watermark Strategic Advisors, a consultancy which connects emerging technology companies with federal government buyers specialized in security, defense and intelligence. At Watermark, Mercedes helped clients understand federal regulations and processes, advised on marketing and pricing strategies, provided access to growth capital and advised on merger and acquisition scenarios. Before that, while at Booz Allen Hamilton, Mercedes served as Acting Director of Strategic Planning for the Department of Homeland Security’s Preparedness Directorate. Prior to that, Mercedes was an associate with D.C.-based investment bank, Friedman Billings Ramsey.
Mercedes holds a B.A. in government and international politics from George Mason University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University Business School and London Business School.
New York, NY
Christine Yasaitis is a member of the firm's Industrial & Natural Resources Sector and the Aerospace and Defense Practice. She serves U.S. and internationally-based clients across the aviation, aerospace, and defense industry as well as private equity clients engaged in Industrial Sector investments.
Christine has more than a decade of sales and business development experience. Prior to joining the firm, Christine served as director of account management, Eastern region, for International SOS, a firm which provides integrated medical, clinical, and security assistance services to organizations with international operations. Before that, she was head of sales for Flightglobal-Ascend’s data sales and consultancy teams in the Americas responsible and launched the Ascend Aviation Finance Forum in San Francisco in 2011. Earlier, Christine served as VP of business development and strategy for Ascend Americas covering aviation/aerospace manufacturing, finance, leasing, defense, and government/regulatory clients. She began her career with British Airways, where she spent nine years and held commercial and operational roles of increasing responsibility.
Christine received a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University and an M.B.A from Columbia University and London Business School. She also attended the Programme International de Sciences Politiques et Sociales at L'Institute d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. She is fluent in English and French, proficient in Spanish, and speaks conversational German and Portuguese.