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The value veterans bring to the workplace

Vincent Shorter, senior vice president and chief information officer, Medical Segment

We know that the military teaches terrific leadership skills, and instills values that aren’t easily taught, including integrity, teamwork, resilience, duty, and the ability to problem-solve in challenging situations.

My colleague Craig Cowman, executive vice president, Strategic Sourcing and Manufacturer Services, serves as executive sponsor for our veterans and military advocates (VMA) employee resource group (ERG). “Those who serve in the military are mission-driven to serve our country,” he said. “That makes veterans a great fit at Cardinal Health, where we are mission-driven to improve lives every day and move healthcare forward.”

This commitment to serve, along with veteran’s hard-earned expertise acquired through years of training, has proven to make positive impact on the way we do business and drive meaningful change for our customers.

And that’s why we support veterans through our hiring practices: Our talent acquisition team and our business leaders regularly attend events focused on veteran recruitment and networking. We actively recruit veterans through job boards for the military and returning veterans.

“On behalf of Cardinal Health, this Veterans Day – and every day – we extend our deep appreciation to the brave men and women who have served and who continue to serve,” Cowman said. “We’re honored to have so many veterans on our teams.”

My story: From military officer to chief information officer

As a veteran, I am proud to be a leader at Cardinal Health, a company that recognizes the many contributions of those who have served in the military. We have great respect for the military here, and for the qualities those with military backgrounds bring to the table.

Early on, I enlisted in the Army Reserve to earn money for college tuition. The Army Reserve provides the opportunity to train part-time; I joined under a “split-option program,” which allowed me to attend basic training one summer and military occupational specialty (MOS) training the following summer. The program reimbursed each enlistee $1,000 for each year of college.

During my first summer, I went to Fort Jackson, in Columbia, South Carolina, for basic training. I was intrigued by the company commander’s leadership style. He was a captain and inspired me, an entry-level private, to become an officer as well. So, after basic training, I returned to college, forfeited my split-option opportunity, and instead joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Through ROTC, I became a cadet, meaning that I would eventually be commissioned a second lieutenant.

I went on to have a great career in the Army, ultimately becoming a lieutenant colonel and chief information technology officer.

The military ignited my love of IT: One of my first military assignments was at a Military Records Command. My commanding officer, a lieutenant colonel, led me to a cabinet that contained a thermal printer and a mixed set of barcode readers, and told me that my mission was to figure out how to get unique identification labels on more than 1.2 million military personnel records.  

I had no idea where to start, so I learned: I attended IT conferences, visited companies that were using bar coding technology, and participated in various software trainings. Over the next year, I spent countless hours working with a small team to program systems to leverage various databases so they would generate and eventually affix labels to the records. Our program replaced the manual entry of the identification numbers, a tedious process that had resulted in a high error rate. By the end of the project, I was hooked, and began pursuing technology as a specialty. 

During my military career, I had a chance to lead various military IT organizations. I led the planning and building of a satellite communications network in Honduras for an extended joint military exercise.  I also led the team that managed video, voice and data communication in Kuwait.

I was – and am – fascinated by technology and its ability to solve military and business problems. To this day, I find it very exciting to leverage technology to solve business challenges – challenges that are far more advanced than those that could be solved by early thermal printers and barcode labels.

Transitioning to civilian life: The military focuses on fact-based decision-making when considering various courses of action. From the beginning of my civilian career, I found that approach to be very relevant. But I did have to learn to translate the terminology of my military experiences to that of the corporate world.

I’m pleased to share that at Cardinal Health, the VMA developed a free resource: its Veterans Professional Advancement Course (VPAC) to help those transitioning from the military. This is a professional development and mentoring program, offered at no cost, for separated and soon-to-be separated service members and their spouses who are seeking employment. It’s designed to provide the skills to successfully transition into the civilian workplace. Once veterans have been through the program, their resumes are pushed to the top of hiring managers’ candidate slates at Cardinal Health.

“As the executive sponsor of the VMA and the son of a Marine, I have a deeply personal understanding of the incredible value veterans bring to the workplace,” Cowman added. “The veterans I’ve been lucky enough to get to know and support are dependable, adaptable and growth-minded, exactly the kind of teammates, leaders and employees that make a measurable difference for their countries, in their communities and at Cardinal Health.”

Applying military leadership lessons in corporate America: The military places a lot of focus on leadership. Regardless of your rank, you are expected to lead. At some point in my military career, I learned the phrase, “when in charge, take charge.” That’s very appropriate to a career in the corporate world, too: When you are in a leadership position, you must lead your team through successes and challenges, inspiring them along the way to develop and grow.

Just as important, as a leader, you must delegate and trust that what you delegate will get done. You don’t micromanage or try to do the jobs of those on your team. Give your teams the room, resources, and support they need and they will surprise you – doing their job and more – time and time again.

In addition, Army officers are taught that their troops come first. Your troops eat first, then you eat. You make sure your troops have shelter and healthcare and that their most important needs are met. Meeting the needs of your teams in civilian work is equally important: When your teams know that you support them, they’re more engaged, more supportive of one another, and more committed to the customer and the company’s mission.

In the military, everyone works together as a cohesive unit, and everyone’s perspectives are valued. I seek to build a cohesive team at Cardinal Health. I want to hear from the folks on my team, and I want them to feel heard. And then I am very comfortable making decisions, knowing that I have the valuable input and perspectives of others.

How Cardinal Health supports active military personal      

Veterans and active-duty members of armed forces sacrifice a lot in service to their country, which is why I consider it a great honor to support them in the civilian workforce,” Cowman said. “I take pride in our company’s efforts to attract, develop and retain members of the armed forces and their families.”

Cardinal Health employs many who continue to serve, either in the National Guard or in the Reserves. To help support them, particularly as they are preparing for military leave and returning to work at Cardinal Health, our VMA has established a new committee. The National Guard and Reserves Liaison Committee’s members themselves serve in the National Guard or the Reserves, and can help other active service members, their managers, and their spouses by answering questions and making the process as smooth as possible.

We celebrated one of our active military members just last month. Bri Maxwell, a supply chain product management advisor on our enterprise logistics team and a technical sergeant in the U.S Air Force National Guard, was recently selected for inclusion in the Impact Gallery at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the museum’s fifth-anniversary celebration.

Maxwell embodies many of the values that Cowman highlighted. She has received numerous awards for her military service, including an Afghanistan Campaign Medal in 2021 for her participation in combat operations in Afghanistan, an Army Achievement Medal in 2020, for outstanding service while serving as the distribution specialist in support of COVID-19 operations, and an Ohio Commendation Medal in 2017 for providing critical disaster relief to people in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands during emergency responses to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“Cardinal Health is known for our commitment to serving the communities in which we live and work. This is a value of my own, and one of the many reasons I joined the military,” Maxwell said. “I’ve always held great pride in my desire to be a part of something bigger than myself and provide support to the community that I love. The military and Cardinal Health have given me that opportunity. I am proud to be a member of the Cardinal Health team, as this company enables me to continue my service work.”

As for me, I look back at my Army career of more than 20 years with gratitude. That career gave me intentionality, determination, and a commitment to lead. The lessons I learned and the experiences I gained have served me well throughout my post-military career; it was my honor to serve.

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Cardinal Health is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. Subscribe to our News Alerts to get all of our latest news.