Why Military Experience is an Asset in the Workplace

Women in the military face unique challenges, both during and after service. But they also possess unique skills, ones that prove valuable across many phases of their careers—and their lives outside work.

Caitlin McGilley and Michelle d’Amico work in the Global Security & Investigations department at JPMorgan Chase. McGilley, Vice President of Global Intelligence, spent seven years as a United States Navy intelligence officer. D’Amico, Head of Global Intelligence, spent nine years as a career-civilian intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Here, the two women reflect on their experiences and how one chapter of your life can shape the next.

What are some of the lessons you learned transitioning from the military to corporate life?

Caitlin McGilley: Being a Navy officer was a large part of my identity and it took some time during my transition to the civilian world to see that it wasn’t the uniform that defined me but rather my drive to serve and protect people. Once I figured that out, I realized that corporate security was the perfect career path for me.

Michelle d’Amico: While there are some cultural differences between the special operations culture and the corporate world, they are quite similar. The role of intelligence is not only to achieve the national security objective of a mission, but also to get all your friends back to base safely. Recommendations made have real life and death consequences for more than just yourself-none of that is taken lightly. That emphasis on strong teams is something I’ve found at JPMorgan Chase as well, and I’m grateful for that.

What obstacles have you faced, if any, as a woman in the military or the workplace?

MD: In a military setting, aside from deploying in very austere conditions, the main obstacle was always being the only woman in the room, or one of often less than a handful of women in any given location. However, as an intelligence officer supporting combat operations, you would always be listened to if you were good at your job because lives depended on it, and in that way, the military environment is a true meritocracy.

What qualities do you feel women/you bring that are an asset to the workplace?

CM: Strong leadership, integrity, competency, sound judgment–really any quality of an excellent employee will be found in all genders.

MD: The significant asset and quality that women bring, often very artfully, to the workplace is that of perceiving nuance in interpersonal dynamics. I believe it’s critically important for a well-functioning office to have that level of perception taking place.

How have mentors helped you make the transition to corporate?

CM: I feel fortunate to have amazing mentors, some with exclusively corporate careers and others who have served in the military before making the leap to the civilian world. Both have been critical elements to my transition, helping me to better understand the different and sometimes similar business cultures, lending advice and acting as a sounding board for various situations, as well as providing constructive feedback so I can continue to improve upon my abilities as both an employee and a leader.

MD: I have relied on trusted mentors throughout this transition, not only for advice, but also as models for how to respond to certain challenges or issues. I have one mentor in particular at JPMorgan Chase who is often the standard-bearer for “what would XX do?” I’ve also found it critically important to maintain strong relationships within my military network. This has helped me stay grounded in the values of selfless leadership and egoless teamwork that got me to where I am today.

What advice would you give to other women transitioning from military to corporate?

CM: The same thing I always told my teams: “If you do the right thing, you’re never wrong.” It’s important that people continue to use sound judgment, act with integrity, and make the choice that does the most good. You’ll succeed wherever you land if you follow those principles.

What does a successful career mean to you?

MD: A successful career means several things to me–but chief among them is maintaining my integrity at all times and being able to sleep at night even if I fail at something. I am extremely grateful to have had the good fortune of spending a large portion of my adult life working in service of something greater than myself, protecting our country and saving the lives of citizens of other countries, as well. I was fortunate to do that at a time when it was needed. And now I am equally fortunate to have the opportunity to apply those experiences and skills to a company like JPMorgan Chase that is truly part of the critical infrastructure of the U.S. and the world.

CM: A successful career is continuously maintaining that balance of enjoying your job, learning something new every day, avoiding boredom, and making sure you get home for dinner–even if you have to work after dessert.

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