Job Title: Logistics Professional Development Program (a.k.a. Leadership Development), Associate
Career Field: Logistics
Military Branch: USMC
Military Occupation: Infantry Machine Gunner
How did your military background help your career so far? Did it make anything more difficult?
I owe a lot to my time in the Marines. Confidence is probably the number one take-away. To walk into an interview, a new job, a big presentation, you need confidence in yourself. With the experiences I had at such a young age in the military, I had the belief that anything was possible after getting out. The majority of skills that actually transferred into school/business were soft skill like communication, leadership, team work, attitude and work ethic. The top hard skill would likely be public speaking. The ability to sound off in front of a room gave me a leg up in college and business.
In addition to the skills, employers are looking for veteran candidates. They understand the value that military experience can bring to their team (in addition to meeting some diversity goals, let’s be honest). Having military experience on my resume is one of the main reasons you will stand out and rise above other candidates.
The only downfall of my military experience was time. I felt like the others had a 4-year head start. When I was in college, I was older than the rest of my classmates and felt like an old man at the age of 23. With that being said, I probably wouldn’t be here without those 4 years of service. I could also argue that my career success was expedited because of those 4 years.
What does a typical day consist of in your job role?
The leadership development program is 3-year rotation of different jobs. For year one, I was an Operations Supervisor in charge of ~15 Cat employees at a distribution/logistics center. Every day was a new experience in the facility. After an initial brief at the start of each shift, I would supervise my team during shipping, receiving, packaging and picking activities. I learned a ton about managing others, continuous improvement, project management, standardized work, etc. during this role.
For year two, I was an Inventory Management analyst. This was a heavy data/analysis role. I went from steel toe boots in the operations facility to an office wearing dress shoes. I spent my time twisting my brain in systems and excel spreadsheets. This was my first position that required analytical processes to succeed. It was incredibly challenging, frustrating and rewarding. I eventually figured out that I enjoyed that kind of work. That analytical/data management position opened a whole new path for me in areas I would have never ventured into otherwise.
My third year was in a project management/dealer support position. This required my communication skills more than anything else. I had to communicate and collaborate with multiple groups and customers from around the world and drive solutions for common shipping issues.
Being a part of a leadership program, we had the advantage of testing out multiple areas of the company. This allowed us to identify roles/departments we enjoyed the most, as well as those we didn’t like. It also gave us the opportunity to network with others in the program and other employers/managers across the company. In addition to our rotational positions, our program would provide countless tours, networking events, and other learning opportunities. I highly recommend development programs for any vet interested in transitioning to business.
How did you find and apply for this job role?
Career fair and my networking within school. One of my professors understood what I was looking for and introduced me to one of the Caterpillar recruiters (it pays to be a good student).
What kind of education, training or experiences does your job role require?
Bachelor’s degree in some business field, IT, Economics, etc.. Military experience is always desired. Relevant business experience is a plus.
What advice or steps would you recommend for veterans preparing to enter your career field?
Start reading about it online. There are tons of interesting articles on Logistics/Supply Chain with Caterpillar, Amazon, etc..
What do you enjoy the most about your career field?
Logistics is fast paced and loaded with process improvement opportunities. Getting a product from point A to point B, and getting it to the right place, at the right time, at the right quantity and quality is both challenging and fun. I think this is a great field for former military. Whether you want to work in IT/analytics or enjoy being around trucks and warehouses, there is a role for you.
What do you like least about your career field?
Logistics/Supply Chain can be stressful at times, like any field. There are many time sensitive projects with limited resources. Logistics is not always brought into projects at the right time and can be overlooked by Marketing, Engineering, Finance, etc.
What skills and personal attributes are essential to success in this career field?
You have to have the basics with computers down. You should be fast at typing. You should be able to to navigate and perform the basics for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Anything else can be learned on the job. You also need to be able to work well with others, seems obvious, but important. Your ability to be a valuable member of a team is critical. Whether you are leading projects or participating in meetings, you need to work with people with very different personalities and backgrounds in order to meet a common goal (often on tight deadlines with limited direction). This is where the military background can really help.
Is there something you wish you’d known or a skill you wish you’d had starting out in this career field?
I wish I took the college courses in computer programs like Excel and Access more seriously. It would have made the learning curve shorter. Also, I wish I had an internship. I didn’t realize how important they were until I was lucky enough to be hired into this development program without one. Almost all of the new candidates coming in have about 2 internships with various companies during their summers, on average (some majors required them to graduate, which is great). It gave them a huge advantage coming into the development program, since they were working on relevant and challenging projects during the internships. Unless you do something to really mess it up, an internship seems to nearly guarantee a job offer.
How do most people get into this career field? What are common entry-level jobs?
The majority had internships with Caterpillar first. Even if their internship wasn’t with Caterpillar, but with another company, it still helped. Some were analyst first, then joined the development program. Almost everyone in the leadership program had recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree and initially connected with the company at a career fair or some other school event.
What do you like about your industry?
It is great to be part of an industry that is part of growing and maintaining our infrastructure. Every time I see Caterpillar equipment in a construction zone, it makes me happy to be a part of it.
How do you see your industry changing in the next 10 years?
Logistics will continue to grow and provide endless opportunity from a career perspective. As the industry becomes more integrated with technology solutions, many of the roles will require logistics professionals to be tech savvy with multiple systems/software solutions. Businesses are also realizing the potential to use logistics/supply chain as a profit enabler, not just an operational cost that needs to be reduced. As customers demand quicker/more customized options, logistics will play a key role in allowing businesses to be responsive and adaptable. Competitive companies will have efficient networks that can respond with ease, at minimum cost to both the bottom line and the environment.