Military Recruiter JoHannaI enlisted in the Marine Corps as a Junior in high school. Standing at 4’11, enlisting on a height waver, and spending my entire adolescence as a cheerleader, I was in for a real culture shock when I began. Once I was on active duty, I learned what true teamwork and diversity meant. It’s nothing you learn in a class or read in a book – it’s experiencing and learning from people of different ethnicities, religious beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds and I loved it.

When I returned from duty to San Antonio, Texas I felt lost, confused, and overwhelmed. My uncle had been a technician for many years after he got out of the Air Force, so I applied to AT&T. I was super lucky to be interviewed and ultimately hired by a Marine veteran. Since 2000, I’ve held various roles throughout the company.

I started my career in our training organization, scheduling and verifying certifications for our technicians. This came naturally considering it was a major part of my job as a Marine. It took a few years but I eventually started taking night courses in college because I wanted to move into a management position. After a series of different positions, I ended up in Human Resources.

If you would have told me I would end up in HR, I likely would have started laughing. I just didn’t know myself enough to know what my skillsets were until I had the opportunity to be on different teams. Nothing has fulfilled my purpose like supporting veterans in this role.

There’s work and then there’s passion work.

The last few years of my career have been anything but easy. By the end of 2019, I had successfully led AT&T’s initiative to hire 20,000 veterans by 2020. I felt like it would be a great time to spread my wings, take a risk, and leave the position I loved for professional growth. But God had a different plan.

In November 2020, I was diagnosed with COVID-19 and two days later I was in the ICU. I spent the next few weeks in the hospital and in that time doctors recommended I start thinking about arrangements for my son. Instead, I was released from the hospital the day before Thanksgiving and sent home on oxygen for the next eight months.

In October 2021, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the next year going through treatment, surgeries, and recovery. Having these experiences reaffirmed what I am meant to be doing.

In December 2022, I returned to my previous role of military recruiter and a fire was lit under me. Being able to recognize your skillsets and aligning them to a position you love is all anyone wants. I’m lucky to have found that position twice!

There are days when I’m connecting with veteran service organizations and other days I’m collaborating with our internal teams on ways to optimize visibility for veteran candidates. We maintain close partnerships with national veteran service organizations like Hire Our Heroes, Veteran Jobs Mission, and Carry The Load to stay connected to our military community. Our Skillbridge fellowship has grown every year and we’ve now started including military spouses in that program. We also work with campus veteran organizations to share opportunities for internships and leadership development programs. I always encourage veterans to join our Talent Network so that we can share opportunities in their field of interest.

Military members, and their families, transition with soft skills you can’t learn anywhere else but the military. They are resilient and adjust quickly. They are leaders and believe in something larger than themselves which makes them amazing people to have on your team.

My advice for veterans: transition is difficult, it’s fear of the unknown but you will get through it – just like you did in boot camp. Give yourself grace, be transparent, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And, when you have experience under your belt, don’t forget to pay it forward.

Learn More About Veterans at AT&T