Meet Me in 5: Building a rewarding career after the military

Our ongoing “Meet Me in 5” series covers 5 people, topics or questions to illustrate how Covance nurtures exceptional people, provides an energizing purpose and enables extraordinary potential in its employees’ careers.

In this article, John “JJ” Spegele, Vice President, Business Solutions, Covance Central Laboratory Services, discusses his transition to the pharmaceutical and CRO industry after a full career in the US military and what it means for a company to be veteran-friendly.

1. Developing valuable skills in the US military

Throughout his 21-year career as a Marine officer, JJ served in many challenging roles and had a wide variety of leadership experiences with increasing levels of responsibility.

As an example, he had considerable military experience in program management, strategic planning and operations in developing command and control systems for both the Army and Marines. “I was deeply engaged in the preparations for the Second Gulf War with a highly-visible role in leading global cross-functional organizations in planning, developing, testing and fielding new advanced technologies. The challenges were enormous and there were high expectations to deploy systems to train troops for these major operations,” explained JJ.

After retiring from the military, JJ was ready for a new challenge. “I had opportunities to join a defense contractor after my service career, but I wanted to use my leadership and other skills in a completely new industry,” he explained.

2. Making the leap to a civilian career

“Even though I had no background in pharma, I was eager to learn about the business,” said JJ. He was hired by a consulting company and soon assumed responsibility for a business unit with international operations based in London.

“My journey has been about learning an entirely new industry. I took all that I had learned with my service career and applied it to a new business. I made that transition first by becoming a business leader of a relatively small business unit and progressing in my second career in the pharma industry, which ultimately led me to my current role as a leader in Covance.”

3. Looking beyond the resume

Having successfully bridged the gap from military to the civilian industry, JJ explains what it means for companies to attract veterans and be military friendly.

“Companies need to be comfortable bringing on service members who may not have perfect alignment with their particular industry,” explained JJ. “A candidate from the military may not have a typical resume, but hiring managers need to understand the specialized skill sets a vet can bring to be an effective employee. They can add tremendous value to a company and should not be overlooked.”

4. Working closely with extraordinary people

When thinking about his current co-workers at Covance, JJ recognizes some parallels between Covance and the military.

“I am surrounded by passionate and exceptional people at Covance, which is often the type of comradery service members look for in employers after they leave the service. Even though I am not ‘deploying’ with Covance, I am working closely with a team of like-minded professionals with a strong commitment to their roles – just like we experience in the Armed Services.”

5. Recognizing the energizing purpose of Covance

For JJ, he views the healthcare industry as having a strong connection to military service members looking for their next career with an energizing purpose.

He explained, “Vets are very committed to helping the lives of others, both in the US and in countries around the world. They are making many sacrifices, including being away from their families for many years, to protect our freedom and make a difference in the countries where they are deployed.”

JJ thinks of himself as just one example of how a vet can transition their service mission of helping others by bringing their skills learned in the service to make a meaningful contribution to the healthcare industry and Covance.

“What’s important to me is having an opportunity to lead a global organization, add value, and make an impact in healthcare. That’s what keeps me motivated every day.”

Learn more about our rewarding career opportunities for veterans at Covance.

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