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From Madison to the U.K.: Finding a common bond across the pond

Military veterans enjoy camaraderie in global security department

After serving in the U.S. Navy for 10 years and earning the role of a division leading petty officer for the sonar department on a submarine, Todd wanted to join the civilian workforce but was unsure how his skills would transfer.  

“When I got out and started looking for a job, I said that I could drive a submarine. The military’s job service told me, ‘Good luck – there’s not a lot of call for that outside of the Navy,’” he said. “I had a lot more skills. I just didn’t know what.”

Now, nearly 27 years since retiring from the military, Todd has gained considerable work experience in the civilian sector but still remains closely connected to his military roots. He’s an active member of LabCorp’s enterprise employee resource group for veterans (VERG) and helped establish the Madison, Wis. chapter, called M-VERG, volunteering as the chairperson for one year.

As the associate director of global security at Covance, the drug development business of LabCorp, Todd manages a group of approximately 40 direct reports extending to nearly 200 employees. Managing a security department, Todd finds the connections between his veteran colleagues a welcome bond – but not a surprising one given their chosen profession in the civilian workforce.

“Everyone does security in the military, right? It’s a natural fit. In fact, in many instances I only came to realize that my security colleagues are veterans in the course of conversation on the job,” Todd said.

What Todd didn’t expect to find was more fellow veterans – and more camaraderie – across the pond. When Covance expanded its facilities across the U.K. last year, his network of fellow veterans grew beyond our site at Harrogate. During Todd’s travels to assess the new Covance U.K. sites, he met Calvin, who was responsible for security at the site in Huntingdon.

The two veterans learned they had much in common. Todd had served 10 years in the U.S. Navy, ending his active-duty service as a sonar supervisor on a submarine after the Cold War, while Calvin had served nearly 12 years in the Royal Irish Regiment Home Service battalions, an infantry regiment in the British army, and completed continued service in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner, commonly known as the Troubles.

Highlighting transferable skills gained from military service

Calvin shared that becoming part of a global company has been peppered with cultural learnings, similar to his time in service when he trained military members from other countries. Having a shared military background helps create an instant alliance and he also appreciates the efforts the U.S. makes to include and employ their military veterans.

Todd noted that U.S. employers have come a long way in recognizing valuable experience and expertise that veterans gain from military service.

“There are so many transferable skills that you might not even realize you’ve gained,” he said. “For example, instead of writing ‘division leading petty officer for the sonar department on a submarine,’ military veterans could write ‘operations manager’ on their resume for civilian employment. You have to put your skills in terms that both parties will understand because it’s almost like we’re speaking different languages,” adding that the M-VERG group has helped hiring managers review resumes to ensure that they understand the skills military veteran candidates bring to the table.

Todd also shared that since he transitioned to the civilian workforce, employers have become much more aware of military veterans’ intangible skills, such as accountability, dedication, responsibility and loyalty as well as the ability to handle crisis situations, work independently and contribute to a team.

Supporting employee resource groups and neighboring military bases

Along with advocating for other military veterans, both inside and outside of the organization, members of VERG help each other with the transition to a career in the LabCorp enterprise.

One way VERG members support each other is through formal and informal mentorships. Military veteran employees who are new to the civilian workforce are often paired with established employees who also served.

“It’s helpful because you have that immediate bond,” Todd said.

M-VERG has also created an annual “challenge coin,” which is a small token given out to acknowledge veteran employees each year. Another event they sponsor is the Veterans Day breakfast. In fact, many of the LabCorp VERG chapters typically sponsor a special meal for Veterans Day. Unlike the other sites, however, the Covance Madison campus is next door to two military bases.

“We have great neighbors,” Todd explained. “On Veterans Day, we hand out coffee and donuts on the base next door. And pre-COVID, we opened up our cafeteria to the soldiers of both bases as they didn’t have their own cafeteria onsite. It was really nice to see military members in uniform having breakfast or lunch together on a regular basis.”

In fact, the Covance Madison site is built on what used to be an Air Force base with some of the original bomb-proof buildings from 1955. Todd shared that when he first started, there even used to be a storage building that was originally a brig, or prison, from the former military base.

Growing VERG beyond U.S. borders

As part of the security team, Todd has also expanded his network to other U.K. veteran colleagues, like William, who served in the British special forces and works on the security team at our site in Harrogate. Calvin, who became Todd’s direct report with the expansion last year, is now using his expertise to look after security operations for all Covance sites in the U.K.

Todd reflected on how veterans, even those from different countries, tend to share a special vocabulary, noting that colleagues will often compare U.S. and U.K. terminology while finding similarities in their shared experiences.

“Veterans are pretty close. There’s Covance, and then there’s the Madison campus, and then there’s the security organization, and then VERG. VERG groups have made the camaraderie in our culture stronger – much stronger – but this culture was there even before VERG. It’s an interesting parallel, and I don’t think every place is this way,” Todd said.

Recognizing this close-knit network along with the highly transferable skills that veterans from other countries also bring to our organization, LabCorp’s VERG is working to expand beyond U.S. borders to offer its resources and benefits to employees across the globe.

Interested in making LabCorp’s mission to improve health and lives across the globe part of your continuing career journey in the civilian workforce? Explore opportunities with LabCorp and Covance today.

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