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Vets translating military skills into the world of high finance

Published: Sunday, May 18 2014 4:14 p.m. MDT

A trader works in the Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — Quick thinking under pressure to solve complex challenges, strong problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt to ever-changing workplace environments.

Those skills at play in the U.S. Army by attack helicopter pilots and other military personnel are now targeted in a program created by one of the world’s largest investment banks to find veterans who can transition into the financial services industry.

Tiffani DeMayo, 34, a West Point graduate and now retired military pilot, found herself under enemy fire just 42 minutes into her first combat mission serving with the 25th Infantry Division in Taji, Iraq just north of Bagdad in January 2004.

“You have that element of chaos with so many things going on — the heat, the helicopter, the .50 caliber weapon firing a foot away from your leg. There is a lot of noise and chaos,” she described. “Even in that scenario, you’re able to pause and figure out, “What’s my priority?””

She flew for seven years, mostly in combat environments in the Middle East before deciding to leave the military. While serving in a civilian capacity for the Dept. of Defense, she learned about Goldman Sachs’ Veterans Integration Program last November.

Launched in 2012, the eight-week paid internship program provides service men and women transitioning out of the military with an opportunity to develop professional skills and prepare for potential careers in the financial services sector.

“(I was) just looking to grow and expand (career-wise) and this program came up,” she said. “The ability to grow in a career within an organization was very appealing. It’s a phenomenal company and you can take the skills you learned in the military and apply them in this capacity and learn some new (skills).”

She said the military training that most naturally transitioned into business has been leadership, communication and the ability to break complex problems into small, manageable tasks, along with the “drive for excellence.”

“It’s something that people in the military have that as well as the people (at Goldman Sachs),” DeMayo said. “The vocabulary and type of work are much different, but the intangibles definitely help set people up for success in their transition.”

Helping veterans

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in March that there were more than 21 million men and women veterans in the U.S. Of those who became veterans since 2001 — since the Gulf War — about 9 percent remained unemployed as of 2013, according to the same labor report, well above the unemployment national average of 6.7 percent at that time.

Current Goldman Sachs employee and VIP grad Ben Van Horrick, 29, made the move into the corporate world after completing the program last year. A former active duty member of the Marine Corp., he specialized in logistics while in the military supplying infantry units with necessary equipment for their day-to-day operations.

Today, he uses that training in his new position in operations for the legal entry management team, where he helps manage regulatory risk for the firm and its clients.

Horrick said veterans are often “pigeon-holed” into jobs where they are working with or for the government because of their background and highly coveted security clearance. But Goldman Sachs program shows that the company understands that their experience and training could be beneficial in other avenues.

“They recognize that we as veterans have developed a mindset that we are able to find creative, timely and ethical solutions to problems, all the while managing risk,” he said. “It’s directly applicable to what we do here at Goldman.”

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