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.”
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.”
From the Goldman Sachs perspective, the program enables the company to recruit talented people who are moving from the military to the civilian workforce. The program is currently run in Goldman Sachs’ offices in Dallas-Irving, Texas, Jersey City, New Jersey, New York City and Salt Lake City in the U.S., as well as the company’s London office in Europe.
Skills that are second nature to military veterans like leadership, teamwork, and problem solving are in high demand in our industry, explained Bruce Larson, managing director and chief administrative officer for Goldman Sachs in Salt Lake City.
“Our industry is one full of stress, deadlines and juggling multiple circumstances at one time,” Larson said. “While (veterans) bring many different skills, (among) the things they bring is a background of dealing with an environment that is unclear, there is a lot of pressure, timeliness and attention to detail are critical and maintaining a cool head about you is very, very important.”
All of which fits very well with what the company does on a daily basis, he said.
Outside of their day-to-day responsibilities, participants complete a curriculum including a series of trainings on financial markets and products, as well as networking opportunities and events with Goldman Sachs leaders who share career experiences and insights into the firm’s culture. While in the program, each VIP participant is paired with a “peer buddy” and a mentor from the company’s Veterans Network.
The program offers qualified veterans the chance to explore diverse career opportunities. To qualify, applicants must have completed at least one year of active military service, have a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate an interest in financial markets.
Thus far, 16 participants have completed the VIP program in Salt Lake City, with 75 participants enrolled nationwide this year, Larson said, up from 33 participants last year and 15 in the inaugural year of 2012, he added.
Larson said the company hopes to expand the program in the coming years. In addition to VIP, the company has also developed the Goldman Sachs Veterans Network to help in the recruitment of talented troops who are transitioning to the civilian workforce.
The network works internally to enhance the professional development and retention of veterans at the firm, including those currently serving in the National Guard and military reserves.
In 2013, the Network launched a mentoring program to support the integration, professional growth, promotion and retention of analysts and associates within the network. Larson said the company is taking a proactive approach to engage and retain qualified veterans who bring talent and value to the organization.
While DeMayo and Horrick transitioned to Goldman Sachs through VIP, another West Point grad took a slightly different path from the military into finance services.
Ryan McQueen, 36, a vice president for reference data operations in Salt Lake City, was also an attack helicopter pilot stationed in Iraq who served combat missions with the 4th Infantry Division. He said those experiences prepared him to face various unknown challenges in his new career.
“Some challenges were unique to me as I figured out what an equity derivative was when everyone around me was an expert, and more importantly how to face challenges for the team when none of us knew exactly what to do,” McQueen explained. “Without being a subject matter expert, I could apply my experience and calmly prioritize multiple tasks that were sent our way, organize our team to address them appropriately and communicate to many other (Goldman Sachs) teams.”
That approach organized the team and got them moving towards an answer in an organized manner, he said. Additionally, after resolving issues the team got into a habit of discussing what happened and sharing the learning points so that they could perform better the next time, he added.
“Exercising informal leadership through situations like this helped me get my teams through many different challenges and ultimately earn me the right to take on more and more responsibility here in the firm and develop my career,” McQueen said.
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