Each November, SEI reflects on our veterans and the integral part they play within our organization. I recently volunteered to write about my experience in the military, how I used what I learned during my time in the Army to transition into a traveling consultant role, and how various aspects of my military experience have applied to my work with SEI.
Pushing the Limits of My Comfort Zone
I entered the military in 1987, served for three years, and was out for a few months before being recalled during Operation Desert Storm. In my specialized role (MOS, for those who know the lingo) as a cavalry scout (19D), I was trained to be a forward observer, gathering information and passing it back to a central headquarters unit. I spent a large portion of my time in the military in the field working on training exercises that involved collaborating with large teams to establish a goal.
This time spent in the field taught me to adapt to eating cold meals on the run, sleeping outdoors in various environments, and stretching what I believed my mind and body could achieve. My experience was constantly pushing me to reevaluate the limits of my comfort zone. Each deployment reinforced the things that were most important to me: time with friends and family, a warm meal, a comfortable bed, and being part of something larger than myself.
After leaving the military, I attended the University of Cincinnati to pursue an engineering degree. Upon graduation, I joined one of the Big Four consulting firms, which required significant travel and long hours. I’d leave home early on Monday morning and not return until late Thursday or Friday night — or sometimes even Saturday morning. These long days spent working on high-pressure engagements in cities that were not my own proved to be a challenge similar to those I faced in the military.
After working at a 40,000-person firm, I joined a small startup that had fewer than twenty consultants. As a result, all of us were required to wear many hats on our engagements. In truth, I initially enjoyed the travel that was part and parcel of my early consulting work, but after having my first child, I realized it was time to get off the road. This realization led me to look for something different, and that is when I found SEI.
A Consultancy That Feels Like Home
The SEI model combines the best of both of my consulting experiences — and provides additional benefits to boot. I’m still able to work with a team to define a goal, lay out the requirements for the specific outcome we’re hired to deliver, and develop a plan to ensure we deliver the maximum value possible. A major difference with SEI — and one that I value highly — is that our work is done locally.
While we have access to support from our service resources and other team members who may be part of our extended network of regional offices, our delivery model is local. Our consultants are members of the same communities that our clients are. We commute on the same highways, cheer for the same sports teams, and visit the same theatres. In other words, we share a similar comfort zone.
The SEI model allows me to interact collaboratively with my colleagues, leveraging the experience and materials other SEIers have created on similar engagements to brainstorm solutions that I otherwise would not have been able to devise on my own. Not unlike in a startup environment, at SEI, we actively wear multiple hats on engagements, from sales and budget planning to testing management and delivery. We’re small enough to build meaningful relationships with our fellow SEIers, yet large enough to support enterprise engagements across a wide variety of industries.
While we may have all heard the adage that “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” I suspect that most veterans — especially those who have spent long periods of time in the field, at sea, or otherwise away from home or country — have learned this lesson several times over. A caring family, warm home, hearty meal, laughter, and camaraderie all help make us who we are. For nearly fifteen years, SEI has been my extended family, and I feel fully supported in knowing I have a strong team that cares about the whole person that I am.