Veteran Employee Story – Manuel Rodriguez

Waste Management, Inc.  |  Mission and Purpose  |

Published in the May/June 2012 issue of print Search & Employ®  | 

Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez is a business solutions performance lead at Waste Management, Inc. “I left the Army after 10 years of service, split almost evenly between enlisted and commissioned time,” he said. “During my enlisted time, I was a 19K, M1A1 armor crewman. I earned E-5, a tank commander’s billet, and my degree during that time. Commissioning as an aviation officer allowed me to expand my experiences as I served in all company grade positions and served on battalion staff for a short time.”

Now he helps people and departments across the company improve in all facets of the business.  “I have the pleasure of being a performance lead with Waste Management’s Business Solutions Group, our internal consulting firm,” Rodriguez said. “I began at Waste Management as a route manager, essentially a department head in the collections segment of our company and a great place to learn the basics of this business. My military experience allowed the company to entrust me with much larger than normal department upon my entry to the company. In a short amount of time, I led a department encompassing nearly $20 million in revenue a year and about 170 personnel.”

“My first assignment in the company was not much different than being an HHC company commander in the Army,” Rodriguez said. “Six supervisors reported to me, and an enormous amount of my time was dedicated to either handling the people issues that come with the territory or maximizing efficiencies in the various services we offered. The military prepares people well for these positions, and it quickly becomes evident that your civilian peers will likely not have a fraction of the training or experiences that you have had in the military. Many of the military veteran vehicle operators and technicians I’ve worked alongside have fared well because of the peer leadership and accountability they’re accustomed to from their military lives.”

Rodriguez has great advice for those transitioning from the military to the civilian work force. “I would encourage any service person to develop a professional network and not lose track of colleagues who depart the service for civilian opportunities,” he said. “These contacts may prove more valuable than scouring the job-hunting websites or classifieds. The immediate trust and understanding many of us have for our fellow service people will greatly enhance our efforts to find meaningful employment.”

Finding a way to translate military skills to a civilian employer is also important. “One of the biggest hurdles in transitioning to civilian employment is learning to correlate your skills and experiences gained in the military to a prospective civilian employer,” Rodriguez said. “Using a service that knows how to translate military experience into a civilian resume will help immensely. Civilians just do not speak the same language we do, and saying you were the UMO for your battalion does not mean anything to them.”

People skills are necessary for being successful in the business world as well. “Now, as a performance lead, I travel the country as a management and leadership consultant working with managers to improve their coaching ability and streamline operations,” Rodriguez said. “The mentorship, team building, and accountability I learned as an NCO and commissioned officer can’t be replaced by a graduate degree. Those soft skills, along with an education, will greatly enhance your value.”

Being patient with coworkers and superiors is also important, especially if they are not familiar with the military. “When you land the big job, learn to be patient with your new boss and peers,” he said. “Many of us are used to huge amounts of responsibility at a very early stage of our careers. This may not be the case at your first civilian job. Also, chances are that your boss may not truly be aware of the type of responsibilities you’re used to handling or the stress you can endure – or even had close to that responsibility. Being patient and humble will allow your inherent talents to shine through and will invariably separate you from your peers at work. Your military experience, especially for the combat veteran, provides perspective no civilian can match.”

About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers