Veteran Employer Story – Bonnie Schwartz

Georgia-Pacific  |  Set the Tone, Represent the Organization  |

Published in the July/August 2012 issue of print Search & Employ®  |

Bonnie Schwartz, a former Air Force captain, serves as general manager in Georgia-Pacific’s lumber business. In the Air Force, she was a Titan II ICBM commander, missile launch officer, and wing executive officer. Schwartz joined Georgia-Pacific in 2009 from its parent company, Koch Industries, Inc., where she started her civilian career in May 1990.

“In the military, I was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, the headquarters city of Koch Industries,” Schwartz said. “I stayed current with local activities while there, so was familiar with Koch as a good company. When I left the Air Force, I applied to Koch through the Wichita State University career center, where I was finishing my BSEE degree. My experience with Titan II missiles demonstrated to Koch that I could take responsibility for leading a team to achieve operations excellence, starting with environmental, health and safety, and then maintaining the missile systems in a constant state of readiness.”

But it wasn’t just experience with missiles that has helped Schwartz work in the civilian world. “The key skills taught in the military that have been directly applicable to my job have been team building, discipline, work ethic, and leadership,” she said. “One of the main lessons I learned was that what I do as a leader matters, in that I set the tone and represent the organization to my people and the public. I also had the opportunity to gain exposure to a lot of different people and learn to collaborate and communicate with others to achieve a goal. Project management skills were a benefit as well – being able to understand and move through the critical path to get results. The military teaches a systemic way to problem solving, which is invaluable in the business world. Finally, the military teaches its members to prepare themselves properly for each new challenge, which is vital for the business world.”

Working hard to be the best has helped Schwartz in the military and at Georgia-Pacific. “The military exposes its members to so many different situations, people, and opportunities while it teaches how to be able to perform consistently well in all cases,” she said. “An individual learns to handle stress, perform with integrity, and exercise care to help fellow members succeed. The expectation is that things are done the right way, and done to the best of one’s abilities, because the consequences of not doing it this way could impact the mission.”

About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers