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From Military to Civilian employee – an opportunity to prolong your service – a veteran’s tale

3 Nov 2022

Just two years ago, at the midst of the first Covid 19 breakout in 2020 and a few months after my retirement from the Norwegian Armed Forces, I was very fortunate to be offered a senior job in the renowned company, Capgemini. I´d previously been contacted by another trustworthy business and was therefore already engaged in a dialogue negotiating terms for a similar job offer. This unexpected situation prompted quite a few reflections.

At first glance from the corner of my eye, it wasn’t easy to differentiate between the two offers. Both jobs were mainly connected with Defence-related matters and activities in pursuit of winning defence sector contracts. For both, quarantine regulations were visited. The formalities of immediacy connected to my previous military job was of no hindrance.

Still, I had to reflect on a couple of issues myself. Honestly, consulting with oneself has its obvious limitations. The real valuable answers are hatched in companionship with others. Therefore, I sought to balance my thoughts with others close to me.

Could I be of any value for a new employer? Cautiously and realistically, I had to admit this would be completely a new field for me, or would it? Very much aware that no one is rewarded for the past – what could be expected of me? Well, the dialogues with the job-offering companies answered part of that, but there is always more to it, I assumed.

Four decades as an officer had prepared me to be bold, and at the same time respectful of others and humbly listen to arguments and views contradicting my own – which is also another aspect of boldness. Could I identify with the values of the two companies, did they live by those too? Further, would I even recognize the values that the I had lived by while serving in the army: Respect – Responsibility – Courage, in a corporate commercial setup? Not expecting a total cultural fit, I was obviously curious about how my expectations would play out.

Like the questions above, the reflections described below also came in no particular order – as it would be in any avalanche of boulders.

Reflection I: My operational experience places my heart with the users, the end user perspectives, obviously including the warfighters. In my mind, it is an excellent position to be in, supporting an otherwise rather technological environment, introducing new disruptive and modern technologies to the Defence Sector. My experience, including a comprehensive knowledge of the Armed Forces and my extant network would evidently be of value. Further, the operational insight would certainly be valuable in assessing solution proposals up against operational doctrines and principles.

Reflection II: In the wake of more than 40 years of service I evidently felt kind of seasoned, and yes, over time my mane had turned colors from darkish into what I would like to refer to as “arctic silver” with some pepper. High tempo and dedicated work for the Armed Forces, including numerous relocations and years of commuting, certainly influences you as a person and defines your work ethics. The so-called post retirement wind-down became a natural process which in fact started years ago, both consciously and unconsciously. However, retiring at the age of 60 is way too early. I believe the big brunt of retired veterans possess extra capacity and willingness to continue supporting a good cause.

Reflection III: Looking back at my service with my fellow countrymen and my service side-by-side with allied military and civilian personnel in education, training, exercises and operations – always striving to improve and harness our collective goal; enhanced combat capability – the unity of effort, professionalism and teamwork come through as characteristic to the value stream continuously increasing the ultimate operational effectCould this job-offer allow me to continue supporting this goal from a position outside of the Armed Forces? In fact, being an employee, teaming up with the Defence & Public Security team would ensure a sensible prolongation of my “service” by utilizing my experience in supporting the best deliverables to the Armed Forces.

Reflection IV: I´m grateful for having had the opportunity to serve alongside professional and dedicated colleagues, home and abroad. Sharing the same goals and values has been of utmost importance in the execution of tasks throughout a lifelong duty encompassing several assignments including command positions. I found Capgemini´s values and work ethics were closely aligned to the principles and standards found in the military – and that enticed my curiosity. The way this company’s values and ethics clearly percolated the company in meaningful ways and my gut feeling stemming from my dialogues with both companies made me make up my mind. I graciously accepted the Capgemini position offered and has never regretted since. The “light” and well lubricated bureaucracy and ability to act at the speed of relevance was another positive factor that appealed to me. So, the veteran became a “Capgemini´ee”.

Reflection V. What more to bring to the table then? Harvesting acquired experiences from educational endeavors during accession training of new NATO members, training with Partner countries, as well as Equipment and Training support of the Afghan National Army, provides an additional dimension – understanding of collaboration in a diverse and dynamic international environment where interests often cross each other, but common solutions or compromises are reached in the end.

Capgemini is an international organization by heart. I thrive in international environments – so this is a good match.

Reflection VI.  My service, in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, including various Joint positions, leadership jobs in NATO on both sides of the Atlantic, International Operations and several leading roles in the Norwegian Armed Forces Cyber Defence, has been tremendously rewarding, both professionally and personally.

Early on, as a junior officer, I quickly came to learn that “it´s all about the team”. Nothing meaningful is accomplished in splendid isolation. Nurturing the team culture and competence, respecting the uniqueness of everyone, building cohesion and collective strength through effective education and training, are all foundational aspects of strong and adaptive teams. This experience would most likely be of value in any civilian and dynamic company.

Summary. The prospect of transitioning from a lifelong Military service into a Civilian job sparked many thoughts. I am more often than not open to change, whereas the opposite, stagnation or stalemate makes me impatient. Working in Capgemini would certainly constitute a big change – a positive one as I assessed it. Because accepting their offer would allow for continued exertion in improving operational effect of the Armed Forces – and what a great additional pro to still be part of this endeavor! The diverse cultural environment and the sound ethical values appealed to me – as well as the demonstrated respect across the organization. Would I be ready for new challenges hurriedly landing at my feet? Well, humbly spoken for this job I decided, yeah!

I’m two years older but enormously happy about my choice – and I would like to add a vital experience: Capgemini leadership’s care and support of its personnel is exemplary!

About the author:

Brigadier General (retired) Kurt Pedersen

Director defense/Principal Sales,
Public security and defense at Capgemini Norway