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Ex-Army Officer Makes Successful Transition to Life at Leading Telecomm Company

Rob Campbell 103x130

Rob Campbell is a New Product Deployment Program Manager, Switching Products, for Alcatel, a global leader in next generation networks that deliver integrated end-to-end voice and data networking solutions to established and new carriers, as well as enterprises and consumers worldwide. Within Alcatel's Networking Services Division, Campbell is responsible for developing, deploying, testing, and coordinating training for the company's next generation switching products and services at customer sites.

Prior to joining Alcatel, Campbell spent more than 10 years with the Army. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Signal Corps from the Virginia Military Institute. During his career, he served in a variety of assignments throughout Germany and the United States, including three Command positions within the Army Signal Command, the US Army Special Operations Command and the US Army Recruiting Command.

Q: How did you go about searching for a job outside of the military? And, why did you choose Alcatel?

I did a lot of research about companies that I wanted to work for, Alcatel being one of them. I had several friends who I served with in the military already working at Alcatel. Seeing how easy it was for them to make the transition and meeting the people at the company, I saw it was a definite fit.

I feel comfortable working in a large environment where I can make a positive impact. I liked the fact that Alcatel was a worldwide company — another key interest. I had heard that the corporate or commercial way of doing business can be a difficult one, but I knew with my background and my personality that I would be able to forge results in a new environment.

Q: What areas of the corporate world do you feel military personnel fit best?

The thing that helped most with my transition from the military is the immediate appreciation and respect for you and your skills by your new team.

If you've been in the military a number of years, you're used to moving around and changing jobs and meeting new people and having new assignments. Those are things that really help to make the transition easy. With a company like Alcatel, the transition for me couldn't have been any easier. There was nothing that I had to do to enter the role for which I wasn't already trained. The key things I needed to have to come on board were a technical background, an understanding of the equipment, the terminology, but not necessarily to the detail of being a technician. I needed to understand a program, to understand a project, and how to develop a team. I also needed to know how to put the resources together to ensure that we're ready to support a product when it goes out to the new customers. These are the key skills that I learned in the military that are allowing me to be successful at Alcatel.

Q: What skills from the military do you see as being the most transferable?

The military is a great place to learn. It's a great place to grow. You learn a lot about yourself. Military members also tend to learn something that's key and that is not to say "no." Also, in the military everything is a mission, and all missions need to be accomplished. You learn to handle all tasks and accomplish the goals no matter what the challenge is. Granted, you still have to look at risk management. You're focused and have already learned the teamwork and discipline. Those are all key to making a great contribution to society and an organization. One of the things that I learned at the Virginia Military Institute was the essence of the citizen soldier. You can be a soldier, but you also have to be a good citizen. These are some of the things you can transfer from the military to the civilian sector.

Q: What can other employees learn from former military personnel?

Folks from the service tend to be active participants. They will see something that needs to be updated or changed or enhanced and they'll take the initiative to try to make things better — to make the environment better and more productive.

Military folks are very resourceful and they like to look at cost reduction and process improvement issues. The military is used to doing more with less. You have a lot more people out there as valuable resources who say, "How well can we get this done with what we have? We don't have the resources, we don't have the budget, how can we get it done?"

People with a military background tend to take a look at their job and their assignment differently than the corporate career person. Military people look at how they can make things better — not reinvent the wheel, but how can they increase effectiveness and productivity through gradual, incremental or managed change.

Q: What other skills or traits learned in the military should a person making the transition leverage in the corporate or commercial world?

Leadership, flexibility and adaptability are key.

Everyone gets some leadership responsibilities in the military. There are no positions in the armed services where you don't apply leadership principles. Even in a staff role, you still have to have the essence of leadership to accomplish the mission. At Alcatel, I have to be a leader and develop a cohesive team in order to accomplish our objective. If you don't fully understand leadership, then you can't realistically understand teamwork, and will have a difficult time being successful in the corporate or commercial world.

A leader is able to forge a team and produce results, while maximizing people's abilities. Flexibility and adaptability to an ever-changing environment are also critical to success. Opportunities exist everywhere within companies. Being flexible and adaptable to the various opportunities within a company can mean the difference between making the successful transition and not.

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