Exbellum and DAS: Finding Jobs for Special Ops Vets


“Our goal is to bring the best talent to DAS, and sometimes we need to look beyond the obvious talent pool.” –Dale A. Adams, Chairman and CEO, DAS

Denise Bottiglieri, PhD, the CEO of HCG, had a problem. While attempting to fill various vacancies for her companies, she felt she was seeing the same type of candidate again and again. It’s not that they weren’t qualified; they all had the education and pedigree for the positions. There was something else, something intangible and hard to articulate, that she was looking for. Denise wanted a new type of candidate, so she got in touch with a consulting firm from Austin, Texas called Exbellum, founded by former Navy SEALs Judson Kauffman and Josef Wolfel.

Within a couple of weeks, Exbellum had located some candidates. At first she was a bit skeptical because she was interviewing veterans with Special Operations Forces experience—veteran SEALs, Rangers, and Green Berets—and their resumes listed accomplishments that on the surface had nothing to do with her businesses. After meeting these candidates, however, she knew there was something special they could offer the corporate world. Those intangibles included values such as integrity, honor, discipline, and truth; no assignment was too small or too big.

Denise subsequently told Dale Adams, Chairman and CEO of the DAS Group of Companies, about this untapped pool of candidates. Mr. Adams quickly saw how these candidates could help DAS’s 200-plus companies, in marketing disciplines such as PR, healthcare, CRM, events, promotional marketing, branding, and research. After meeting with the founders of Exbellum, Mr. Adams decided to create a DAS residency program for Special Operations Forces. He leveraged an existing Accelerate program, and Accelerate Exbellum was launched in January 2015.

Each quarter, the Accelerate program recruits and screens ten transitioning Special Operations Forces candidates and then sharpens their resumes, prepares them for interviews, and flies them to DAS headquarters in New York for a one-day, board-style interview with the senior leadership of four companies within the DAS Group of Companies. After the interviews, the company leadership deliberates and chooses one person to complete a year-long residency throughout the four companies. The new Accelerate resident is given a competitive salary for the year and is guaranteed an opportunity to transition into a full-time job from at least one of the companies at the conclusion of the residency.

For special operations veterans like me, this is a unique opportunity. Veterans have worked hard to hone their combat skills for years, while simultaneously sharpening other, more transferrable skills that might not be immediately apparent. No, we aren’t going to have ten years of experience in a similar industry or position, not too many of us will have completed our undergraduate studies, and even fewer will have an advanced degree. What we have, however, are intangibles inherent to the military and special operations community, but quickly disappearing in current civilian generations seeking employment.

Special operations veterans are polished, qualified individuals who have been fully vetted by the U.S. government. Vets are proven leaders, task-oriented, and capable of confidently presenting themselves and their team.

“Our resident, Josh, was a tremendous asset to our agency… (He) worked as an account leader on our vaccines business. He also created an impressive leadership development program for staff based on his experience with the Special Forces. We look forward to participating in the Accelerate Exbellum program again.” –Robin Shapiro, President, TBWA Healthcare

Seemingly insignificant things like showing up on time, being prepared, and looking people in the eye go a long way in business. Obviously veterans also have excellent self-discipline and the ability to perform under pressure. After all, if you can function with no sleep when the bullets are flying in some far corner of the world, imagine what you’ll be able to accomplish when the workplace is deemed to be “chaotic.” Vets offer a great resource to companies that can embrace Exbellum’s mantra of “hire for traits, train for skills.” Teaching someone to do a new job is relatively easy compared to trying to correct an attitude or character flaw.

“The Accelerate Exbellum program was by far one of my best experiences in nearly 20 years with the DAS/Omnicom programs. I’m very confident Robert will succeed and I hope he’ll be followed by many, many more.” –Skip Reed, CEO, Direct Partners

The DAS Group of Companies continues to have success with the Accelerate Exbellum program and continues to offer a board every quarter. Seven residents have entered the program to date, with the eighth scheduled to be selected in November 2016. In addition to the hiring of a single resident, many agencies are so impressed with multiple candidates during the interviews that they have extended direct-hire job offers. In 2016, five additional candidates were offered full-time positions.

For those candidates who are not selected for the residency, Exbellum and DAS continue to work together to find the best fit within Omnicom.

About the Author

Zach Asmus is a transitioning SOF veteran. His experiences in the military include being a USAF CCT for six years, and serving in a combat tour to Afghanistan with an Army SF 7th group team. He participated in the Accelerate Exbellum program in September 2016. He is still in contact with Exbellum and interested DAS companies in order to find the right opportunity in the corporate world.

If interested in participating in the program or direct-hiring the right SOF veteran for your company, contact Jim Sullivan, Program Manager at Exbellum, at jsullivan@exbellum.com.

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