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Emergency preparedness planner uses Navy experience to keep her community safe

Diversity Jobs is pleased to present this career interview with a female Navy veteran who is now a civilian emergency preparedness planner. In her interview, she shares the struggles she faced transitioning from military protocol to working in a civilian workplace, however despite the tough transition she takes pride in her work which keeps her community safe, and strives to educate herself more at every opportunity.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
My job title is Emergency Preparedness Planner, and I have been doing this for 3 years. I would describe myself as Motivated, dedicated, and flexible.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
I write various plans for emergency preparedness for a county level health department to respond to a disaster, may it be man-made or naturally occurring.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
I am non-hispanic, female. Being female has helped me strive to be the best at anything I do, from being a mother, to my job at work; at the same time maintaining my compassion for my fellow man, even if he/she disagrees with my own ideals of a particular situation.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
My job satisfaction would be a 6; the job would need to change in the area of superior management style. My superiors need to hold themselves and their peers and subordinates accountable for their respective actions, good or bad.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
This job moves my heart in that it requires me to do my best since the plans I will write are the guidelines that people use to respond to during a disaster to save lives.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I am a U.S. Naval Officer, surface warfare, veteran; I have served for a county Health Department Epidemiology, specializing in biological terrorism surveillance for 10 years. I am a wife, mother, and owner of 2 dogs and a cat, and above all I am a Christian, who believes and loves God.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I got started in this job because I had a friend working in this line of work. I would not change anything if I was given a chance to go back, like Forrest Gump’s famous quote, life is like a box of chocolates, and you don’t know what you will get unless you bite into one, and I happen to like the flavor I bit into.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
The lesson I learned was in the civilian world one cannot be as frank to people as one can be in the military world. I learned this lesson the hard way through an uncomfortable encounter with my first boss.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
I have learned that nothing is ever fair, but one can always be fair to others.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I get up to go to work to do my share in this world, and to bring a pay check home. I am proud that I earned my masters while working here.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?

The biggest challenge here is that there is no career ladder to pursue, and what makes me want to quit is the nonchalant attitude by the chain-of-command.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
My job is moderately stressful; I am able to maintain a comfortable work-life balance by talking about my day to relieve the stress, yet not dwell in its bad times, and bask in the good times.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
$50K; I am spoiled so I must say no it isn’t enough, but if I reflect on it, I would say yes.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I get 2 weeks of vacation a year; The time is enough for state side vacation, but I would like a month for overseas travel vacation.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
You must have at least a Bachelors degree.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
I would tell my friend to take advantage of the free master’s one can receive while working here.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

I would like to be the Director of this Health Department.

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  • I relate to the mentality behind your career – and the lesson in which we must learn that the “real world” (non-civilian) does not appreciate frank, honest, and somewhat blunt responses. I love that you were able to apply your military training and experiences to your career! I am very happy for you!

  • September 2016, the gulf coast of Florida was struck by hurricane Hermine, the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005. For many Floridians and the Coast Guard, we were unprepared for even the category one storm. My unit which deals with aids to navigation had to respond immediately after the eighty mile per hour winds ripped buoys from their places and knocked down lighted towers. 550 million dollars of damages were caused in the span of a few days. We were sent out daily for a month to verify and fix aids that had been destroyed. Many cargo ships, rescue boats, and mariners depended on our timely response to remark channels and light aids that had been destroyed. One major accomplishment which we received an award for was relighting the Port of Tampa which is the largest port in the state of Florida and brings in over 4.5 billion dollars worth of cargo annually. Our quick response allowed for the ships to enter the port safely because of proper waterway identification. This type of incident was being lead my incident managers like yourself, and it was up to the people like us to go and fix the situation.

  • Thank you for choosing such an important job after serving in the Navy. The skills you’ve learned in the Navy have also translated to help you in organizational management. It is awesome that you found a job that gives you similar benefits to the Navy such as continued educational opportunities and responsibility. In the Coast Guard, we utilize an internal organizational incident management system to help communicate between incident managers and external agencies such as police, fire department and hazardous material cleaners. I pray that when an incident does come up that you will quickly fall back on your military experiences of high stress situations and that you can direct and lead the right resources.

  • I am not a military personnel but I can relate to the above experience. I moved from Sri Lanka which is a vastly diverse culture, to Australia, to pursue my higher education. In my current degree, we were talking about PTSD in the military and the general culture in the military environment and how most officers struggle to fit into the civilian world. I guess, moving Countries, can also be correlated to being exposed to diverse cultural norms and values. It all comes down to the attitude and motivation levels of each individual, to fit in and to adapt according to various situational experiences. I admire her valor and positive outlook in adapting to the changing control structures within a corporate world, which is different to the military role, centered around autocratic leadership style.

  • I am an Air Force Officer who is currently transitioning out and returning back to school. When I first had the opportunity to separate, I really had to sit back and think about it. My plan was to return to school in order to do a complete career change, or I could have stayed in and taken another assignment. Staying in is easy. Amazing benefits, great pay, and I already had the experience to further my career. It’s the simple thing to do. However, I opted to separate and return to school at the expense of my own wallet, because I knew that’s what would make me the happiest. I’m excited to hear about your transition as I am just beginning my own. After being in the military, entering the civilian workforce can be daunting and unfamiliar. It seems that overall the experience has been positive and look forward to seeing for myself here shortly!

  • As a female Navy veteran, it’s always great to see other female veterans be recognized and to hear about their experiences. Having spent nine years in the military, I can definitely identify with military/civilian work atmospheres. It’s definitely something that takes some transitioning and patience.

    I agree with the Forrest Gump philosophy. You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes you’ll get something great and other times you get some bad experiences. I’ve definitely had some tough times, but I wouldn’t change a thing. All experiences, not just the good, make us who we are and help to prepare us for our next steps in life.

    I’m currently in school myself and the idea of a free master’s is great! Good on you for taking advantage of that opportunity!

  • Although I do not necessarily resonate with this story, I find it inspiring. You state that you never know what you are getting yourself into until you actually get yourself into it. This is how I feel about college. I was not sure about attending at first. Once I got in and I just went for it, I immediately fell in love.

  • Hello,
    I would like to thank you and say how happy I am to hear that as a former military member and a mother I can relate whole heartedly to your situation. I believe that having military experience alongside additional life experiences has enabled me to better myself in ways of succession, achievement, and becoming a better person overall. In relation to your experiences thus far, I feel that it is important to be prepared in any situation in major disasters or minor unfortunate situations that may occur in our daily lives. I share similar experiences with having to prepare and plan all sorts of scenarios to ensure my children and family function in emergencies big or small. The military has taught me tremendously on how to handle, solve, and prepare for situations that arise out of the ordinary. Future preparedness and planning are the overarching elements of success. Thanks for posting your story and best of luck to you and your family on all future endeavors.

  • I enjoyed reading this because I am a big supporter of the military. I even tried joining right out of high school but due to a vision problem I was disqualified. Anyways I really did enjoy reading your story and the background you come from and how the training you received from your service helped you in your career. I am currently a junior in college going for criminal justice and your story intrigued me due to the fact you have to be ready at a moments noticed if an emergency were to happen. Just like in law enforcement if an emergency were to happen you have to be prepared, react quickly, and have a plan. That’s why I feel like I have somewhat of a connection to your story because I’m getting the training and knowledge to know what to do for any kind of emergency issue.

  • I really enjoyed reading your story it is impressive to see how far you have came along and what you strive for. I can say that I do admire you, I am currently a freshman in college I have considered possibly joining the navy many ask me why or they will just look at me and laugh, given that my favorite color ism pink and I shop nothing but Victorias Secret but to me that is my motivation I want to prove everyone wrong and show them that I am very much possible in serving our country. Your story has inspired me and has showed me once again that anything is possible.