CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — We’ve all heard the phrase “soldier on.” It means to do and achieve, even when it’s difficult. For those who have proudly served in the military – that phrase takes new meaning during the transition from deployment to employment.
Today, veterans account for about eight percent of the civilian population, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s an eight percent that shares the unique experience of serving, equipped with skills and knowledge only gained when your lifestyle and career are so deeply intertwined.
While veterans share in their service to our country, each and every story and path to success is unique. With 14 locations across the Midwest, Van Meter has more than 28 veteran employees. We caught up with one of them to hear his story. (Two more stories have been shared on tEDmag.com.)
ANDREW JENSEN | U.S. ARMY, AIR NATIONAL GUARD | WAREHOUSE SUPERVISOR
Growing up, Andrew Jensen knew the military was his calling.
“Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be in the military,” Jensen said. “It’s just something I always wanted to do. And it’s something that when I was out of it, I missed.”
Jensen served in the active duty Army from 1996 to 2002. Then, he joined the National Guard from 2002 to 2005. Jensen currently serves in the Air National Guard helping organize Test Iowa sites to assist with the National Guard’s COVID-19 response. He is also a warehouse supervisor for Van Meter and has been an employee-owner for over nine years.
Finding the right fit
“Before I got deployed, I was working for a trucking company,” Jensen said. “When I got home, I was looking for something new and thought I’d give Van Meter a try.”
It didn’t take him long to embrace the culture that makes Van Meter so unique.
“Van Meter’s culture is inclusive and built on trust, “Jensen said. “There are other veterans on my team – we share a bond there, and we’re definitely able to use our skillsets to move the whole team forward.”
Jensen feels that his skills forged from the military translated to his position post-deployment.
“There are a lot of behind-the-scenes skills that you learn in the military that many people don’t realize,” he said. “The logistics of knowing the plan forwards and backwards, and always thinking ahead is critical. Today, I teach my team that we need to always be thinking six months ahead.”
The value of strong leadership
Assembling a team of the best and giving them the autonomy to do their job is at the heart of Van Meter and what Jensen thinks sets apart good leaders from great leaders.
“There’s this idea that ‘if you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re not a good leader,’ and I think that’s something that is very important here. The leader’s role is to compile everyone’s ideas and bring continuity,” Jensen said. “And when you have veterans working at a company, you start to feel their team mentality and the ‘go out and get things done’ attitude. That’s a huge value when a company is 100 percent employee-owned.”
When asked about advice for veterans returning home and looking for work, Jensen stressed the importance of company culture.
“You have to look at the culture of a company,” he said. “And you have to get out and network with people. Sometimes military experience is kind of underrated, and the training and discipline doesn’t get used to its full potential. But you can find positions in the right kind of company where you are utilized.”
Jensen said he is one of the lucky ones who found a company that just “clicked.”
“I’ve been here for nine years, and I don’t plan on going anywhere,” Jensen said. “In fact, it’s never even crossed my mind.”Tagged with military, people, Van Meter, veterans