Q&A: Talking with Jacobs Women’s Network and VetNet Member, Jennifer Shelley
HR Manager Jennifer Shelley talks about her journey transitioning from a military to a civilian career, what attracted her to Jacobs, her involvement in Jacobs Employee Networks and our unparalleled focus on I&D.
We connected virtually with Jacobs’ Critical Mission Solutions HR Manager for Enterprise Operations Group Jennifer Shelley to talk about her journey transitioning from a military to a civilian career, what attracted her to Jacobs, her involvement in Jacobs Employee Networks and our unparalleled focus on inclusion and diversity - a culture of caring all around.
Military Career Overview
Why did you join the military?
I started my military journey in high school, I was in JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps) as a cadet. It just kind of happened. Most people who join the military have a family history, but the JROTC instructor came to my middle school. After that my love for the military blossomed. All credit goes to Sergeant Stone who came and spoke to me at my middle school. I actually have a picture with him at my retirement ceremony.
While you were in the military, what was your opinion on the civilian world? How did that change once you transitioned?
It was an unknown, maybe scary as I was transitioning. The part that I was most curious about was understanding the money behind everything. I don’t think of the service as an organization that is there for the money – they’re there for the cause. I didn’t know how that would change the dynamics between people outside of the military.
Jacobs Career Overview
How did you learn about Jacobs?
ClearanceJobs.com! It was weird – several things happened at once. I saw the advertisement, did some research, liked it, but didn’t know that the job here in Tampa had a mission with the DoD. I applied, was contacted, and ended up being hired shortly thereafter. All this happened while I was in “Hiring Our Heroes” – it was the last week of my internship with another company and I’m so happy because it ended up being a perfect fit.
What was Jacobs’ reputation then, and how have you seen Jacobs grow since then?
I didn’t know about Jacobs while I was serving, or during transition. I found out later (after I applied) that my cousin worked for Jacobs, and he told me about Jacobs’ investment in health and safety. Over the last two years, I've seen Jacobs grow from a company that is all about safety to a company that encourages inclusion and diversity and a culture of caring all around.
What do you enjoy most about your role and working at Jacobs?
The people – it’s a great mix of people from civilian and military backgrounds. It’s fun to learn about all the different backgrounds, like how we’re brought up and what we bring to the current mission. As an HR manager, it’s fun leading such a diverse mix of people, and that’s probably the best part.
Any promotions or awards you’ve received?
I’ve received two spot bonuses, one for an exemplary performance in an employee relations issue and the other for establishing a new program.
How did you get involved with the JENs (Jacobs Employee Networks)?
As soon as I joined Jacobs and realized they had a VetNet – an employee network dedicated to providing support for transitioning veterans, I joined. That was a piece of me that I did not want to lose once I left the military - they say that the part you miss most from the military is the camaraderie with your troops. Then when i2s (Jacobs’ Intelligence and Information Solutions group) started highlighting the other JENS, I decided to join JWN -Jacobs’ Women’s Network as well.
Journey Transitioning from a Military to a Civilian Career
What was the hardest part when transitioning from a military to a civilian career?
Uncertainty. I was scared that my skillset in the military wouldn’t be valued in the civilian world.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Utilize all of the tools available to you - they tell you about them in the Transition classes. NETWORK A LOT, use LinkedIn, and value yourself. That last part is hard because you don’t know how things are going to translate but you don’t want to end up in a job you don’t like or a place where you feel underutilized. That’s the scariest part I think: potentially getting into a job that you really don’t like or where you feel like you’re stuck.
What other organizations did you utilize or aided with your transition from military life to civilian life?
Hiring our Heroes, Onward to Opportunity – they helped me through an HR course given by Syracuse university. I also used Hired Heroes USA for resume writing.
Inclusion and Diversity
What does Jacobs do now that works very well to attract Veterans?
Us bringing our newest internship or fellowship program with Hiring Our Heroes will make us stand out, we put a focus on diversity and inclusion and value our veterans. I know that we have a good reputation where Jacobs holds a presence. It’s those areas outside of where we are currently serving that we could do more.
What could Jacobs do more to ensure we attract veterans to the workforce?
There’s an awesome video about what Jacobs does and how our company is looking to change the world for the better. (https://youtu.be/5LW2AmTOdA0) We need a similar video to show how veterans can help in that mission.
What challenges did you face as a woman in a stereotypically male dominated industry (oth active duty and DoD industry)? How did you overcome those challenges?
One of my biggest challenges was the off-color remarks - and you don’t want to make waves or cause more attention to yourself. The initial reaction is to just go with the flow. And its funny that I’m saying this because Steve Demetriou’s [Jacobs Chair and CEO] recent message was to speak out. It’s not easy to do that as a minority in that situation. Thus, as I progressed in the ranks and became a 1st Sergeant, it was something that I stressed to the women that if they were too afraid to speak up for themselves that I would speak up for them and make sure it was handled.
Do you have any words of wisdom for young women facing similar challenges?
Seek a female mentor, and always do your best to build each other up. Having a female mentor that is more established in the organization is important because they can help lead or guide you through the situation.
My husband (Michael) and I served together for a combined 46 years. That brought a lot of separation and distance from my family and my children. I’d like to thank my husband and kids for being so resilient through the years.
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