The U.S. Air Force veteran and Wells Fargo employee shares his transition success story.
Service: U.S. Air Force, 20 years
Education: Thomas Edison State University, Class of 2015 / Syracuse University, Class of 2020
Major: MS, Science Management / MBA & MS, Business Analytics
FourBlock Cohort: Atlanta, Spring 2019
Current Company: Wells Fargo
Position: Business Initiatives Consultant, Wholesale Control Exec (Command Center)
Hobbies: Chess, Reading, Xbox, Veteran & Minority Advocacy & Mentorship
Brian Arrington is a twenty-year U.S. Air Force veteran and graduate of FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program in Atlanta, now living in Charlotte.
We spoke with Brian to discuss the struggles and successes of his military transition, including how he started a career at Wells Fargo and launched Vets2Industry.com.
What struggles did you face during your transition from active duty back into civilian life?
1. FEAR: Since 2004, I had been going to school non-stop because I had no idea what I needed to know, what degree I needed, or frankly, what I could/should/would be after the service. I was focused on diversifying my education as much as possible so I could find a job in any sector. All I knew was that after being a USAF cop, I did not want to pursue law enforcement post-military. When I got married in 2007 and subsequently had three children to blend with the three I gained through marriage, my fear only grew. How was I going to take care of my family? The military was all I ever knew. My transition plan went from “I need my bachelor’s,” to “I need more credentials so I can ensure I get a job.” (And yes, at the time I thought a J-O-B was what I needed and was what success looked like. I didn’t understand then that there is a significant difference between a job and a career. I didn’t learn that until these last 13 months.)
2. IGNORANCE: 13 months ago, I was a 19-year senior leader in the Air Force when I accidentally came across LinkedIn. I thought it was just another Facebook or job board; I had no clue how powerful it was — but I would learn. One of my first connection requests was Kenya Spratt, a transitioning Soldier who happened upon my profile and saw we had close transition dates and were in close proximity. He asked me if I knew about CMA and if I was going to their seminar. I asked, “What is CMA?” He replied, “Centurion Military Alliance, a VSO!” To which I said, “What’s a VSO?” He laughed and said it was a Veteran Service Organization. I begrudgingly had to ask him, knowing the probable response, “Ok, what’s a Veteran Service Organization?” He encouraged me to just come to the event, saying VSOs help veterans transition. I agreed to go and my life changed forever. I was hit with terms I had never heard: “STAR Statement,” “Elevator Pitch,” “Value Proposition,” “Informational Interviews,” and so much more. I left that one-day seminar mad that I had just learned not only a new language that I almost missed out on, but the fact there was a whole community outside our gates dedicated to supporting us veterans without any desire to take money from us for their help. Why had I only just learned about this? I learned there were 41,000 VSO’s and learned the names of companies that I at 38 years old had no clue even existed. I began thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of Airmen I had allowed to leave the military under my care that I failed to adequately prepare for the civilian workforce because of my own ignorance of the resources, benefits and opportunities out the gates! I was deeply upset and was determined to learn as much as possible before transitioning.
What drove you to join FourBlock’s Atlanta cohort?
I first heard of FourBlock thanks to FourBlock alum Bryan Shue. When he said FourBlock had online assignments and weekly in-person classes, I told him I was way too swamped to add more coursework on top of my MBA courseload and, at that time, my upcoming internship with John Phillips and the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. Bryan made me promise to call Bryan Blochberger, a major veterans advocate in Atlanta and a FourBlock Atlanta instructor. Bryan and I spoke for over two hours about the FourBlock program and I was amazed at what he was describing. That evening I signed up for the next cohort knowing my plate was probably too full and unsure if I was making a smart choice. IT WAS THE BEST CHOICE I MADE!
How did the program impact your transition?
FourBlock was instrumental to my transition, so much so that during the first week of FourBlock I invited my entire Hiring our Heroes cohort to join me, and 12 of them did. 11 weeks later, we all graduated from both HoH and FourBlock. FourBlock singlehandedly eliminated my fears on whether I would land successfully into a career. It then only became a question of what company and role I would land. It did, however, change my transition vector which was probably the biggest gift I could have received for myself and my family. I was on the wrong career path and FourBlock gave me the tools which allowed me to figure that out for myself!
What were your key takeaways from the course?
FourBlock is a resource unlike anything else. It takes a massive group of transitioning veterans at various stages of their lives (education, rank, and interests) and from day one, brings all of them in front of the most senior executives, recruiters, and hiring managers of Fortune 500 companies in their own headquarters. FourBlock creates an environment where veterans can network and get exposed to corporate culture and workplace knowledge from the mouths of those at the top of those companies. To single out any specific lesson or experience above another is difficult. I loved getting to visit new companies and meet corporate executives each week, but my biggest takeaway from FourBlock was the Job Market Assessment we all had to do. I needed to find my “WHY.” Comparing three career paths during that presentation led me to discover that consulting was my dream career. I didn’t even know what a consultant was two months earlier. Now I am one!
What have you accomplished since completing the program?
Since completing FourBlock, I have finished my third semester for both my second and third Masters (an MBA & an MS in Business Analytics from Syracuse University). I have moved to Charlotte, NC and have started my new career with Wells Fargo as a Business Initiatives Consultant. In this role, I seek out ways to continuously improve programs and processes within all of Wholesale Control worldwide and conduct risk identification, assessment, mitigation, and monitoring to ensure the best services are always provided to Wells Fargo customers.
Lastly, I started my own VSO, Vets2Industry, to provide a free resource library for Veterans and Dependents so they know which organizations provide free services and benefits. V2I also serves to break the circle of ignorance by listing companies that have opportunities for veterans, those that have specific military hiring programs, those that are on the 100 Military Friendly companies list, and those that selflessly provide Fortune 500 mentors for a year to transitioning service members through their partnership with American Corporate Partners. Every week our website is updated with free resources and features. The goal is to educate all 220,000 to 240,000 transitioning service members each year and their dependents on free resources to ease their transition and life needs.
What do you love about your current company?
I fell in love with Wells Fargo during my on-boarding after seeing the massive support they showed me. They love each person and welcome them as a member of the Stagecoach Family immediately. Integrity, Customers, Team Members, Community Volunteering, and Risk Control are all at the center of everything and every decision made. I truly can’t wait to go to the office everyday to spend time with my coworkers and my supervisor. I have a Cinderella story and I couldn’t have landed in a better place where they value merit and I also have a new veteran community to lean on through Wells Fargo Veteran Team Member Network.
What one piece of key advice would you give to veterans who are currently transitioning?
Start your transition planning as soon as you read my story. That means, get on LinkedIn today if you are not already. If you are, find the Veteran Mentor Network and/or reach out to me if you are nervous. Spend your time building relationships, asking for informational interviews, and learning about every free education/certification resource (outside of Post-9/11) and Veteran Service Organization out there (visit vets2industry.com for the list). Take advantage of the mentorships on American Corporate Partners and Veterati, the internships through Hiring our Heroes and Hire Military, the transition seminars and courses of Centurion Military Alliance and most assuredly, the in-person FourBlock cohorts!
To learn more about our Career Readiness Program, visit: fourblock.org/apply