The U.S. Army veteran is co-leading FourBlock’s first-ever Denver cohort.
Jon K. ‘Van’ Steenvort
Service: U.S. Army, 30 years. Completed two combat tours to Jordan and Iraq as a Medical Service Corps Officer (Special Operations/Joint Medical Planner). Retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2017
Education: Webster University, master’s degree
Major: Human Resource Management
FourBlock Affiliation: Associate Instructor, Denver
Current Company: Amazon
Position: Operations Team Leader/Process Assistant who leads an Inventory Control Quality Assurance (ICQA) Team in the DEN2 Fulfillment Center, Aurora, Colorado.
Hobbies: Spartan Obstacle Course Races (OCR) and training (swimming, biking and running) for long-distance triathlons (2-time Ironman (140.6 mile) Finisher); diehard lifelong Denver Broncos fan.
In anticipation of Denver’s launch, we spoke with Van to discuss the difficulties he faced during his own transition, his current success with Amazon, and how completing FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program was “the best decision” he ever made.
What struggles/barriers did you face during your transition from active duty back into civilian life?
I faced the challenge of figuring out my true self after being in the U.S. Army for my entire professional life. It was a humbling experience with my rank, position, authority and reputation stripped away. The Army career bus stopped, and it was my time to get off and figure it out. Who am I? What civilian career am I going to pursue? What do I want to do with my life? How am I going to navigate civilian waters?
After officially transitioning from the U.S. Army and moving to Denver, I experienced an “exercise in humility.” After networking, sending resumes, interviewing but not being selected, I realized as a senior leader that I must face some unique struggles/barriers: my years of leadership experience was rather intimidating, understanding the recruiting/talent management process and the corporate culture, and addressing the myopic view of veterans in a highly competitive civilian work space. I learned veterans must have “professional patience but relentless perseverance” to be successful in navigating civilian waters.
How did you first hear of FourBlock?
I was told about FourBlock from a fellow transitioning veteran while attending the North Edge Veteran Transition Program at Joint Base Lewis McChord. I immediately enrolled myself in the next cohort, because FourBlock was the corporate veteran transition readiness program I had been looking for.
How was your experience as a participant in FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program?
My experience was phenomenal. FourBlock was the answer to all my questions and how to best navigate the civilian waters. The FourBlock program served me very well and I was truly inspired by Michael Abrams and Monica McNeal. My experience going through the Veteran Career Readiness Program prepared me for my military to civilian transition journey. It was the best decision I ever made!
What is is you like most about the Career Readiness Program?
I love FourBlock’s world-class professional development curriculum with Columbia University and the FourBlock Learning Model because it provides the teaching, social and community presence that makes the FourBlock experience unique. FourBlock captures the essence of transitioning and allows veterans the opportunity to experience firsthand the corporate culture and get exposure to companies in a real-world, corporate learning environment with senior executives – opportunity to test the civilian waters.
What drove you to return to the foundation as an associate instructor?
I am driven to lead, empower, inspire and serve veterans! As a FourBlock Alumni, it is true honor to join the FourBlock Team as a way to give back. As an Associate Instructor, I am excited to launch the Veteran Career Readiness Program in Denver and look forward to teaching, managing the program, sharing my personal experiences and best preparing transitioning veterans. As a Brand Ambassador, I am truly committed to driving future success and shaping the future for a new generation of veterans by developing strong business relationships and community partnerships to grow FourBlock in Denver, Colorado!
Did FourBlock play a role in you landing your current job?
Yes, I never forgot the advice that was given to our cohort that you may not be able to laterally move into a high-level civilian position and may need to “get your foot in the door” by checking your ego, being humble and taking a lower level position such as an internship. So, when the opportunity came to be part of the team to launch the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Aurora, I jumped at the chance to begin my Amazon career with the goal of learning the business in the trenches, immersing myself in the culture and establishing myself as an Amazon Operations Leader. It has been a humbling, rewarding and an amazing experience that has shaped the future and set the conditions for my long-term career success in Amazon.
What do you love about your current company?
I love Amazon because it is a very veteran friendly organization. Amazon affords me the opportunity to lead, empower, inspire, teach, coach, mentor and serve people, drive team performance and deliver results every day and live my passion. I also love the Amazon Leadership Principles because they truly resonate with me – Amazon is the right fit, right team and right culture!
What one piece of advice would you give to veterans who are currently transitioning?
The best advice is to own your transition, be highly prepared and live your passion. I learned firsthand that is very important to not transition into a career or industry just because that is all you have done in the military. Veterans need to figure out who they are and the “right fit” by being highly prepared and equipping themselves with the best tools, growing their professional network and building partnerships. It is very important to take ownership, shape the future and set the conditions for civilian career success!