The Army veteran discusses the most valuable lessons learned during FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program.
Service: United States Army, 20 years (1998–2018)
Education: BS in Organizational Leadership and Change Management – University of Oklahoma Class of ‘16
FourBlock Cohort: Seattle – Fall ‘17
Current Employer: PACCAR Inc.
Position: Customer Center Supervisor
Hobbies: Music, exercising, reading, travel, and photography.
U.S. Army veteran Daniel Sotoamaya is a Customer Center Supervisor at PACCAR Inc. who completed FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program in 2017. We recently spoke with him to discuss his time with FourBlock and how the foundation played a pivotal role in his military transition and current professional success.
FourBlock: What barriers did you face during your transition from active duty back into civilian life?
Sotoamaya: I initially had to learn the importance of networking, learn how to create an effective targeted resume, and gain a better understanding of various corporate cultures and norms. I also initially struggled creating an entirely new professional network outside of the military, which led me to learn how “veteran friendly” has a lot of different meanings to organizations in the private sector.
What drove you to join a FourBlock cohort?
I joined FourBlock because it was a free military career transition program in my area that could help me create and expand my professional network in the private sector, conduct on-site research of host companies to see if there was a cultural fit, and to increase my chances of successfully transitioning out of the military.
How did the Career Readiness Program impact your transition?
As I completed each week in FourBlock, my confidence in building and executing my military career transition plan grew from the guidance and feedback I received through newly acquired coaches and mentors. During each company visit, FourBlock provided me with a very unique opportunity to expand my professional network amongst classmates, recruiters, and military veteran employees. I was able to interact with various organizational cultures and learn what I was looking for in my potential new company. Recruiters at each host company provided helpful information and tips that I later used to present myself as a competitive candidate through my resume and subsequent interviews.
What were your key takeaways from the course?
I learned very quickly that my professional network and how I presented and branded myself in-person, on the telephone, and on social media channels (LinkedIn, etc.) was going to be crucial in making my military career transition plan successful. By networking at each host company, I learned that most organizations have a unique and very limited view of what a veteran could bring to a company besides intangible qualities.
I had initially assumed any company that had branded themselves as “veteran-friendly” knew more about the tangible skills and job training programs from the military. This realization provided an opportunity for me to prepare and present my tangible and quantifiable experience and skillset in a simplified and concise manner during the hiring process.
I also learned to be open-minded about multiple companies and opportunities when creating a military career transition plan. There are numerous opportunities to choose from for your post-military career. If you solely concentrate on applying to a few major companies, one career field, and/or a specific job, you will have a high probability of eliminating yourself from great opportunities. Through my weekly visits, I learned that there are numerous companies that are not very well known that have a long history of success, growth, great cultures, and offer very competitive compensation packages.
What have you accomplished since you completed FourBlock’s program?
A few months after completing FourBlock, I was selected to participate in the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. For 12 weeks, I was provided an opportunity with UPS to serve as a Corporate Communications Strategy Fellow, where I was able to contribute to the research, development, and improvement of their UPS Go App. Shortly after completing my corporate fellowship, I was hired by PACCAR Inc. I plan on starting my master’s degree in the very near future.
What do you love about your current company?
The organizational culture at PACCAR Inc. is phenomenal. I actually enjoy going to work and interacting with everyone in the building. Everyone is treated with respect, regardless of their position; leadership at all levels is approachable; and cross-functional collaboration is highly encouraged. The company shares my definition of what a “veteran friendly” organization means to me. They checked everything off my list of expectations of what was important to me in a company for my post-military career. From the moment I applied, they demonstrated, through their actions during the hiring process, that they really wanted me to be part of their team. PACCAR Inc. recognized my tangible and quantifiable military professional experience and provided a great opportunity, with a very competitive compensation package, that far exceeded my initial expectations.
In addition to completing his Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship and his current role with PACCAR Inc., Daniel generously donated his time to FourBlock upon completing our program. For several months, Daniel led FourBlock’s social media efforts, where he continuously increased engagement week after week. His exceptional use of storytelling through social media resonated strongly with the FourBlock community, and his trustworthiness and reliability were lauded by FourBlock team members.
Even in corresponding for this article, Daniel offered to resume working on FourBlock’s social media team, despite recently beginning the aforementioned full-time position at PACCAR Inc. It’s this level of commitment and generosity that stand out with Daniel; he’s selfless, hardworking, timely, respectful, and supportive. So it should come as no surprise that when asked to give other transitioning veterans career advice, he delivered a well-thought-out, truly helpful response:
“Through my attendance in FourBlock and from my own personal military transition experience, I would tell anyone that the most important factor in having a successful military transition is establishing, maintaining and consistently expanding your professional network in the private sector. Your interview and resume building skills are 2A and 2B.
“As a veteran, you have an approximate 80% chance of being hired to an organization through a referral from your professional network. You will have to put in a lot of time and effort in establishing and maintaining the relationships within it. During my last two years in the military, I was constantly reminded that I would most likely land my new career through people in my professional network referring me for a position. It was true. I would receive telephonic or in-person interviews within hours or days of applying simply because someone within my network, who knew someone who worked at the company, recommended and referred me. I would not have been given the opportunity to interview at PACCAR Inc. if it wasn’t from people within my network recommending and referring me.”