The U.S. Marine Corps veteran shares his experience as a FourBlock Career Readiness Coach.
Service: USMC, 4 years (1988-1992)
Specialized Education: Excellence in Government Fellows Program, 21st Century Leadership
FourBlock Affiliation: Career Readiness Coach, Washington, DC
Current Company: Department of Homeland Security
Position: Intelligence Operations Specialist
Hobbies: Book Discussion Clubs
Ellis Craig is a four-year U.S. Marine veteran and a Career Readiness Coach for FourBlock DC’s Career Readiness Program. He is currently serving on a COVID-19 Crises Action Team to fight this global pandemic.
We spoke with Ellis to discuss his transition from active duty back into civilian life, his experience as a Career Readiness Coach, and his advice to transitioning service members and veterans today.
What struggles or barriers did you face during your transition from active duty back into civilian life?
Through a leap of faith, I relocated to Washington, DC, and it took me six years to fully transition into a meaningful career with purpose. At the very onset of my transition, I felt stripped of my purpose and identity. Without a career roadmap, I had to look inward to find my true north, my place in life. While in the Marines, I always had a permanent interest in National Defense and Intelligence. So, without hesitation I went after it, but another hurdle appeared: I realized the Security Industry hires for unique skills and not just aptitude. I began to sharpen my technical skills by researching and reading “all things security” and then validated learned information by having informal interviews with national security mavens within the Defense and Intelligence Community.
During this transformation, I often found myself (mentally) standing on the “yellow footprints” again at Parris Island. With humility and eagerness to learn, I continued listening to seasoned professionals and taught myself the rest of the game by pure hard work, or what I call, “Sweat Equity.”
What civilian jobs have you held since transitioning out of active service? How was your experience?
Since 1998, I was able to cement my federal career in a variety of high-level technical positions to include: security advisor, policy analyst, intelligence operations specialist, and coordination joint staff officer. Today, I work in the Intelligence Community. In this capacity, I provide expertise in strategic intelligence and policy analysis to help close national security policy gaps and enhance decision-making for key intelligence officials. I gained strategic level work experience while working for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy (Policy). In this role, I served as a security advisor and policy staff officer for a wide range of security programs and initiatives.
During my tenure, I was recognized as an information integrator, and successfully led efforts to issue effective security policy, advocate for resources, and promote enterprise-wide security integration. Lastly, I occupied various security management functions with numerous federal agencies to include: Office of Naval Intelligence, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Navy Engineering Logistics Office and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
How did you first hear of FourBlock?
I first came across FourBlock on LinkedIn, and it became obvious to me that this was the right program to get involved in. I then decided to write a note to FourBlock Founder, Mike Abrams and I outlined why I wanted to be a part of the FourBlock tribe. That action led to Eric Stetson contacting me on LinkedIn, who graciously welcomed me aboard. Eric is a proven leader and a master at building partnerships across the country, which is one of the lifelines of FourBlock.
What drove you to become involved with FourBlock?
I often reflect back on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Self-Actualization), which was key for me in my journey. I always wanted to contribute more to the veteran’s community and FourBlock had the right platform and reach across the country. In parallel, I was developing my professional relationship with David Rader and Kyle Cragg, two key Career Readiness Instructors in the Washington, DC metro area who are well versed in FourBlock programming and committed to enhancing the lives of veterans.
Tell us about your experience as a Career Readiness Coach. What would you want others who may be interested in becoming a Coach to know about the coaching experience?
My experience as a Career Coach has been truly rewarding. This volunteer work gives me a chance to meet the courageous men and women who protect our nation and to play an integral role in their hunt for career opportunities. For those thinking about coaching, I recommend you spend a little time navigating the FourBlock website. Each week, I look forward to receiving the FourBlock Sunday Reflection straight to my inbox. For me, the overall message has a positive impact on my entire work week.
To Potential Coaches:
- Read the FourBlock Story
- Listen to the FourBlock Podcast (via Apple, Google, Spotify)
- Can you fully commit to coaching expectations?
- Can you gel with any personality type (introverts or extroverts)?
- Can you lead small groups when asked by Instructors?
- Connect to the FourBlock network on LinkedIn.
How has your experience mentoring other veterans as a Coach impacted you personally or professionally?
Personally, it gives me a sense of community work satisfaction; the act of giving back is important to me. From a professional perspective, it allows me and members of the cohort to talk shop and discover hidden bonds.
What is it you like most about the Career Readiness Program?
I’m a big fan of the “Benchmark Visits”. Giving the cohort access to companies is a great way to learn about emerging opportunities and ask those burning questions to help with career mapping.
What do you like most about your current company or organization?
The first thing that comes to mind is our most valued resource, the people. I am surrounded by dedicated intelligence professionals from all walks of life who are on the front lines everyday fighting against the threats we face.
How did your military service prepare you to serve in your current role or for your work in the civilian workforce more broadly?
The Marine Corps taught me the fundamentals of leadership in the practical sense. At ripe age of 20, I was forward deployed to the Persian Gulf with the 2nd Marine Division and tasked with leading a small fire team in a hostile environment. I still remember the day when our fire team led the charge against an occupied enemy force trench line. During the assault, I witnessed my Lt. who stood 6’3 stand straight up in the face of uncertainty and move calmly under fire while shouting commands to different fire teams as we laid down interlocking fire. His actions prompted me to act in a similar fashion, which subsequently resulted in my most crowning military achievement – the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “Valor” Device. That experience shaped me, and I discovered what Courageous Leadership looks like.
Throughout my federal career I have been tasked to lead small teams or interact with more senior leaders. The Marine Corps gave me the tools, courage and confidence to stand out amongst my peers. The military is more than an instrument of national fighting power; I see it as a force for cultural development and preservation of key values.
Keep these attributes in your professional toolbox and pave the way for others. Godspeed!
Considering the current impact of COVID-19 on the civilian workforce, what is one piece of advice you would give to veterans who are currently transitioning?
Don’t stop planning for your exit. Continue to engage your brain and think boldly. With teleworking being the new normal for now, I challenge you to embrace the virtual environment, and remember there’s no monopoly on who you can learn from.
We’re looking for more professionals to join Ellis in giving back to your communities as a Career Readiness Coach. Click here to learn more.