From CO to CEO: Transition Advice and Leadership Insights from a Retired U.S. Navy Captain

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Transitioning service members, do you know how to make the most of your military training once you transition into the civilian workforce?

Corporate leaders, do know how to optimize your veteran employees’ potential for success?

That’s why author and consultant Captain William Toti, US Navy (Retired) and former CEO of Sparton Corporation, wrote “From CO to CEO: A Practical Guide for Transitioning from Military to Industry Leadership.”

With more than 26 years of service in the U.S. Navy and more than 40 years of experience in the defense industry, Captain Toti joins FourBlock Founder Mike Abrams on this week’s episode of The FourBlock Podcast to share his personal experience, professional expertise, and practical insights to help transitioning service members make the most of their military training and learn what more is needed to rise up the ranks in the C-suite. For employers, he also shares what corporate leaders can do to maximize the potential for their veteran employees’ success.

Captain Toti has more than 40 years of experience in defense. In three years as CEO of Sparton, he was able to restructure and double the company’s value, taking it through the sale of Sparton by Cerberus Capital Management to Elbit Systems of America. Prior to joining Sparton he spent more than a decade running multi-billion-dollar global defense businesses, for both products and services, including as president of the Integrated Maritime Systems sector at L3, as vice president of the defense segment of HP, HPE, and DXC, as president of Cubic Global Defense, and as vice president of Raytheon’s Mission Support Operations. He has served on Boards of Directors of ERAPSCO, JT3, and the Italian defense company Calzoni.

Captain Toti also served for more than 26 years in the U.S. Navy, including tours as commander of Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Command Norfolk, as commodore of Submarine Squadron 3, and as commanding officer of the nuclear fast attack submarine USS Indianapolis (SSN-697). He served for more than nine years in the Pentagon, including tours as special assistant to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, as Navy representative to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, and as deputy director of the Navy War Plans Cell, Deep Blue. Mr. Toti is the creator/author of the US Navy’s current “Full Spectrum Antisubmarine Warfare” concept of operations.

Captain Toti holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the U.S. Naval Academy, a master’s degree in spacecraft systems engineering, the pre-doctoral Electrical Engineer degree from the Naval Postgraduate School, and has done executive coursework at the Harvard Business School. He served as a Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution and as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Seminar XXI Fellow in International Affairs. He has more than 30 published articles and op-ed pieces and was the U.S. Naval Institute Author of the Year in 2001. He was a 2012 member of the White House Roundtable on Military Credentialing in support of an initiative to help transitioning service members receive civilian credentials and licenses.

Captain Toti has worked to support the survivors of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) for more than 25 years, was named an honorary survivor and their honorary captain in 2005, and has been featured in several global release documentaries on that storied ship, including “USS Indianapolis: Live from the Deep” (2017, PBS), “USS Indianapolis: Legacy Project” (2016, Tiny Horse Productions), and “USS Indianapolis: the Final Chapter” (2019, PBS).

His narrative titled “Antoinette,” describing his experiences during the September 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon was incorporated into the book Operation Homecoming, published by Random House (2006). He was featured in the 2016 PBS documentary, “9/11: Inside the Pentagon” and the 2020 History Channel documentary “9/11: The Pentagon.”, and the 2021 National Geographic six-part docuseries, “9/11: One Day in America.”

Captain Toti is a seven-time recipient of the Legion of Merit, a recipient of the “Wash 100” list of most influential leaders in the government contractor sector (2016), HP Executive of the Year (2013), the FedScoop 50 Industry Leadership Award (2012), and the Rear Admiral John J. Bergen Industry Award from the Navy League of the United States (2010). He is a lifetime member of the U.S. Naval Institute, the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, the National Eagle Scouts Association, and as an adult leader was awarded the Honor Medal by the Boy Scouts of America (2002).

You can find Captain Toti’s book, “From CO to CEO: A Practical Guide for Transitioning from Military to Industry Leadership" at


Welcome to the FourBlock Podcast, a show that examines veteran career transition and the military-civilian divide in the workplace. General Charles Krulak coined the term “Three Block War” to describe the nature of 21st-century military service defined by peace-keeping, humanitarian aid, and full combat. But what happens next? Veterans are often unprepared to return home and begin new careers. We call this the Fourth Block.

FourBlock is a national non-profit that has supported thousands of transitioning service members across the nation in beginning new and meaningful careers.

Mike Abrams (@fourblock) is an Afghanistan veteran, FourBlock founder, and author of two military transition books. He’ll be representing the military transition perspective. Lindsey Pollak (@lindsaypollak) is a career and workplace expert and New York Times bestselling author of three career advice books. Lindsey will be representing the civilian perspective of this issue.

Veterans, explore new industries and make the right connections. Find a career that fits your calling. Join us at Sponsor our program or host a class to equip more of our veterans at

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