After 30 years in the Army, Patricia Frost knows what it takes to perform under pressure.
As is true for many brave women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, the military provided Frost with an abundance of opportunities to grow, learn and develop. From technical training to leadership development, the skill sets offered by the military are incredibly valuable — including in civilian careers. And for Frost, they’re skills she’s able to apply in her work today as Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Seagate Technology.
As a former Major General, Frost’s time in the military also helped prepare her for what leadership looks like during the COVID-19 crisis, too. Recently, she told us more about her approach to leadership, as well as her biggest pieces of advice to other women looking to grow rewarding civilian careers.
What was your role in the Army?
My role was to take massive amounts of collected data in all types of structure, digest it and formulate it to guide missions for our military. Over three decades, I had the honor of serving with the Armed Forces, and with our foreign partners and allies around the world. My career in the Army led me to becoming the first Director of Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Information Operations, where I led the Army’s development of strategy, policy and resourcing across these disciplines.
Why did you decide to leave the military and pursue a civilian career?
Having served for over three decades, I chose to retire in 2018 to give more time and attention to my family. Due to my and my husband’s multiple combat deployments — he was also in the military, too — our daughter sacrificed a great deal. It was time to stabilize her in one location and give her a permanent home. I will forever be a Soldier for Life and an advocate for our Armed Forces, though.
In what ways has your military experience prepared you to lead through the COVID-19 crisis?
I’ve spent my career dealing with crises of every size and have been part of many crisis action teams composed of military and civilians. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated my ability to work with leaders across the business to understand the complexities of Seagate in record time. This pandemic crisis forces us to adapt our people processes and policies and ensure that we balance business resiliency and workforce safety. We must use this time as an opportunity to improve our business operations to meet the demands of the future operating environment.
What has been an unexpected challenge since transitioning into civilian life?
An unexpected challenge — and I am being completely honest here — has been buying a civilian wardrobe. When the military provides you with a physical fitness uniform, a combat and business uniform, and a formal dress uniform for 30 plus years, it can be daunting to wake up and realize you have no decent clothes and the last time you spent a decent amount of money on a wardrobe was 1987. There are days I truly miss my combat boots!
What advice do you have for women entering the civilian workforce?
My first piece of advice is to never be afraid to ask questions as you are learning your tradecraft. As you grow your capabilities, don’t underestimate the skills that you bring to the team, and remember to use your voice. Know that you can never stop learning and that you need to seek advice from a diverse group of leaders. Start building your professional network from day one: seek out mentors and sponsors.
Lastly, give yourself some grace. You have to learn to let the little things go, pick a few things to really focus on, and let your priorities evolve over time. When I decided to start a family and remain a professional soldier, I had to acknowledge that while I could have it all — motherhood and a profession — I just couldn’t do it alone. I had to ask for help and support to remain successful at work and at home.
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