Veterans and those who love them make no shortage of sacrifices on behalf of this country. But one sacrifice that’s perhaps not as readily acknowledged is the obstacles both veterans and military spouses can face when building out their careers in the civilian realm. This Veteran’s Day, Fairygodboss and Getting Hired asked folks in the veteran and military family community to share the ways this identity has aided and at times impeded them professionally, as well as their No. 1 pieces of advice to fellow military community jobseekers.
Do you believe veterans and their families should have the right to build civilian careers free of obstacles and biases? Show your support and #Pledge4VetFamilies here.
For military families, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for juggling priorities, a fact Megan MacLellan knows all too well. As a manager for Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies business, a Navy wife, and an MBA student, MacLellan is accustomed to embracing multiple roles and responsibilities, which makes it all the more perplexing to her that military spouses are so often seen in a one-dimensional light.
“A common misconception is that the spouse has to take a backseat when it comes to career progression and growth,” explains MacLellan, whose husband is currently on submarine duty at sea. “In reality, each family operates in a different manner, and numerous families strike a balance with both individuals able to have successful and prosperous careers.”
That’s certainly been the case for MacLellan. Though she testified to there being career obstacles that military spouses commonly face, within Pratt & Whitney, she’s found a community that’s “incredibly supportive of me and my family, both professionally and personally.” Recently, she shared with Fairygodboss exactly how that support has empowered her to accomplish all that she does, as well as her No. 1 piece of advice to other military spouses who are building their careers.
Who: Megan MacLellan
What: Business Process Management Quality Metrics & Reporting Manager, Pratt & Whitney
Where: East Hartford, CT
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been with Pratt & Whitney for over 18 months. Within the Quality organization, I lead data analysis for our business processes for continuous improvement. By providing the meaningful data insights to the department, we are able to prioritize continuous improvement initiatives and ensure effectiveness of the projects.
Previously, I was employed as a process engineer in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. I worked to improve the efficiency of the chewable tablet manufacturing process by identifying gaps, performing Design of Experiments, finding opportunities and leading projects.
As a military spouse, what are some of the more unique challenges you’ve had to face when it comes to finding and maintaining employment? Are there any obstacles people might not expect?
My husband currently has sea duty aboard a Navy submarine. Our biggest challenge personally and professionally is the relentless uncertainty of his schedule. Deployment dates constantly change, making even short term family planning difficult.
I would say military spouses generally struggle with how frequently the military relocates personnel. Most can expect to move every two to four years with no knowledge of where their next move is going to take them. The limited ability to forecast makes finding jobs hard and maintaining careers even harder.
How about misconceptions — are there any false beliefs or stereotypes about what it means to be a military spouse that you’ve encountered, especially as it relates to you professionally?
Each military member lives by a code of conduct, “service over self.” This means that their service is a priority, but does not mean that it is the only priority a household will have. A common misconception is that the spouse has to take a backseat when it comes to career progression and growth. In reality, each family operates in a different manner and numerous families strike a balance with both individuals able to have successful and prosperous careers.
There are barriers into the workplace for military spouses due to the evolving family needs. Spouses run the home while their military members are deployed, resulting in a need for flexible work schedules at times. Due to the need for flexibility, it can be difficult and awkward to negotiate salary, benefits, and other work contracts.
What has your company done to help with any of these challenges, and in what ways have you felt supported?
The Pratt & Whitney community has been incredibly supportive of me and my family, both professionally and personally. In many ways, this community mirrors my military family, especially since several individuals on the Pratt & Whitney leadership team have served and understand the hardship that you can encounter as a military family.
Pratt & Whitney has supported me by investing in me personally and professionally. Even before I started my first day on the job, I felt support from my manager; he reached out to see if I needed advice on areas to live, shoe cobblers or even hairdressers in the area. Throughout my time, I have developed several relationships that have catalyzed my knowledge of the company. My coworkers have been gracious in keeping in touch throughout my husband’s deployments or checking in on my holiday plans during an upcoming break. This element of connection is paramount in feeling supported during the challenging times.
From a professional development perspective, I am currently utilizing the United Technologies Employee Scholar Program to obtain my MBA at the Wharton School of Business. I also have a flexible work schedule to allow me to attend classes. This is allowing me the opportunity to focus on my career and learn new concepts that I can bring to Pratt & Whitney. In addition to the wonderful learning opportunity, the timing of the program is ideal since my husband is currently deployed – allowing me to stay focused while he is away.
Another benefit I was surprised about was the extensive support that UTC provides through UTC Flex. In this program, employees have the opportunity to use flexible working arrangements. This is a great alternative for couples that must live apart for a limited period (1-2 years) due to changing duty stations. I have utilized a flexible working arrangement during periods that my husband is home from deployment or arriving home from an extended period of time. The military will host homecoming parties on their return day and I have had the chance to meet him at the pier for these events while working earlier or later in the day to accommodate my schedule.
Do you believe your experience as a military spouse has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid you professionally today?
As a Navy wife, I have the honor of interacting with service members and their families, and I am in awe of their integrity, perseverance, and resilience. I belong to a community of people who will give you the shirt off their back, the keys to their car, or a room in their house the first time they meet you, just because it’s the right thing to do. I embrace this ethos of selfless service, and intend to live those values personally and professionally.
My experience as a military spouse has given me agility and an ability to adapt quickly. A deployment can be modified in a moment’s notice, which can impact pre-set plans we might have made. To understand that plans will change and to be willing to adapt quickly is key. As someone with no prior aerospace industry experience, I was able to quickly learn the organization and policies to start adding value to the organization in a couple of weeks. This ability to quickly learn new processes has been critical in launching new dashboards and mapping out continuous improvement projects for the upcoming quarters. In a dynamic work environment – we must adapt to unforeseen events such as organizational changes, new projects or revising our project plans.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Coming to Pratt & Whitney, while a large and difficult move across country, has only proven to be fruitful. I have met some incredibly supportive people that truly care about development of others. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with a diverse team, continue my educational aspirations and work on cutting edge technologies to bring our business processes to the next level.
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
Candidly, I am kind of a nerd, so I have been spending most of my free time in school or studying since I am currently a full-time student. I also am on the board of directors for Yoga4Change, a non-profit to bring mindfulness to those in need, helping to develop the strategic vision and training curriculum for our board members.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other military spouses, who are looking for jobs right now?
First and foremost, be patient and know that you are not alone on this journey. There are thousands of spouses just like you who manage the home front and keep the household going strong while working and building their careers. To achieve this, just remember that there are people around you who want to help. This can vary from a listening ear to asking for advice on a good restaurant – or cobbler – in the area.
United Technologies is proud to announce its participation in the U.S. Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is an employment and career partnership connecting military spouses with more than 390 partner employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. The partnership connects military spouses to employment opportunities that include flexible work arrangements, full-time remote jobs, and job sharing.
UTC officially joined the Military Spouse Employment Partnership on Oct. 16, 2018, at the annual Induction Ceremony held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.
We recognize the contributions and sacrifices that all military personnel, veterans and their families make to our country, our company and our communities. By joining the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, UTC is becoming part of an even larger collective effort to support military spouse employment. We value the unique skills and perspectives of military spouses because companies don’t innovate – people do.
For more information on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, please visit https://msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil.