Serving in the Air Force For 20 Years Was My Best Career Move — Here’s Why

Debbie Dexter

Debbie Dexter

April 14, 2024 at 5:48PM UTC

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.


Who: Debbie (DeDe) Dexter

What: Long Beach, CA

Where: Vice President, Technical Project ManagerCity National Bank (CNB)


 How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

 I’ve been in my current role one year and for the past 20 years, since I retired from the United States Air Force in 1998, I have been a Project Manager in the civilian sector in many different markets: banking, marketing, telecommunications, insurance, health care, retail, and department of defense.

 What factors were most important to you in transitioning from a military to civilian job? 

 To find a job that could utilize my technical skills obtained from many years of training and experience.

 Are there any challenges associated with that transition that people may not be aware of? 

 My transition was not easy, as I was very structured in my routine – show up to work 15 minutes early and be prepared for duty/work. My uniform was already laid out for me and I didn’t have any decisions to make as to what went with what. Transitioning into a corporate position for me was very stressful as I had no idea how to dress professionally. I was taught to hide my emotions when in uniform, and when people asked me about my weekend, I was very shy and reluctant to say anything.  

 What did your company do to help ease the transition, and how have you felt supported working here? 

 Not a fair question since I have been retired for 20 years. However my current company, City National Bank, has recently established three subcommittees to assist veterans joining the civilian sector: (1) Jobs/Mentoring – this subcommittee helps veterans translate their military job training/experience into a job at the bank, especially in the field of IT, and then they mentor them through the transition. (2) Our Community Outreach subcommittee works with local veteran groups in whatever capacity is needed to support our veterans, (3) CNB Veteran Colleague Support helps veterans that are already established at CNB, especially those that are in the reserve and get deployed to active duty. City National Bank’s Commitment to Military Service Veterans is demonstrated daily. CNB’s slogan: You've shown your commitment to serving our country. Now be part of a team that's dedicated to serving your community.

At City National Bank, they value the leadership, teamwork, organizational skills and mission focus that veterans have developed and utilized while protecting our country. CNB provides career opportunities in areas where veterans’ training, work ethic and integrity can be transferable to the day-to-day operations at CNB. CNB’s colleagues take great pride in our strong commitment to serving our clients and our communities, and they are looking for individuals that demonstrate this same P.R.I.D.E. The core values veterans learned through military service can be the foundation for future success at City National Bank.

 Do you believe your military background has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid your career today? 

 Absolutely. I believe everyone should serve the country for at least 2 years. It will take people out of their hometown and give them a view of the real world, which is a lot bigger than they might imagine. The military has taught me disciple with work ethic, leadership and organizational skills, integrity, and how to be a team player, which includes all races, religions, nationalities and political viewpoints.

 What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day? 

 Greet my co-workers with a smile.

 What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time? 

I enjoy spending quality time with family and friends. Serving 20 years in the United States Air Force kept me away from my family and friends, especially around the holidays. I am an Ordained Ministerial Counselor with Pathways of Light, a licensed Reiki Master and Energy Alchemist. I also serving on the Board of Directors for Heaven and Earth Oasis, as I am still being in service for my fellow brothers and sister veterans. Heaven & Earth Oasis is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, CA. The organization provides a safe and peaceful healing space with an array of professional holistic healing treatments at no cost to active duty U.S. Military Service Personnel and ALL U.S. Military Veterans.

 What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of? 

Serving my country for 20 years.

 What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other women veterans, who are looking for jobs right now? 

Be yourself. Go after the job that makes you feel that you are making a difference for yourself, your family, your community and your country.

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