Veteran Voices
Episode 79

That camaraderie we share… we really don't understand how important that is and how much we're going to miss it as we take that uniform off for the last time. That's part of the transition process that you hear about, but you just don't understand it until it's gone. A lot of people struggle to find that outside of the service.

-Bruce Thompson, Executive Director of The ASCEND Collective

Episode Summary

Successfully transitioning from the military to civilian life is a journey. It also takes a lot of conscious effort, hard conversations, and active opportunities to reconnect with the military community.

Bruce Thompson is a Retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant who spent his 23 years of service working as a human resource manager, logistics manager, communication electronics technician, and in maintenance management, where he oversaw all communication electronics maintenance for an organization of over 1,000 employees spread across 7 companies.

Today he helps transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses with their military-to-civilian transition planning, execution, and employment search. He works with individuals locally, in Florida, and across the globe. His goal is to engage with leaders to have uncomfortable conversations so they can build trust and respect.

In this interview, Bruce speaks with host Mary Kate Soliva about:

• Why it is absolutely critical for Veterans to preserve that sense of camaraderie that they benefitted from while they were in the military

• The importance of communication with and between family members during the process of transitioning out of the military

• What it is about his current work that makes him get up in the morning

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro (00:00:03):

Welcome to Veteran Voices. A podcast is dedicated to giving a voice to those that have served in the United States Armed Forces on this series, jointly presented by Supply Chain now and Vets to Industry. We sit down with a wide variety of veterans and veteran advocates to gain their insights, perspective, and stories from serving. We talk with many individuals about their challenging transition from active duty to the private sector, and we discuss some of the most vital issues facing veterans today. Join us for this episode of Veteran Voices.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:00:44):

Hello, everyone. This is Mary Kate Soliva with you here on Veteran Voices. I’m your host today, and I’m really excited to interview this veteran who’s not just a veteran, but a very dear friend of mine and also an incredibly amazing mentor, uh, my mentor, but I’m sure he’ll be your mentor too. Uh, before we get started, just a quick programming note. This program’s a part of the supply chain, now Family of Programming, and today’s show is conducted in partnership with a nonprofit that’s near and dear to my heart, military Women’s Collective, started by Navy Veteran Marina Branick. Uh, shout out to Marina. She’s doing incredible work for women veterans across the country, and you can learn more about that great nonprofit at military women’s collective.org. And then another one near and dear to me is also the Guam Human Rights Initiative. You can learn more about their great work at guam h r i.org and how they’re utilizing research to promote human rights in Guam and the region. So, without further ado here to introduce Batman, I feel like I need like a drum roll or like an entrance song for you. But, uh, Bruce Thompson. Thank you so much, Bruce, for joining me. You are the executive director of Ascend Collective, which is the nonprofit side of town Ascend. And as everybody knows here on Veteran Voices, I like to amplify the voices of veterans who are serving beyond the uniform. And Bruce, Bruce Thompson, you are doing just that. So welcome, Bruce.

Bruce Thompson (00:02:18):

Oh, thanks Mary. Kay. It’s, it’s a pleasure to be here. Uh, as we joke, we, we could talk for, for days, about days, anything and everything.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:02:27):

Yes.

Bruce Thompson (00:02:27):

But it’s, it’s just great to be able to come in here and talk about, you know, my story, kind of where I’m at, what I’m doing, you know, how we, uh, came to find each other and get connected. And, you know, now it’s like the families know each other and interact. So I

Mary Kate Soliva (00:02:42):

Know it’s crazy. I think it’s been, it’s been a couple years now, maybe going on three years that known each other now. Yeah. See, I don’t have a calendar in front of me, but yeah, just doing the clock, it just absolutely incredible how long we’ve known each other. And I, I know we’ve says many times we had to narrow the list down, but we wanted to kick off today’s show with a motivational quote. So I know you’ve got one, and if you feel so inclined, you’re welcome to sing it too. But <laugh>, I would love to hear what you, what your favorite motivational quote is, and pump us up.

Bruce Thompson (00:03:15):

I I’ll save everybody’s, uh, eardrums, um, by not singing, but John Wooden, the, the famous UCLA basketball coach is just known for, you know, incredible quotes, incredible, uh, thoughts. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So the one that I really like to go with is Don’t Let Making a Living interfere with Making a Life. And it’s, it speaks to the work, work-life balance that we all talk about and struggle to find. But, you know, it’s, it’s what’s truly important, uh, to us. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, you, you’ll be able to make money throughout your, your career, throughout your lifespan, but it don’t let money be so important that you forget to enjoy life, to spend time with those that mean the most to you. That’s true. To do the activities that give you that, that that warm fuzzy heart that put a smile on your face, that, that make memories that, that will last. So, I, I love that quote. You know, and again, it’s, you know, he is a basketball coach, but really, he, he was a philosopher and he was a true leader, mentor, and just, uh, an idol to so many. So I, I think that’s a, a great one to kick us off.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:04:29):

Oh, I love that. And, and it’s so true. Not even just like you said, he’s a, a coach. So it’s it, but it applies, especially for us, uh, veterans. It applies for those of us who are transitioning at some point. And many of us are still transitioning. I’d say all of us are. And one of the things that I, I failed to mention is that you are a Marine. And I have to be careful that I can’t say was a Marine, because once you’re a Marine, you’re always a marine. You sit on those famous yellow footprints. Um, and so I just wanna, you know, let our listeners know we got a Marine in the house and I gotta mix it up here sometimes, cuz you know, I, I get army heavy or something and I gotta, I was like, I gotta ask some of my other brothers and sisters in the other branches to join me on the show. But I do want to get to know you a little bit better have our listeners get to know about your roots. And just a let us know about where you grew up at.

Bruce Thompson (00:05:20):

I was born in Charleston, West Virginia. I was there until, uh, about eight years old. Then I moved to the Southern California desert of the Imperial Valley. Uh, at that time we were a, a

Mary Kate Soliva (00:05:33):

Culture shock.

Bruce Thompson (00:05:33):

We were a bump in the road. We weren’t even a wide spot yet. We were just a bump. Uh, it was a farming town. It’s about 13 miles from the, uh, Mexico border. I, I got there. Uh, Spanish was the language spoken the most mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, it, it, it really was just culture shock of, you know, I I went from living on, on the, with the grandparents and, and everybody like in the hills of West Virginia and green everywhere to desert, uh, farm spots, you know, learning that irrigation was the heat of everything going to a friend’s house and you know, the friend having to translate anything that his parents said, you know, to me, because, you know, a lot those, uh, parents didn’t speak English <laugh>. It was definitely one of those like, wow, like, oh, this is going on. And that’s before we started talking, you know, West Virginia culture to California culture. It, you know, I like to call it the East Coast versus the West Coast. Cause you know, it’s a little difference between the East Coast Marines and the West Coast Marines. You know, the West coast is a little more laid back. The East coast is a little more, uh, uptight. True.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:06:49):

Oh gosh.

Bruce Thompson (00:06:51):

But, you know, it’s,

Mary Kate Soliva (00:06:51):

It’s shock for sure. I mean, you’ve out, I was out in California recently. I felt like I was in a different country from like the East Coast. Uh, it, it definitely felt different, even the way they dress. I, you could, I think it’s funny at the airport when you see where, what flight people are about to board and you get like te it was like a Houston Texas flight and people were in cowboy hats and their boots and whatnot. And then you get like, Cali and it’s like ripped jeans, I dunno. Like, I think maybe like Los Angeles with like ripped jeans and I don’t know, like different name brands stuff on their hoodies. It was just, uh, definitely different culture compared like you said, like, I feel like around here kind of like a little bit more, yeah. Conservative, uptight, a little bit serious. I thought all of that. You did the marine comparison, cuz I hadn’t heard that, but I bet that’s, that’s pretty true. So I was like, um, as far as like with your, your upbringing, did you grow up like big family, small family? Like do you have some kind of lessons, lessons learned from that time?

Bruce Thompson (00:07:56):

Yeah, I grew up, my dad, my mom, I had four older brothers. One, uh, younger brother, but the younger brother didn’t live with us. Uh, as we, the four of us moved to California. The brothers my oldest, which is the one I got along with, you knows money that the oldest and the youngest, the ones that got along. Um, that’s

Mary Kate Soliva (00:08:18):

So true. And a lot of families. Yeah.

Bruce Thompson (00:08:19):

He, he’s, uh, stayed for about a year, year and a half. Then he moved, you know, back to Virginia with his dad. One of my brothers made it, you know, four or five years. And it was like, okay, you know, it’s time to move back east. And he went back and live with the, the grandparents. And so it was just that weird, uh, dynamic. So we had the big family, then it narrowed it down and, uh, you know, being the youngest, uh, I was the, the last kid in the house, you know, and dad worked, uh, multiple jobs. Mom worked. But you know, I grew up where if it was daylight, you, you were out and about, you know, bike equaled your freedom mm-hmm. <affirmative> and you got home before the streetlights. So, you know, we, we talked about a lot of those things of, hey, you know, where, where are you in here? There are no snow phones. No, no, uh, tracking devices. So it, it could be one of those ones where I was like two towns over, you know, no one knew. So it was, it was just that, that expansion, that experience that figuring out who, what, where, uh, things were and is that traditional, you know, kind of upbringing that, uh, we had in the, in the seventies and eighties. Then, you know, I do this crazy thing and joined the Marine Corps and talk about another culture shock. <laugh>

Mary Kate Soliva (00:09:31):

Well wonder cuz I had, you know, I, I, uh, interviewed Shirley Bias and she was talking about what led her to join the Army and how she literally just saw something as simple as a billboard and like a message on a billboard. And you know, she is the first one that told me that. Cuz a lot of times it’s like you go to the recruiting station and the Air Force stores is closed, right? Like they’re on like a three hour lunch break or something and you’re like, okay, I guess I’ll just go across the hall to the Army or something. Um, but just really curious to you talk about that culture shot that, that out of your family dynamic and just one day you’re like, I wanna join the Marine Corps. Like, talk us through that. How that, how that came about.

Bruce Thompson (00:10:12):

So my, my oldest brother was in the Navy. He, he did six years and his last year in the Navy, it was my first year in the Marine Corps. So I saw, you know, a lot of what he did and went through, cuz he was stationed, um, in San Diego, which is a couple hours away mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and so it was one of those ones of, okay, you know, I can’t join the Navy. I’m not, I’m not gonna voluntarily put myself on a ship for, for years. But the Navy was the recruiters that called me in. And so, hey, a chance not to be in school the afternoon on, I’ll take that cuz if you were talking to recruiters, you know, you were excused. Uh, so you could do that. And after I got done talking with the, the Navy recruiters, you know, and by the way, the Air Force recruiter had a sign called to make an appointment.

Bruce Thompson (00:11:00):

Uh, they didn’t even man that office on a regular basis. It was just like once a month or, or maybe twice a month they would come interview. So of course, you know, I was like, I’m not waiting around for any of that. And as I was leaving the, the Navy office, you know, one of one of the guys that, uh, I knew and, and hung out with some time to time was in the Marine office and said, Hey, come on over. And you know, next thing you know we’re we’re, uh, signed up the delayed entry program. We almost did, you know, move me up for bootcamp, uh, a month earlier to, to kind of go with the buddy program with him. And I was like, nah, I got my schedule, I’m good. But you know, it’s, you know, the few that proud the Marines, the mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, if you really wanna take the extreme challenge, you know, join the Marine Corps and see if you can make it, see if you can, you know, uh, earn your title. And, you know, being, being that sports guy that’s super competitive, you know, there was a challenge and it was like, heck yeah, I can do this. Watch this. You know? Yeah.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:12:02):

The Pullup bars, that’s why I love what the, the Marines like their booth, you know, it’s like the, the Army, they might give you like a little stress ball or something, but you got like the Marine Corps booth and they got the pull up challenge bar, and you see people like fall fly on their face. Like even just trying to get up on the bar, they slide off of it. I was even at the Iditarod race in Alaska and it was snowing. Like we were crunching on Icy Snow and the Marines were out there, they’re dressed up in their uniform and they had the pull-up bar and like the giant blown inflatable bulldog <laugh>, like, and like, he was massive the thing I thought he was gonna blow away in the snow. But, um, it was just one of those things where even though in like the winter survival weather, they have the Pullup bar out there and they’re just famous for that. And of course, twice forts too.

Bruce Thompson (00:12:52):

Oh, I, I love that program. Uh, I did Infinite Duty, uh, three different times. So I got about 10 years of, uh, experience, you know, going to the events, supporting it, uh, running the program for a few years. It, it, it is an awesome program and it just does so much good. So I, I really love that. And that is the Marine Corps Reserve program. So we, we could go into that whole storyline about how it works and, and the origins. But yeah, that’s, that’s definitely one of those ones. And I’ll tell you before we move on that real quick. A Marine Corps spouse is why the Marine, uh, Marine Corps toys for Taught Program exists.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:13:34):

Oh, really

Bruce Thompson (00:13:36):

Interesting. If you look up the history, it, it was, uh, uh, a major, uh, major spouse was like, well, here’s, you know, here’s this, why don’t we do this? Well, there’s no one to really, uh, no organization doing it. She’s like, well, then you should do it. You know? And like every good Mariney said, yes ma’am. And, uh, there, there it went. Now it’s, it’s, it’s helping you thousands if not millions of, uh, families.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:14:03):

Oh my goodness. A year. It’s so famous. It’s like in, in, in comparison to like the Salvation Army’s bell that you hear at Christmas time. Right. And you hear the bell going and, but it’s the, the Toys for Tots with the Marine Corps. It’s just something that we just all know. And, and at this point we’ve grown up with it. Like, I, I don’t remember a whole, like a Christmas time where there wasn’t a Toys for Toss box somewhere, everywhere, <laugh>. So it’s just, again, a very nostalgic, but just so meaningful about the impact that they’re making still, and it’s still going strong. So shout out to Toys Tots with the Marines. But I would say, I don’t blame you if that was the reason, one of the reasons too, about joining the Marine Corps, the other one I get with joining the Marines is the uniform. Right? Because yeah, there’s like no question you all don’t have to change your uniform. Like, we’ve been, you know, I’m an Army veteran. We’re like, I feel like we change our, our uniform every several years. <laugh> even in my time in the Army, like I’ve had to change my uniform like three times. So, but the Marines, you guys got it down first time go. So

Bruce Thompson (00:15:01):

Yeah, we, we changed, uh, uh, cams, uh, a few times with the different, uh, you know, type of, uh, print. But when we talk about our service and our dress uniforms, uh, not a whole lot of change. Uh, the only real change recently was going to white pants in the summertime, and then our females, they went from a different coat to the traditional Marine Corps, uh, coat that was for the men. Well, they came out and said, you know, we want to have, you know, everybody looking a certain way. And I’ll tell you, uh, I love the look. It, it’s kind of fierce. You know, you, you see it and it’s like,

Mary Kate Soliva (00:15:40):

You call it fierce.

Bruce Thompson (00:15:41):

You, you, you just look at it and you’re like, you know, that’s a badass right there, <laugh>. Um, and whether it’s

Mary Kate Soliva (00:15:46):

Right, the belt,

Bruce Thompson (00:15:48):

Just the belt, the collar, just the mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the, the presence that it brings, and they

Mary Kate Soliva (00:15:54):

Look sharp for sure.

Bruce Thompson (00:15:56):

You, you see, you know, non-military people see Marines and they’re like, yeah, that’s a Marine. And then they see the other services and they’re like, well, which branch is that? You know? So it’s, it’s definitely one of those marketed and branded and and done. Right.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:16:10):

Yeah. And there’s so much, I think with the Marine Corps just so much tradition in, in what they do, and they really stick with that. But it’s also something that I, I find out many folks I talk to that join the Marine Corps, that that’s what the part that they love about it and why you don’t say I was a Marine. You know, that’s like, you still feel like you’re a part of that larger Marine Corp family forever, whether you served a decade ago or <laugh>, uh, years ago. So yeah, it’s just, it is, it is got a beautiful history too.

Bruce Thompson (00:16:40):

And it’s the, we earn our title, you know, we don’t get called Marines until almost the end of bootcamp. Uh, and now, you know, it’s, uh, they’re called Marines when they get their Eagle Globe Anchor emblem. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> at the end of The Crucible, which is just one heck of a field exercise that stresses you out.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:17:01):

That’s a lot of fun. One big one. Big party. One good, big good time. One good time. Um, and well, I’ll say too with, with Guam, like, you know, and, and I mentioned the Guam Human Rights Initiative earlier, but me being my family, being from Guam like to it, it’s just, you know, again, beautiful history there because we have, our main road is called Marine Corps Drive. Um, I mean, they just, um, had the big ceremony for Camp Blas recently and out in Guam and the new Marine Corps base. But they really do have, um, you know, talk about the Marine Corps and just what they did for us coming outta World War ii. Um, so yeah, lots of, again, you all have been in, in so many different, and for those who don’t know, just like what the Marine Corps is all about, but who better to ask than a Marine? So I do wanna ask about some favorites about where, where you got sent to. Uh, do you have a particular favorite duty station where the Marine Corps sent you in the family, perhaps, or maybe geo batch?

Bruce Thompson (00:18:01):

As far as my favorite duty station, uh, location, it was Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:18:08):

Really?

Bruce Thompson (00:18:10):

That’s interesting. It was one of those ones where, you know, you’re limited on, uh, who’s there. You can’t really just say, Hey, I’m gonna go for this long drive. Most of us didn’t even have vehicles, but it, it broke it back down to you really worked and lived with your fellow marines and it, it created an even bigger better bond. We were surrounded by water. So, I mean, you know, being, being from Southern California, you know, water was a great thing to, to be surrounded by, got to do really cool things. And as a sergeant of Marines at the time, that that really meant something. Uh, you know, the, the way you were treated, the respect that you were given the, uh, responsibilities. It, it was all there. So I love that. Now we talk about, you know, Kansas City. I was out there on Inai duty, which is, uh, training Marine Corps reserves. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it, that’s the place where I made most of those friendships and bonds that last a lifetime. Uh, I joke I left there like in, in 2013, so we’re looking at a decade later mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I still talk to so many of those individuals and interact with them, whether it’s social media, phone calls, uh, you know, they stop by, uh, and stay at the house when they’re in this, this neck of the woods. And, uh, we visit them when we’re in their neck of the woods.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:19:42):

I love, I love Right. You say it’s like you, you’ll never end up, uh, being out. I as why I say just like this bigger family of having, that’s why we call each other like brothers and sisters. Yeah. Just cuz you know, like you can, it could a decade, it could have gone by or since you actually physically saw one another, but you know, if you call them up and you need a crash on their couch, that they’re totally gonna let you do that. You know, they probably give you their bed. You know, it’s just a, a thing of beautiful thing. Just the friendships and the bonds that we created that were maybe somebody who’s never served in the military couldn’t fathom. Like, what do you mean there was no air conditioning? What do you mean they didn’t have any hot water? What do you mean? Like, the food was being rationed? You know, and just like those, those kind of living conditions, it’s like there’s a little bit of, I think, like a little bit of crazy in, in each of us who have served where we’re like, we love that because it’s just something about going through is that we say the suck that Yeah. Ends up bringing us closer together. And those are the times that now looking back on it, we’re like, oh my gosh, it totally brought us together and we can relate to one another on a different level.

Bruce Thompson (00:20:43):

Yeah. He hearing you and embracing the suck.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:20:47):

Yes. That’s a real saying,

Bruce Thompson (00:20:49):

<laugh>, if, if you’ve been there and done it, like wow, does it like bring a bell and kind of take, take you back? But if you haven’t, you know, people are like, what do you mean embrace this suck? That’s, that’s weird. And like, yeah, it’s a, it’s a different lifestyle. It’s a different upbringing, uh, different culture that we’re in. But you know, that com uh, camaraderie that we share, that’s something that we were in transition. We really don’t understand or realize how important that is and how much we’re gonna miss it as we take that uniform off for the last time as we don’t live surrounded by, you know, hundreds or thousands of, uh, fellow service members. So that’s, that’s part of a, the transition process that you hear, but you just don’t understand it until it’s gone. And then a lot of people struggle to, to find that outside of the service.

Bruce Thompson (00:21:44):

And I think that’s, uh, a big part of the mental health struggles. The, you know, we to talk about the depression, the anxiety, a lot of have the P T S D, you know, we, we were, you know, in combat for 20 years consecutive. And that’s where this generation, you know, has the, the most combat experience. Because if you serve from 2001, you know, to 2000, uh, you know, 21 more than likely made multiple deployments. And those things stick with you. So, uh, I definitely think, you know, the camaraderie cuz there’s nothing better than talking with a fellow veteran that’s been there, done it and understands and, and that’s a, a big loss as we transition out and yeah. As we’re facing things that we’ve never faced before and we’re like, oh my goodness. What, what is, what is transition and what does it really mean and how do I do it?

Bruce Thompson (00:22:37):

That’s something that I don’t think it’s talked about enough is, uh, the camaraderie loss and the being around people that understand you, uh, what you’ve grown up in. And you know, it’s that we don’t need to say it, but we, we know that, you know, we’re amongst peers, friends, uh, and those individuals, you know, we hear got your six. You know, some people are like, what the heck’s that mean? And it basically just means that, you know, we’ve got your back. And, and those are things that as you know, I transition myself, you know, learning the new non-military work cultures, uh, hey, this is how this, you know, manufacturing factory did, Hey, this is what this contracting company did. This is what you did at these, uh, other sites and within the different nonprofits. And there there’s no handbook that says, Hey, read this and you’ll be fine. Cuz everything’s different. There is no one size fits all. And it’s wonderful, but scary and, and it’s definitely hard to define your spot.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:23:41):

Uh, that, um, loss of I identity a little bit there because I, I, as we mentioned, like many of us joined when we were young. It’s still in very much like our brain development years <laugh> and getting exposed. You said the, the culture shock that you experienced as a, as a kid, you know, not everybody has the culture shock as a kid. Sometimes the first culture shock is that at bootcamp, when they have these drill instructors screaming and yelling at them and, uh, they don’t, they, they’re meeting people and they’re having to work with people from all different walks of life, different backgrounds. Folks that have never seen someone that looks like you <laugh> and talks like you, like, you know, accents that I heard when I was in service. And so it’s that, that feeling of belongingness that once they’ve stripped, kicked that civilian out of you, and now you become molded into this fresh, shiny new service member.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:24:38):

Um, but we do, we, I think that why we join the military is not always the same reason why we stay. Right. And, and for you, Bruce, like you stayed career beautiful, loving wife Mila has, has stepped by your side through thick and thin throughout that whole time, uh, timeframe, which I think is, is such a beautiful thing. Uh, but what was it that got you to stay? Because I do wanna talk about the transition piece and your advice for transitioning, but you stayed career. And I will say that even though like we just, you know, 20 years Afghanistan, like you talked about the war, well these veterans have have experienced combat numerous times. And so that’s not an easy thing for, you know, from outside looking into fathom why someone would stay.

Bruce Thompson (00:25:21):

So, uh, I’ll date myself. I went to bootcamp in 92, so I, I got almost a decade in before, uh, you know, nine 11 happened and my, my contract first expired, uh, I was married two young kids and no transferable skills and they were not all these programs that talked about transition employment assistance. Hey, hey, come to us, we’ll help you write a resume. There wasn’t even a, a transition, uh, a taps program. Right. But as I was coming close to that last, you know, 6, 6, 7 months mark, it was the, if I get out, what am I gonna do? And it was the, I’ll end up going right back to that small community where people just don’t leave and they, they get stuck there. Uh, and that wasn’t something I wanted to do. I enjoyed the Marine Corps. Uh, I was very good at what I did.

Bruce Thompson (00:26:19):

Uh, it, it just said, well, let’s change my military occupational specialty to something I’d rather do, but I’m gonna stay Marine. And I did that, you know, it may going to a year long school right away it, it was going to my first on I duty where I’m like, what’s I on? I duty, uh, what’s this mean? And, and I, I’ve never thought about the reserve side and all of a sudden, you know, I’m there, you know, training them and, you know, how much can we fit into two days over a weekend? It, I’m out not on a Marine Corps base, but I’m out, you know, I was in the Long Beach, California. I was in Kansas City, Missouri, you know, not places where you expect to find a ton of Marines.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:27:08):

No. Cause the more Army, right? Cause no water. I was

Bruce Thompson (00:27:11):

<laugh>. Yeah, <laugh>. And you started to learn how the general community saw military saw, saw the Marine Corps. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, I got to engage and do so many things that I never would have, uh, because of those duty assignments. And you know, once you stay the, the first time you hit that 10 year mark, majority of us, you know, not you, but majority of us make that commitment to stay, you know, till 24, our retirement. And that, that’s where it was. I, I kept doing a good job. I kept getting promoted and you know, I left a couple months shy of 24 years because my body broke down. Um, it, I would’ve stayed to 30. You know, we’ve been one of those ones where they’re like, you know, hey, uh, you need to go. I’m like, force you out. What do you mean? I have to go? Like, I’m comfortable, but

Mary Kate Soliva (00:28:06):

Turn around like, Bruce, you’re still here. <laugh> <laugh>.

Bruce Thompson (00:28:09):

But going through and, you know, dealing with the injuries, which again, you know, I, I always kind of classified my guys, uh, as the sports guy mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then all of a sudden, you know, shoulder surgeries, knee surgeries, back issues. And that’s before we talk about mental health and internal, just

Mary Kate Soliva (00:28:30):

We sort of like, suck it up. Right? And you’re like, I still got more in me. I can still push out a little bit more.

Bruce Thompson (00:28:35):

We did it until my body just said no. And it took over a week, almost a week to recover from a, a sports day that the company did. And that was the, the white flag for me and said, okay, it’s time for me to go again. I talked with nea, we figured out, you know, what was the timeline? You know, we, we figured out finances, you know, we had to be kid free, debt free, you know, and, and she’s, she’s the ceo, the cfo, the C and all these other things, uh, of our household. And I’m, I’m a smart guy who says, yes ma’am, a lot. Yes

Mary Kate Soliva (00:29:07):

Ma’am. <laugh>. Yes ma’am. There you go.

Bruce Thompson (00:29:09):

And so she kinda gave me a date and said, okay, I’m dropping my papers 14 months from this date and mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we’re gonna transition. And, you know, we met the requirements, uh, of being debt free, kid free. We, we were very set and stable and starting early, enabled us to have a good transition. Now that, that’s great. That doesn’t mean that it was smooth and no problem <laugh>, uh,

Mary Kate Soliva (00:29:39):

But I think key thing that you said there was that, that Mila was part of that decision for you to get out. And I think that that’s a piece that we missed. I know you did, you know, a incredible highlight there about toys, forts being started by a spouse, but how often do we talk to service members? And they haven’t even talked to their spouse yet where they forgot that their spouse is part of this transition too. So I just wanna, you know, I, and I I know you’re saying it with your experience. Well, I do wanna highlight how actually unique that seems to be in comparison to the norm, which is, let’s just tell my spouse, okay, that’s the date that it’s happening without like, pre-planning to say, let, let’s make this decision together. Are we, we ready to get out <laugh> and do we, what do we even plan? So, yeah,

Bruce Thompson (00:30:27):

Exactly. I I tell you, uh, I promote communication, uh, with, with spouses, with, you know, especially, uh, if you have teenagers, you know, kind of tweens, you gotta have these communications because it’s stressful for all of us. Hundred percent. And if you’re out there trying to make you know all the decisions for your family, well you, you’re gonna have even more stress added to you. Uh, there could be some resentment and this isn’t what we’re trying to do. It’s, this is a family decision. You know, where we’re gonna live next. That’s a huge deal. Someone moved home to their, their old town that they grew up in, uh, and they hit culture shock there because, you know, as they left for 5, 10, 15, 30 years, the town moved, the town changed and grew and, and, and

Mary Kate Soliva (00:31:19):

Came. No, that’s a great point. I think sometimes too, a service members are like, do I move to where the job is at? Or do I move to where I want to actually live? Um, and I think that’s like, we’re kind of conflicted there, but Right. But since the pandemic, since Covid 19, like so many remote jobs are opening now. Um, but you know, when you are transitioning it, I, remote work wasn’t a popular, as popular as as it is now, right? It was kind of like, you know, you don’t go to online school, that’s a no, and then you don’t do remote, remote work wasn’t really an option. And so, you know, like yeah. What was that like for you trying to figure out what’s next and, and you know, add in there too about your, your advice <laugh> for those service members. So,

Bruce Thompson (00:32:01):

So for us, the first year post-retirement, we stayed in, in Camp Pendleton in San Diego, uh, county. Uh, neither was a family readiness officer with the Marine Corps. So she dealt with the transition, the family programs, uh, you know, making sure that communication between command, uh, service members and their families was there. And whether that was, uh, spouse, uh, kids, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, it was, whoever the source number said was, this is my family. I want them involved and included. So she was completely, you know, in, in the mix. And that was her second, uh, time, uh, second unit, uh, as being a fan greatest officer. So she had all the insights and made sure I was signed up for, uh, the Franklin Covey classes, you know, love languages, uh, you know, all, all these things to kind of help me make that myth transition and to understand, uh, thoughts and all.

Bruce Thompson (00:33:01):

It, it got to be, uh, we’re six months from, uh, you know, our, our year being out and we were still living in housing. Uh, cuz Penton had plenty of houses and so retirees could stay. Uh, she came and asked or said, Hey, Lisa’s up in six months, what are we gonna do? And I’m like, well, we’re not gonna re-sign it. Yeah, that was my big command. Like, I’m done with California. I don’t want to be here anymore. Let’s, let’s get outta here. And she said, okay, where are we gonna live? And that was the slap across the face of, oh crap, I just made this decision that we’re not gonna live here anymore. Where are we gonna live? And I printed out a map of the US for, for nea. I had one for myself. We went in separate rooms. Uh, we picked the cities that we were interested in living.

Bruce Thompson (00:33:50):

We came back together. And again, NEA and I have known each other for 30 plus years. We were best friends today. We met in high school. Uh, we’re about to hit our 20 year reunion, uh, our anniversary. And I had seven cities. She had six mm her six and and Mash with mine. The only one that was different was I had Nashville, cuz that’s where she was living, uh, when we got married. And I brought her back to Southern California. So that was, I don’t want to go to Nashville, but you followed me. So if you wanna go back, I’ll follow you. And luckily she said she didn’t wanna go there. And then we quickly, you know, well, hey Texas, it’s going to kind of be similar to Kansas City where it’s Lake life, not beach life. And she wasn’t a big Lake fan. So I brought that up.

Bruce Thompson (00:34:37):

She said, okay, Texas is off. So we had Tampa or Jacksonville, Florida, and you know, we have, you know, some family in, in, uh, Tampa, you know, plenty of of employment opportunities, things to do, you know, great place to be. And then we talked about, uh, Jacksonville, it had, you know, everything that, you know, military retiree, uh, would want. Cuz you know, if you, if you spend all that time and you earn, you know, access to these benefits, you really can’t take advantage of ’em if you’re not close to the bases, the resources. And so we didn’t know a single soul. We never been to Jackson our lives and we smack the table instead we’re moving to Jacksonville.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:35:21):

I just wanna hear like this point that, you know, our listeners don’t know what I know, but like you and NEA basically, I feel like run Jacksonville, like when people look about like connect with in the veteran community in Jacksonville, it is the Thompson duo like Bruce Mila. You two are, you’re, I just wanna, you know, highlight that you just said like you didn’t know anybody and you all just decided to move there. And now look at you two now. I mean, just again, everybody’s like connect with you two, they go anywhere near Jacksonville.

Bruce Thompson (00:35:53):

And I, I love it. It, it is, I got a buddy, uh, who’s na uh, made me the veterans mayor of Jacksonville. I laugh. I said, well, if I’m the mayor, you’re my deputy. And he was like, you know, I’ll follow you wherever you go, Bruce. And I was like, okay. But it is such a incredible military retiree, uh, community. 25% of, uh, Duval County is military or veteran connected, you know, that’s, that’s huge. We’ve got three naval bases, you know, one one’s right across the border end of, uh, Southeast Georgia. But we have them, we’ve got, you know, Marine Corps recruiting command, a Marine Corps base, uh, couple reserve spots, coast Guard. So

Mary Kate Soliva (00:36:38):

They’re just like red, like everybody’s just wearing red down there is, you know, for those who are listening, you’re wearing red right now. So I just got, <laugh> could say, is everybody in Jacksonville red

Bruce Thompson (00:36:47):

Fri Fridays are red. Um,

Mary Kate Soliva (00:36:48):

Fridays are red. Good.

Bruce Thompson (00:36:50):

And if those are, you know, they don’t understand that is, uh, red Friday is, you remember everyone deployed? Yes. Uh, and it’s just a day for us to, to wear, you know, a bright color, but just to, we kind of, we haven’t forgotten that there’s people that aren’t home with their families that are overseas. And, and I’ll tell you, as someone who’s been overseas multiple times, you know, it, it does get, get lonely. It does kind of get, uh, a little like, you know, what’s happening in the real world while I’m over here. Uh, but we, we showed up to Jacksonville and one of the things that me and Mila had had said is when we pick our permanent home, we are going to be pillars of our community. And we got there, uh, dumb luck followed us. So we picked a great, uh, short-term rental.

Bruce Thompson (00:37:47):

Uh, the owner talked to us because we were staying know, uh, more than a week or two. So he’d like to talk to those long-term, uh, uh, residence. Uh, he’s a, a broker, so, you know, he talked about some real estate. Then, you know, across the courtyard from us was his real estate agent who happened to be a Army spouse. And she became our real estate agent. And her, Anita looked at hundreds of houses that first night. She brought her husband over and, and NEA and, and her talked about, uh, real estate and all that, by the way, she joined the Army. She’s an active duty, uh, ser, uh, service member currently. So that that’s welcome. That’s really cool. Very cool. Um, and me and, and, uh, and the Army vet, we sat there and did what we did. You know, we, we talked a little marine army crap to each other, but we talked about different things that were going on. And he was like, what are you doing Saturday? I’m like, I’m like driving around. Lost

Mary Kate Soliva (00:38:46):

Instant rapport right there.

Bruce Thompson (00:38:47):

Oh yeah. And he, he took me to, uh, you know, Neil and I both to this great event, which is the largest reoccurring gathering of veterans, uh, in the state of Florida and walked me in there and, you know, introduced me to the who’s who in zoo. Uh, you know, I, I did the shake hands, I did the business card exchange, the program started. And then, you know, as, as that was ending, you know, me and de kind of like, okay, you go left, I’ll go right. And we just did that loop to all the exhibitors we met in the, uh, in the halfway point, kind of debriefed each other about, Hey, make sure you really talk to this person and talk to this person. And we finished the loop, uh, went home and the rest of that weekend was spent, you know, LinkedIn request, uh, emails asking if I can, you know, buy him a cup of coffee.

Bruce Thompson (00:39:35):

And luckily enough, I had a retired Perter General say, sure, you can buy me a cup of coffee. And he gave me 20 minutes of his time complete stranger. But, you know, I reached out and did what we’re supposed to do. And you know, he, he and I really, if you talk to one of us, you’re gonna figure out everything’s going on. He, he’s the great mentor. He’s done so much. He, he’s seen, he, he’s that sounding board, he’s that that calmness that’s there. And me and him kind of just have done so many things where, hey, he’s the CG and I’m the senior enlisted and we have those five minute conversations that, you know, if we were with the board or the group would take an hour and a half, two hours, right? And it’s just that hand it off rapport that goes back and forth.

Bruce Thompson (00:40:33):

We both, uh, just step down, uh, as co-chairs for the, uh, community Veterans Engagement Board, which is, uh, veterans and the local VA working together to solve issues at the lowest level to bring up concerns. And I’ll tell you, uh, I love my va. So many people talk bad about ’em. I’ve yet to have a negative experience with them. Uh, I’ve had people that have, I’ve been able to hop on a call, uh, get it fixed corrected because we just have an awesome team that they want to, you know, be the best. And, and that’s, it’s so much to this community.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:41:12):

There’s so many veterans where you’re at that I think it is a true testament to just how much they’ve been a, like how good they are because that is becoming part of the conversation is with transitioning service members and picking where to go. It’s like one where they not gonna tax the heck outta my retirement <laugh>, but like two, it’s just the, the veteran communities. And, and I think we just, with any, just as humankind, like we want to be able to identify with the community that we’re, we’re in and living in. And, and you were able to do that and look at you now. I mean, that’s one of the things where I do wanna take the time to talk about these and collective, um, and you know, you’ve had like the advice, but I, it is key for those who are listening, who are going through their transition, that even if you’re not, cuz I’ll say this Bruce, I know that you’re not one that likes to be around crowds or in a bunch with like a ton of people, but you put yourself out there and you did it with Mila by your side, your beautiful spouse, and you just like went out there and you got it done and you did, you know, took the advice from so many other mentors and, and you didn’t come in there.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:42:20):

You, I, you know, coming outside, looking in, like you really humbled yourself because you’re a senior enlisted leader. I think it, it’s all too easy for us to get in our own head about with the rank and be like, I already know this, I know what to do. But then when you find you hit that wall and you’re like, it’s not working the way I wanna do it. So maybe I should take a step back and see how else to do it. But I do wanna talk about, at least send Collective, uh, cuz I know we’re running close to the end of time here, but I wanna get a chance for our listeners to hear about the great work that you’re doing and how you all are still, uh, giving back to the military veteran community.

Bruce Thompson (00:42:53):

Right. So, uh, currently I’m the executive director of the Ascend Collective. We are the nonprofit side of talents Ascend. We work with three communities of focus, which are veterans, ascend, military, active Guard Reserve veterans, all errors, all service discharge statuses, military veterans, spouses, 18 plus year old military dependence, all that incorporates Veterans Ascend. Our second community of focus is Ability. Ascend, simply put anyone that has a disability, our third community of focus is mission to Ascend. And this is for those that had run in with, uh, the law. They, they’re looking for their second chances. And all three of these communities are underserved. You know, we can spend the next month talking about, uh, military spouses that are either underemployed or unemployed and, and the talent that they have in them. You know, we talk, you know, it’s ability Ascend, it’s not disability Ascend, it’s ability, ascend, because we talk about strengths. We don’t focus on weaknesses, we talk about strengths. So we don’t talk about what you can’t do. We talk about what you can do. Uh, again, I’m a hundred percent permanently and total disabled veteran from the va. So if we talk about, you know, all those things that ail me, one, we’d be here for another week, but it, it would really take away from what people think I could do. But we don’t do that, right? We talk, we don’t,

Mary Kate Soliva (00:44:27):

You don’t wanna focus on that.

Bruce Thompson (00:44:28):

We don’t talk about weaknesses, we talk about strengths and, and those are things that we really focus on. Plus all three of these communities, they have federal and state programs that encourages employers to hire and retain them.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:44:43):

Great. Is is it any era, Bruce, is it any, any era of veteran? Because I find so many, there’s so many VSOs out there that will only help the post nine 11 veteran. So I think it’s important. When they say veteran, do they mean all, any veteran,

Bruce Thompson (00:44:57):

All errors, all services are statuses. Oh. Oh, wow. That’s fantastic. We have, we’ve got veterans that are going to fit into, uh, veterans ascend ability, ascend and mission to ascend. You know, we, we talk about

Mary Kate Soliva (00:45:11):

I know, so I’m gonna send your way.

Bruce Thompson (00:45:13):

We know those Vietnam and Korea area veterans that we didn’t talk about P T S D. No, they mm-hmm. <affirmative>. They, they were, Hey, something’s wrong with you and you did something stupid and they went to jail for decades. It, it wasn’t, let’s get ’em treatment, let’s get ’em help. It was add. I don’t know what’s wrong with them, but you know, they broke the law. They’re going to jail. So we gotta talk about those second chances and everything that comes back with it. And we have to talk to people about who they are, what they really want to do, where they’re gonna excel and set them up so they can become employment ready. A lot of us, we’re not employment ready right out the gate. You know, we, we have to learn what transition means. We have to learn the job market. We have to figure out who we are as a person and what we really want to do. Uh, and I’ll tell everybody, I’m extremely lucky. I get to do what I love. I, I go to work every day and I’m in the passion project.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:46:12):

Yes.

Bruce Thompson (00:46:13):

That is not common. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> so many people go to work and it’s, I gotta get this paycheck. Uh, I gotta, you know, keep the lights on, food on the table, roof over my head. And, you know, I wish everyone the opportunity to get to where I’m at at some point during their lives. Uh, and, and I’ve been blessed. Uh, I’m gonna tell you, I, you know, dumb luck has followed me around. You’re

Mary Kate Soliva (00:46:39):

Blessed, Bruce. You’re, you’re blessed outside looking in blessed man right here.

Bruce Thompson (00:46:45):

And to be able to appreciate that. And, you know, uh, I don’t, I don’t talk about, you know, hey, I’ve humbled myself. I’m just who I am. That that’s one of the things that you’re gonna get there. There’s no act. Anything else. Uh, you know, I, I embrace my veterans, so I got the long hair, I got the beard. Uh, you know, it’s, it’s just being comfortable with who you are and then willing to put yourself out there to assist as many people as you can. So you’ll, that, that’s, that’s the wow factor. That’s, that’s what gets me up in the morning. That’s what gets me going. That’s, uh, fills my emotional fuel tank. Uh, but I do wanna hit talent, uh, talents ascend, which is the business side. So talent of sin is the future of hiring. Our CEO and founder worked in HR for a Navy veteran nine and a half years.

Bruce Thompson (00:47:39):

Got out, was told all her, uh, skills and experiences meant absolutely nothing. It’s funny, um, because she did admin in the Navy, so I don’t know how admin outside and the civilian workforce didn’t cross over, but hey, she worked for 30 years and civilian hr, she took notes and said this is all the things that she saw wrong with the process. So she developed a AI powered platform ready for this. This is the great part. No resumes, no job searching, no applications. Employers and candidates get matched based on skills. So candidates and the candidate pool is open to everyone. You know, we have our three communities to focus, but anyone that is looking for employment can sign up and create their free candidate profile. When they create that profile, they’re talking about up to 25 skills that they have and want to use in their next career.

Bruce Thompson (00:48:44):

And this is very important cuz there’s so many of us that are career changers In the Marine Corps, I did maintenance management. I was, whether it’s motor transport ordinance or communication, electronics maintenance. When I got out, I jumped all the way into HR and said, no, I don’t wanna do that. So if you look at my profile, you will not see anything that talks about maintenance logistics, that’s gone. You talk about communication, electronics, it’s all gone because we have to focus on who we are and what we want to do now, not what we do.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:49:15):

Can I add that that’s for the photo too, because how often do you see everybody’s still wearing their uniform photo in their LinkedIn picture? Are you still trying to stay in the military? So I was like, you gotta dress for the job you want. I have a, a very good, uh, family friend of mine. He was, he wants to be a, he wanted to be a mechanic at the time, so he was getting him ready for his job interview and he’s dressed up like a mechanic. And I was like, man, you’re about to go in for this interview. Aren’t you gonna like clean up a little bit? You know, it’s like, nope, I’m going in there for the job that I want and this is how I dress. And that’s what he did. And they, they loved him, but it was just, again, you und dress for the job that you want. Right. So in compare, not just like skills, but also the picture. So

Bruce Thompson (00:49:55):

Yeah. And I’ll tell you, for those that aren’t on LinkedIn, I don’t know what you’re waiting for

Mary Kate Soliva (00:50:00):

<laugh> you,

Bruce Thompson (00:50:02):

That’s where everybody goes and looks. Uh, but for the business side of talents, ascend our, uh, employers, which are members, um, you know, they pay a membership fee. That’s how we pay the bills and keep the lights on. But when they’ve to post their, uh, openings, they might put diesel mechanic and they’ll list three to 25 skills that that candidate needs to have. They go into the AI platform and they came up with matches. So one of the big things is Mary Kay, you’re, you’re the employee of the candidate. I’m the employer. When we first get matched, we remove all the unconscious biases from that. So all I get is first and last initial, the skills you listed locations and uh, salary range. That’s all the information I get to make a decision on if I’m gonna open your profile or not. So they don’t know if you’re 18 or a hundred male or female ethnicity nothing. And there’s not even enough information for them to try to search. I’m just saying, type in BT and Google and see what you come up with. You’re not gonna find me for, unless you dig for a long wise. And even then you’re like, is that the right person?

Mary Kate Soliva (00:51:15):

But I think it’s just so important, even just to highlight that that is something that we are still facing in our workforce is are those, those biases like those, and to take that out and remove that from the process. Like the, you just, it, it’s a good thing. It’s a, it’s a good thing. And I know the military’s like slowly is trying to do it with the DA photo, you know, they’re like, okay, we don’t need the photo anymore because, you know, there is that, that profiling. Yeah. I say when it comes to selection,

Bruce Thompson (00:51:44):

And it’s one of those ones where again, we talk about the unconscious biases. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we don’t know that we have them. We don’t know, you know, I did a, a LinkedIn poll about beards, you know, it’s beards an issue with people feeling comfortable working with them. Uh, if you have a people that are LinkedIn profile or, uh, whatever your picture you have that shows ’em with the beard, is that a, uh, deterrent for them moving on to, you know, the candidate, uh, process with the interview or anything else? Uh, tattoos, long hair, uh, colored hair, you know, piercings, you, you start to name it all these things. Uh, people have that, that thoughts about ’em. Yeah. So you

Mary Kate Soliva (00:52:27):

Dye my hair, you know, I, I was like, one of the things, you know, the little things in life where I’m like, I just wanna, can I just like make my hair like blue or something? You know, you’re just <laugh> going like different color things that we couldn’t do in the military. Right. Like getting a face tattoo and you’re just like, can I do these things now? Will they hire me to think about that

Bruce Thompson (00:52:44):

Stuff you talked about? You know, uh, marina, you know, we know Marina because she has to chill hair. That’s one of her news. Yes.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:52:51):

Marina wants hair

Bruce Thompson (00:52:52):

<laugh>. That’s, that’s the trademark.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:52:54):

Yeah. Her trademark. Even her Bitmoji has the,

Bruce Thompson (00:52:58):

And you know, my daughter growing up in Southern California, you know, she was color her hair from a early age when she graduated high school, you know, it, it was blue. It looked great.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:53:07):

She a military women’s collective. Right. Whose colors are teal? Their founder, Navy veteran Marina Rabbinic. Her hair is also teal. So yeah, it just,

Bruce Thompson (00:53:16):

Yeah. Yeah. My daughter, you know, went from the southern California where colored hair was no big deal. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, she moved to, uh, Pittsburgh. She could not find a job to save her life. And you know, she kind of came in and said, you know, it’s more conservative. She dyed her hair back, uh, a dark brown. And the next day when she went and applied for positions, she was getting immediate interviews. She had multiple, uh, job offers and was nothing changed except her hair color. So understanding the culture of the community, uh, and the standards and they change and whether you’re, you know, in the northeast, uh, the southeast, you know, Texas, Montana, the west coast, you name it. Yeah.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:53:59):

Like Texas, like its own entity, Texas

Bruce Thompson (00:54:02):

Well, I mean, look, look at the size of it. Look at the size of Texas know, and, and inside Texas you have all these other regions that break it down a little bit further from like full cowboy to more like I know. So understand location and that’s

Mary Kate Soliva (00:54:20):

Great advice. Great advice.

Bruce Thompson (00:54:22):

I know, I know we’ve gone way over time, but that’s cuz me and you can talk for days.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:54:27):

I know they’re gonna say, when didn’t you wrap it up, Mary Kay. But it’s, it’s really, cuz I, I know that there’s so many out there that are probably in that, those shoes now of just, where do I go? I love that you and Neela had the maps laid out. You went in two different rooms. I think that’s, and again, just highlighting how beautiful it is to have your spouse part of the process, your family, the the team, team Thompson to, to make those decisions together, to not only retire, but to transition and relocate and, and you look at you, like I said, look at you both now killing it down Jacksonville.

Bruce Thompson (00:54:59):

And I’ll tell you when we both, you know, made a decision that we’re gonna go to Jacksonville. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, neither one of us had jobs lined up. You know, we basically, you know, she resigned her position and was moving here, uh, unemployed. I went to resign my position and like, no, we wanna keep you on and you know, you can do remote hr. Oh, by the way, the primary contract holder for the Department of Labor Workshops runs that region and they need a facilitator. So as I’m driving cross country to relocate from, you know, San Diego to the Jacksonville, Florida, I’m doing a phone interview while I’m driving for a new position. We had to get started a little bit later in the morning cuz for job interview number two, I had to do a presentation. So I couldn’t do a presentation, you know, while I’m driving. So, uh, we were in the hotel and I, I did a quick presentation interview and, you know, congratulations. You know, you, you got the position and you know it, it went there and, uh, we showed up and, you know, we just embraced our new community. We embraced who we were, what we wanted to do, and that propelled us to where we are today. And, uh, again, you know, she, she’s the chief of staff for talents descent. You know, I run the nonprofit side. It’s, again, it’s, it’s a partnership

Mary Kate Soliva (00:56:27):

In partnership even though it’s like, yes ma’am, at the end of the day, but it’s like pon as the Send Collective. I love the work that you, you both are doing. They’re very lucky to have you there. Team Thompson as a duo team to work for this incredible organization. Um, and I just love, again, the fact that if we have, that you’re willing to help veterans of any era, uh, any discharge status. Because when it comes to the second chances, I think, especially for our service members who ended up, uh, getting kicked out for whatever reason, or a different discharge status other than honorable, that, you know, you still have a life to live. There’s so much out there, there’s so much left that you have to give. And it’s just, you know, again, finding that next mission purpose no different than those of us transitioning with the honorable discharge.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:57:15):

So I, I do love that you’re willing to help those folks, uh, navigate their journeys. Uh, I think it’s important and, and it’s something that not a lot of other VSOs are doing, veteran service organizations. So, on behalf of the entire team here at Veteran Voices, I just wanna thank you Bruce, for, for joining me and, you know, for you and Nina being such near dear friends and such so Pit, I know we didn’t so pivotal in my transition, but we didn’t even touch on how I have got my current job, but we’ll have to save that for a different day or maybe a LinkedIn post. But just really thank you so much for joining us. Um, how can folks get ahold of you? What’s the best way if they wanna ask more questions about these and collective or, um, just your mentorship in general?

Bruce Thompson (00:57:58):

So, uh, we have, uh, the ascend collective.org mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, for the nonprofit side. And we’re always looking for volunteers. Just throw it out there. Talents of send.com, it will take you to the candidate and employer side of the house. And I’m easy to find. If you look up Bruce Thompson, M b on LinkedIn, you’re gonna find me. I’m the guy with the beard. Make sure you, you send a note. Uh, I’m also in veter as a mentor. Uh, veter is a great mentorship site. It’s a one hour phone call with the mentor or mentors of your choosing where you can talk about whatever questions you have to information or interviews and get insights from thousands of just incredible people.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:58:45):

We’re free or

Bruce Thompson (00:58:46):

Free or free. Or free. And I tell you veter is when you’re trying to figure out who you are, what you want to do. And then once you figure that out, we go to my, my Best Buddies over, uh, American Corporate Partners and we get that mentor from a Fortune 200 company that is going to just wow when talking about industry, uh, how certain things work. So there’s so many incredible resources that are free. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, please, please, please do not pay someone to write a resume. Do not pay somebody to write your LinkedIn profile. Don’t, don’t pay people for things that you can get for free. And there’s so many resources, over 45,000 that are out there to help us out. Please, please, please save your money. It’s hard to come by.

Mary Kate Soliva (00:59:35):

Let us help you first, you know, before you go that route. Just yes, like you said, use those resources. Um, I know we have a lot of friends of ours that do that, do charge for those things. But you said just try out the free stuff first. Uh, see if it works and, you know, and then, and go from there. But it’s invaluable, right? That mentorship piece. I’ve gone through American Core Partners, I’ve gone through veter. I was a mentee in both. Now, a mentor in both. Uh, so again, just continue to lean, pay it forward. You know, you go through this process as you’re learning. There’s nothing to say that you are not qualified to share that knowledge with somebody else coming out behind you. So no matter where you’re at in your transition, even if you’re only like six months in, lean back to, you know, look back to the guys, guys, guys and gals that have come behind you, even with six months, you know more than they do.

Mary Kate Soliva (01:00:22):

So just, you know, share it, pay it forward. We invite everybody that’s listening. Thank you again for tuning in, tuning into Veteran Voices, subscribe wherever you get your podcast from, and a big thank you to our partners at Military Women’s Collective, and the Guam Human Rights Initiative. Again, go check out the Ascend Collective and that’s A S C E N D. For those of you who don’t know how to spell Ascend, I know it’s one of those unique words we don’t use a lot, but it’s just incredible organization. Uh, this is Mary Kate Saliva, wishing you all nothing but the best. Do good, give forward and be the change that’s needed. Thank you so much, Bruce. Take care everybody.

Bruce Thompson (01:00:59):

My pleasure, my honor. Thank you.

Mary Kate Soliva (01:01:01):

Thank you.

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Featured Guests

Bruce Thompson, Advocate and supporter of all things military, Veterans, and military spouses. Retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant (1992-2016). Currently, he spends his time working with transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses with their military to civilian transition planning, execution, and employment search. He works with individuals locally, in Florida, and across the globe. He is a sounding board for others to run ideas and thoughts by before moving forward with personal and business plans. His goal is to engage with leaders globally to have the uncomfortable conversations and to build trust and respect with each other. Brainstorm ideas and plan of action plans to effect changes, small and large, in our community. He wants to break through barriers and improve our communities. Bruce works with many individuals and groups that can be a part of the positive changes that need to happen. He has a proven track record of working with diverse teams to accomplish projects and establish programs. He is currently the Executive Director of The ASCEND Collective, the non-profit side of Talents ASCEND. He has also worked as the Vice President of Vets2Industry, Co-Chair of the Northeast Florida Community Veterans Engagement Board (A partnership with the Veteran’s community and the VA), mentor on Veterati with over 1,000 hours volunteered, and multiple other groups and associations.  Connect with Bruce on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brucethompsonmba

Hosts

Mary Kate Soliva

Host, Veteran Voices

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Nick Roemer

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.

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Katherine Hintz

Creative Director, Producer, Host

Katherine Hintz, MBA is a marketing professional who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.

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Kim Reuter

Host

From humble beginnings working the import docks, representing Fortune 500 giants, Ford, Michelin Tire, and Black & Decker; to Amazon technology patent holder and Nordstrom Change Leader, Kimberly Reuter has designed, implemented, and optimized best-in-class, highly scalable global logistics and retail operations all over the world. Kimberly’s ability to set strategic vision supported by bomb-proof processes, built on decades of hands-on experience, has elevated her to legendary status. Sought after by her peers and executives for her intellectual capital and keen insights, Kimberly is a thought leader in the retail logistics industry.

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Kristi Porter

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.

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Sofia Rivas Herrera

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.

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Demo Perez

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.

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Kim Winter

Host, Supply Chain Now

The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.

He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.

A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).

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Adrian Purtill

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.

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Kevin Brown

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics.  He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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Jose Miguel Irarrazaval

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.

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Vicki White

Controller

Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.

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Allison Giddens

Host

Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.

She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.

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Billy Taylor

Host

Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.

An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.

A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.

A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning.  He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.

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Tandreia Bellamy

Host

Tandreia Bellamy retired as the Vice President of Industrial Engineering for UPS Supply Chain Solutions which included the Global Logistics, Global Freight Forwarding and UPS Freight business units. She was responsible for operations strategy and planning, asset management, forecasting, and technology tool development to optimize sustainable efficiency while driving world class service.

Tandreia held similar positions at the business unit level for Global Logistics and Global Freight forwarding. As the leader of the Global Logistics engineering function, she directed all industrial engineering activies related to distribution, service parts logistics (post-sales support), and mail innovations (low cost, light weight shipping partnership with the USPS). Between these roles Tandreia helped to establish the Advanced Technology Group which was formed to research and develop cutting edge solutions focused on reducing reliance on manual labor.

Tandreia began her career in 1986 as a part-time hourly manual package handling employee. She spent the great majority of her career in the small package business unit which is responsible for the pick-up, sort, transport and delivery of packages domestically. She held various positions in Industrial Engineering, Marketing, Inside and On-road operations in Central Florida before transferring to Atlanta for a position in Corporate Product Development and Corporate Industrial Engineering. Tandreia later held IE leadership roles in Nebraska, Minnesota and Chicago. In her final role in small package she was an IE VP responsible for all aspects of IE, technology support and quality for the 25 states on the western half of the country.
Tandreia is currently a Director for the University of Central Florida (UCF) Foundation Board and also serves on their Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Previously Tandreia served on the Executive Advisory Board for Virginia Tech’s IE Department and the Association for Supply Chain Management. She served on the Board of Trustees for ChildServ (a Chicago child and family services non-profit) and also served on the Texas A&M and Tuskegee Engineering Advisory Boards. In 2006 she was named Business Advisor of the Year by INROADS, in 2009 she was recognized as a Technology All-Star at the Women of Color in STEM conference and in 2019 she honored as a UCF Distinguished Aluma by the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems.

Tandreia holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University and a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Systems from UCF. Her greatest accomplishment, however, is being the proud mother of two college students, Ruby (24) and Anthony (22).

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Marty Parker

Host

Marty Parker serves as both the CEO & Founder of Adæpt Advising and an award-winning Senior Lecturer (Teaching Professor) in Supply Chain and Operations Management at the University of Georgia. He has 30 years of experience as a COO, CMO, CSO (Chief Strategy Officer), VP of Operations, VP of Marketing and Process Engineer. He founded and leads UGA’s Supply Chain Advisory Board, serves as the Academic Director of UGA’s Leaders Academy, and serves on multiple company advisory boards including the Trucking Profitability Strategies Conference, Zion Solutions Group and Carlton Creative Company.

Marty enjoys helping people and companies be successful. Through UGA, Marty is passionate about his students, helping them network and find internships and jobs. He does this through several hundred one-on-one zoom meetings each year with his students and former students. Through Adæpt Advising, Marty has organized an excellent team of affiliates that he works with to help companies grow and succeed. He does this by helping c-suite executives improve their skills, develop better leaders, engage their workforce, improve processes, and develop strategic plans with detailed action steps and financial targets. Marty believes that excellence in supply chain management comes from the understanding the intersection of leadership, culture, and technology, working across all parts of the organization to meet customer needs, maximize profit and minimize costs.

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Laura Lopez

Marketing Coordinator

Laura Lopez serves as our Supply Chain Now Marketing Coordinator. She graduated from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente in Mexico with a degree in marketing. Laura loves everything digital because she sees the potential it holds for companies in the marketing industry. Her passion for creativity and thinking outside the box led her to pursue a career in marketing. With experience in fields like accounting, digital marketing, and restaurants, she clearly enjoys taking on challenges. Laura lives the best of both worlds - you'll either catch her hanging out with her friends soaking up the sun in Mexico or flying out to visit her family in California!

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Jake Barr

Host

An acknowledged industry leader, Jake Barr now serves as CEO for BlueWorld Supply Chain Consulting, providing support to a cross section of Fortune 500 companies such as Cargill, Caterpillar, Colgate, Dow/Dupont, Firmenich, 3M, Merck, Bayer/Monsanto, Newell Brands, Kimberly Clark, Nestle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Sanofi, Estee Lauder and Coty among others. He's also devoted time to engagements in public health sector work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At P&G, he managed the breakthrough delivery of an E2E (End to End) Planning Transformation effort, creating control towers which now manage the daily business globally. He is recognized as the architect for P&G’s demand driven supply chain strategy – referenced as a “Consumer Driven Supply Chain” transformation. Jake began his career with P&G in Finance in Risk Analysis and then moved into Operations. He has experience in building supply network capability globally through leadership assignments in Asia, Latin America, North America and the Middle East. He currently serves as a Research Associate for MIT; a member of Supply Chain Industry Advisory Council; Member of Gartner’s Supply Chain Think Tank; Consumer Goods “League of Leaders“; and a recipient of the 2015 - 2021 Supply Chain “Pro’s to Know” Award. He has been recognized as a University of Kentucky Fellow.

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Marcia Williams

Host

Marcia Williams, Managing Partner of USM Supply Chain, has 18 years of experience in Supply Chain, with expertise in optimizing Supply Chain-Finance Planning (S&OP/ IBP) at Large Fast-Growing CPGs for greater profitability and improved cash flows. Marcia has helped mid-sized and large companies including Lindt Chocolates, Hershey, and Coty. She holds an MBA from Michigan State University and a degree in Accounting from Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay (South America). Marcia is also a Forbes Council Contributor based out of New York, and author of the book series Supply Chains with Maria in storytelling style. A recent speaker’s engagement is Marcia TEDx Talk: TEDxMSU - How Supply Chain Impacts You: A Transformational Journey.

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Luisa Garcia

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Luisa Garcia is a passionate Marketer from Lagos de Moreno based in Aguascalientes. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico. She specializes in brand development at any stage, believing that a brand is more than just a name or image—it’s an unforgettable experience. Her expertise helps brands achieve their dreams and aspirations, making a lasting impact. Currently working at Vector Global Logistics in the Marketing team and as podcast coordinator of Logistics With Purpose®. Luisa believes that purpose-driven decisions will impact results that make a difference in the world.

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Astrid Aubert

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Astrid Aubert was born in Guadalajara, she is 39 years old and has had the opportunity to live in many places. She studied communication and her professional career has been in Trade Marketing for global companies such as Pepsico and Mars. She currently works as Marketing Director Mexico for Vector Global Logistics. She is responsible for internal communications and marketing strategy development for the logistics industry. She is a mother of two girls, married and lives in Monterrey. She defines herself as a creative and innovative person, and enjoys traveling and cooking a lot.

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Constantine Limberakis

Host

Constantine Limberakis is a thought leader in the area of procurement and supply management. He has over 20 years of international experience, playing strategic roles in a wide spectrum of organizations related to analyst advisory, consulting, product marketing, product development, and market research.Throughout his career, he's been passionate about engaging global business leaders and the broader analyst and technology community with strategic content, speaking engagements, podcasts, research, webinars, and industry articles.Constantine holds a BA in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA in Finance & Marketing / Masters in Public & International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Scott W. Luton

Founder, CEO, & Host

As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.

From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.

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Greg White

Principal & Host

When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.

Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.

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Chris Barnes

Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring

Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.

Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.

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Tyler Ward

Director of Sales

Tyler Ward serves as Supply Chain Now's Director of Sales. Born and raised in Mid-Atlantic, Tyler is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University where he earned his degree in Communications. After college, he made his way to the beautiful state of Oregon, where he now lives with his wife and daughter.

With over a decade of experience in sales, Tyler has a proven track record of exceeding targets and leading high-performing teams. He credits his success to his ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members alike, as well as his strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

When he's not closing deals, you can find Tyler on the links or cheering on his favorite football and basketball teams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball, and traveling back to Ocean City, Maryland, his favorite place!

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Kevin L. Jackson

Host of Digital Transformers

Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog.  He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community.  Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include CiscoMicrosoft, Citrix and IBM.  Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane UniversityO’Reilly MediaLinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight.  Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems EngineeringCarrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.

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Enrique Alvarez

Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español

Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.

He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.

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Kelly Barner

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.

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Mary Kate Soliva

Host, Veteran Voices

Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.

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Amanda Luton

Vice President, Production

Amanda is a production and marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Amanda currently manages, produces, and develops modern digital content for Supply Chain Now and their clients. Amanda has previously served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah, and founded and managed her own successful digital marketing firm, Magnolia Marketing Group. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now production team, you can find Amanda in the kitchen, reading, listening to podcasts, or enjoying time with family.

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Clay Phillips

Business Development Manager

Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.

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Trisha Cordes

Administrative Assistant

Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.

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Chantel King

Social Media Manager

My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.

Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.

Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.

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Lori Sofian

Marketing Coordinator

Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.

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Katherine Hintz

Director, Customer Experience

Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.

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Mary Kate Love

Chief of Staff & Host

Mary Kate Love is currently the VP of marketing at Supply Chain Now focused on brand strategy and audience + revenue growth. Mary Kate’s career is a testament to her versatility and innovative spirit: she has experience in start-ups, venture capital, and building innovation initiatives from the ground up: she previously helped lead the build-out of the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific and before that, MxD (Manufacturing times Digital): the Department of Defense’s digital manufacturing innovation center. Mary Kate has a passion for taking complicated ideas and turning them into reality: she was one of the first team members at MxD and the first team member at the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific.

Mary Kate dedicates her extra time to education and mentorship: she was one of the founding Board Members for Women Influence Chicago and led an initiative for a city-wide job shadow day for young women across Chicago tech companies and was previously on the Board of Directors at St. Laurence High School in Chicago, Young Irish Fellowship Board and the UN Committee for Women. Mary Kate is the founder of National Supply Chain Day and enjoys co-hosting podcasts at Supply Chain Now. Mary Kate is from the south side of Chicago, a mom of two baby boys, and an avid 16-inch softball player. She holds a BS in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Joshua Miranda

Marketing Specialist

Joshua is a student from Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey Campus Guadalajara in Communication and Digital Media. His experience ranges from Plug and Play México, DearDoc, and Nissan México creating unique social media marketing campaigns and graphics design. Joshua helps to amplify the voice of supply chain here at Supply Chain Now by assisting in graphic design, content creation, asset logistics, and more.  In his free time he likes to read and write short stories as well as watch movies and television series.

Donna Krache

Director of Communications and Executive Producer

Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys.  She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.

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