A Personal Story from a Veteran Employee

Military veterans “operate on accelerated learning curves,” are trained to “take on new and diverse roles with added responsibilities” and understand how to “persevere under high levels of adversity.” Veterans bring these skills and more to the workplace making them an integral part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan workforce.

Blue Cross has remained dedicated to helping veterans transition to civilian life after service. At Blue Cross, they understand the importance of hiring military veterans and have initiatives that involve increasing the number of veterans they hire.

Plies_Bill15In a recent interview with William Plies, a military veteran and the vice president of corporate planning, he spoke about his experience in the Air Force and how it prepared him for a career at Blue Cross:

How long did you serve in the military and what was your experience there?

I graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and then served as an officer for over seven years. My first assignment was unique and perhaps one of the best in the Air Force. I was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Maryland, and my primary job was to obtain a Master’s Degree in public policy. After graduation, I served at the Pentagon for nearly three years in the Air Force’s personnel management headquarters. The role was strategic and consultative, and included analyzing the forces and trends impacting Air Force personnel. My next assignment took me back to the Air Force Academy, where I served as an instructor of economics.

How did your military service shape you into the person you are today or impact your work ethic?

I credit my military experience for much of my professional success. It accelerated and solidified the qualities most important to my daily actions: integrity, tenacity, loyalty and a goal orientation. But, more than that, the military is like a family, and that family taught me humility. I learned through their experiences how small my place is in the world, but at the same time, how much I can impact a few people with my actions.

How did you get involved at Blue Cross? How did your military experience weave into your past and present roles at the company?

After I left the Air Force, I earned an MBA and went to work for a global consulting company with an office in Detroit. I had no exposure to the health care industry, but my interest peaked when a friend took a position with Blue Cross and the Affordable Care Act was navigating its way through congress. I appreciated the commitment Blue Cross has to its social mission and the broader role Blue Cross plays in the rapidly changing health care market. Working at Blue Cross felt like an ideal blend of my military and consulting experience.

I am currently the vice president of corporate planning at Blue Cross. My military experiences shape nearly every role I have played at the company. First and foremost, the military taught me how to lead and motivate teams while collaborating across diverse workgroups. This is important to my role at Blue Cross because my team serves as a bridge to align our corporate strategies with the objectives and initiatives undertaken by each area of the business.

What have you enjoyed most about working at Blue Cross?

The people and especially my team. Blue Cross has a strong, collaborative culture, which is reinforced by our social mission and non-profit status. While praising the people might sound cliché, I appreciate our ability to lock arms and pursue our priorities with conviction, which is just another way my experiences at Blue Cross parallel those of the military.

Why do you think it is important that companies implement veteran hiring practices and programs?

Veterans are trained to understand the big picture, while maintaining meticulous attention to detail. Veterans understand how to fit into an organization and strive to do our respective parts. Veterans are the ultimate team players. We understand that teamwork grows out of a responsibility to one’s colleagues and knows how to collaborate with them. Veterans perform under pressure.

For other stories on Blue Cross’ veteran employees, check out these posts:

Photo credit: The U.S. Army

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