Drew Peneton ’08, has a Bachelor’s in Finance and is a second-generation EWU graduate. Drew is a combat veteran of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Now a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, he is active on the EWU Alumni Association Board of Directors, and runs an organization that is helping educate executives, shape economic policy and better prepare his fellow veterans for the business world after they leave the service.
Boots to Suits has grown from an online resource to a network of volunteers dedicated to connecting military veterans to professional career opportunities through employment training, business engagement and political advocacy. The services are always provided at no cost to the job-seeker/veteran.
This last October, Drew was selected to be one of 18 presenters at Ignite Phoenix #13. He presented Battlefield:Business – The unspoken arena veterans face at home to an audience of over 850. His personal story makes the case for veteran reintegration issues, and asks everyone to join in supporting the mission of Boots to Suits.
We asked Drew a couple questions about Boots to Suits and his experiences as a veteran:
What motivated you to start Boots to Suits?
After spending several years in the civilian workforce, I saw that many of my veteran colleagues were struggling with the transition. Looking around for effective resources at the time, I saw nothing. Since 9/11, over 1.9 million veterans have left the service, and nearly 75% of them have reported “not being prepared for civilian work.” The frustration and lack of resources have led to a higher-than average unemployment rate, homeless rate (one in four are military veterans) and a suicide rate that now exceeds overseas casualties.
How did your own transition from military to civilian life inform your commitment to Boots to Suits?
As I saw more of my fellow veterans fall into hardship, I committed to helping as many as I could, starting with one at a time. When I left the Army, things came a little more naturally to me and I decided to use my experience as a way to bridge the disconnect between both the veteran and the employer. I found that well-adjusted veterans in the workforce generally increase an organization’s employee loyalty, add dynamic leadership qualities and help reduce training costs.
What could business owners and employers do to provide more support to veterans?
With businesses always looking to make these sort of improvements and hire more veterans, they must find ways to make their hiring process more veteran-friendly. By combining education on military culture, jargon and structure, with environments that foster pride and dedication, companies would be able to better position themselves to create be a successful transition for the men and women who have served this country.
How did your military career help you or better prepare you for success in your civilian career?
With training in high-pressure decision-making, the ability to accelerate the learning curve, understand leadership behavior and focus on teamwork has increased productivity in a number of roles I have had. In the military, standards of safety, procedures and inclusion prepared me to respect organizational frameworks and focus on cooperation in order to complete tasks efficiently and effectively.
What message would you like to send to veterans who are transitioning into civilian life?
As veterans, we are generally very prideful creatures, but we must not let that get in the way of our selfless realization that these disconnects are real, proven issues that cannot wait until it’s too late. Recently there have been many more resources created to help assist these struggles, and Boots to Suits is one of many. If you’re a veteran, reach out to one today and see how they can help your transition; or even better, ask how you can help improve the life of another who has already made tremendous sacrifice.