Prepared, Patient, Persistent
Xcel Energy is an electric and natural gas company with regulated operations in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. The company serves 3.5 million electricity customers and 1.9 million natural gas customers through four operating companies. Xcel Energy has more than 12,000 employees and annual revenues of $10.9 billion. Headquarters are in Minneapolis.
Now is a great time to join Xcel Energy. More than half of its workforce is eligible to retire over the next decade, so the company will have openings at all levels, from internships to leadership. A wide variety of positions are available across the organization and its service area – in the office, in the field, and on the lines.
Xcel Energy is looking for the technical, engineering, and problem-solving skills that come with military service. That is why the company has a dedicated veteran recruiter who is a recent veteran. And why the company created an online Translator Tool to help identify job titles that best match veterans’ skills.
A VETERAN SUCCESS | MURUGAN PALANI
Murugan Palani is the manager of supplier diversity and small business liaison officer at Xcel Energy. He has been with the company for six years. He served in the United States Army from 2002 to 2008, separating as a captain.
“It is my responsibility to ensure that suppliers/vendors owned and operated by veterans, minorities, or women have fair and equal opportunities to compete for our procurement contracts,” he said. “I am also responsible for the company’s standing in the small business community, and am the person small business owners can go to for help in navigating our supply chain process.”
Palani really enjoys his job. “I have the opportunity to help small businesses grow, which, in turn, impacts and grows the local economy,” he said.
Palani went through an adjustment period after the military. “My biggest challenge was to realize that I wasn’t in the military anymore,” he said. “There are things that you can expect from your soldiers that you realistically can’t expect from civilian employees. Hearing someone tell you ‘No, I can’t do that,’ took some time to get used to, but it’s not necessarily always a bad thing.”
He also had to change the way he addressed his coworkers when he first started working. “My first couple weeks on the job, I called everyone ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am,’” he said. “I was informed by one of my peers that it made a few people uncomfortable, because I was too polite, so after that I stopped being so formal.”
Palani did not take long to see that his military experience could help him in the civilian world. “The discipline to work under pressure in a stressful environment and the routine ease of working in teams to get things done are two great skills my military experience gave me,” he said.
He recommends that veterans be patient when looking for employment in the civilian world. “I would advise my fellow veterans to be ‘prepared, patient, and persistent’,” he said. “You probably won’t be called back by the first company or job you apply to, but keep on trying.
“That’s also the advice I give to all my first-time suppliers who are seeking procurement opportunities. Sometimes it’s about timing; and if you are prepared and the right opportunity presents itself, go for it. But don’t stop trying just because it doesn’t work out the first time. I have had countless suppliers who have bid on contracts over five or six times before they were finally selected based on their competitiveness.
“As a cavalry officer in 2-12CAV, our regimental motto was ‘Semper Paratus’ or ‘Always Prepared.’ This was something I always insisted my soldiers lived by, and it stands true in the civilian world if you want to succeed.”
A VETERAN SUCCESS | KYNNIE MARTIN
Kynnie Martin is a senior recruiter, veteran and diversity, at Xcel Energy. She has been with the company for nearly two years. She served in the Army from 2002 to 2010 as a military intelligence officer, separating as a captain.
Her main focus at Xcel is helping veterans. “I direct and administer all veteran and diversity program activities associated with veterans’ and diversity transition, outreach, recruitment, and placement,” she said. “This includes connecting with veteran job seekers, attending job fairs at different locations in our service areas, and forging strategic partnerships.”
She understands the challenges veterans face in the civilian workplace. “I’ve come across hiring leaders who completely understand the veteran job seeker,” she said. “And then there are those who have never interviewed or worked with a veteran – who have no idea of the strengths veterans can bring to a team. Having to communicate that across all of HR and management is tricky, because I consider myself a veteran advocate first – but I also have to understand co-workers’ points of view.”
Martin did not take long to figure out the differences between getting a job in the military and getting one in the civilian world. “In the military, you are given a job – no interview jitters! – and given the tools and training to do your job well,” she said. “You may have little to no experience, but you’re expected to do it and meet your mission requirements in a very short time frame. Lives literally depend on your competencies and your ability to do your job. Becoming an expert in your job is not an option – it’s a requirement. I think if more corporations were willing to take three to six months to train new hires, any veteran could do any job to the highest expectation.”
Martin’s military experience was a big plus in her first post-Army job. “After the military, I started in nonprofits because I wanted to continue my service to my community,” she said. “I learned that the leadership values that the Army instilled in me were applicable across all sectors, and that the things I would never compromise were my integrity and accountability. It was a pretty easy transition going from military to nonprofit, because in nonprofits, you wear multiple hats and have to be the go-to person at any given time. I learned to work the political aspects of the workplace corporate culture and how to get things done in the most effective and efficient manner.”
She recommends that veterans work together and speak out. “Network as much as possible, and use your network,” she said. “Don’t waste your GI Bill on a degree that doesn’t produce jobs. Speak out as a veteran to make your voice heard, and represent us well. Don’t be modest or sell yourself short. Everything you have done in the military makes you better than the next guy.”
Friday November 13, 2015