At Prudential, Hiring Veterans Is Like Good Insurance. They’re Reliable And Worth Every Penny.
By Wayne Rose
Vivienne Nguyen earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkley. She then went on to get a law degree from Hofstra University. Next. She joined the Navy.
“I wanted more adventure in my life,” says Nguyen, who at one point was stationed in Japan and left the Navy with a lieutenant ranking and served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). Today Nguyen is a director of law for Prudential. She works in its international investments department and is an example of why many companies search for veterans to hire. “What you find with veterans is they come in with leadership qualities and understand the importance of teamwork,” says Jim Beamesderfer, a former Army captain who is VP of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential. “Military training and the military culture fosters skills that easily transfer to corporate America on any level.”
Nguyen and Warimu Cotten are two veterans employed by Prudential who recently sat down with Beamesderfer to talk about Prudential’s commitment to veterans, and why it is one of the best companies to work for if you are a soldier looking for a job. Beamesderfer has been with Prudential for 20 years. He gets excited about any opportunity to talk about the company’s initiatives geared toward former soldiers. Prudential has a long bond with the military, dating back to 1919 when it formed a connection with the American Legion. Prudential’s sixth president, Franklin D’Olier, was the American Legion’s first national commander. The company has been recognized by the Military Times, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and G.I. Jobs for its hiring efforts. In 2011 Prudential was an initial supporter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Heroes program. That led to the chamber launching a private sector Veteran Employment Advisory Council (VEAC). The council is comprised of more than 30 of America’s biggest employers across every major industry. Tens of thousands of veterans are hired every year with the assistance of the VEAC.
Improving opportunities for veterans is a consistent goal at Prudential. In 2010 it established an Office of Veterans Initiatives and employee resource group, VetNet and a work-study program, VETalent. VetNet was launched to further develop employees and to provide greater leverage in the company’s diversity initiatives. VETalent was created out of a partnership with a local college and Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a nonprofit organization. The idea was to replicate an Information Technology (IT) program for veterans that was originally developed for disadvantaged youth. The program provides formal education combined with on-the-job training to prepare veterans to succeed in IT-focused careers. Prudential can’t hire every veteran, but that doesn’t prevent the company from doing whatever it can to make sure every veteran is hirable. Working with the chamber, the military service branches and other companies, allows for collaboration of ideas, which often leads to new programs like VetNet and VETalent. The initiatives act like work-study programs. “After the time in the classroom we bring them into a local Prudential office, and they work side-by-side with a Prudential peer,” Beamesderfer says.
The academic offering is one part of the program. Following success in the classroom, the candidates are then exposed to programs to help them learn how to transition from a military to a corporate environment. “Everything we do is designed to make sure the candidates are successful,” Beamesderfer says. “When they leave the program they will know the basics of their job and will be confident they are prepared to help the company get better.”
Prudential also goes outside its walls and works with employment agencies like WOS, which helped Cotten, an IT specialist. “A friend of mine who worked at Prudential told me they were looking to hire some consultants with military experience,” Cotten says. “I got into the WOS program. I went through an 18-month program at Rutgers, and I’m working in the same job I trained for during the program. I was even able to get five other soldiers who worked under me in my National Guard unit into the program. They all got hired, too.”
Nguyen’s ascension illustrates how the company can tailor a program to fit a candidate’s desires. She was interested in a career path that could lead to an international assignment. She says being stationed in Japan sparked an interest in international opportunities. She was searching for a chance that would match her legal skills and an environment that would increase her skill set outside of law. “I didn’t have a financial background, but I was glad Prudential offered me the opportunity to learn about banking and the financial industry,” says Nguyen, who was a college intern with Prudential before she joined the Navy. She was nervous going from straight legal work in a courtroom to being in charge of other people’s money. “But now I’m enjoying what I do and look forward to greater things down the road.”
Beamesderfer says Nguyen and Cotten personify what the company can do for its employees. He also says they are examples of what Prudential expects from veteran hires. He says besides the leadership skills he discussed earlier, other benefits include the ability to work with a diverse group of people; a strong ability to pay attention to the details and a can-do attitude that believes every problem has a solution.
“I was an infantry officer from a farm in Pennsylvania when I joined the service,” he says. “I had to work and live with people from the city, the country, from the North, South and West. We had diverse backgrounds and different views. But we were able to accomplish a common goal.”
As the three sat in Beamesderfer’s office discussing all the great things Prudential does for veterans, Beamesderfer couldn’t help but mention one particular platform: He started talking about the company’s military spouse employment program. The initiative was hatched out of the Business and Technology Services Center Prudential opened in 2014 in El Paso, Texas. The center provides jobs for local residents, veterans and their families.
Beamesderfer says the effort started after Prudential executives noticed many military spouses found it hard to find regular work and sustain careers. He said being married to a service member can be challenging for several reasons. Multiple deployments and moving around to different bases around the country are not conducive to consistent employment. That’s why Beamesderfer is so moved when the company helps a family. He said to see a spouse’s face and hear in their voice what it means to have a professional career and contribute to the family’s well being is incredible. In his mind, it provides a feeling words cannot describe.
“It can bring you to tears to learn the impact we have on people’s lives,” Beamesderfer says.
The company has only begun, too. Prudential already has four military spouses working remotely after initially starting at the El Paso office. The program’s success is the reason why Beamesderfer says the company plans to expand the military spouse platform beyond El Paso. The Naval Air Station base near Jacksonville, Florida and Joint Base Ft. McGuire-Ft. Dix near Trenton, New Jersey are next on the list.
“I started working at Prudential in 1997,” Beamesderfer says. “We were looking at hiring veterans back then; we just didn’t have as many programs. Then once veterans started coming home from recent conflicts, companies as a whole starting saying, ‘What can we do?’ Fortunately, Prudential was already doing.”