Susan Gonzales is our special guest today. Get ready to check out some of her fascinating experiences as a Military and Business woman.
Q. Why did you choose the military as a career path?
A. The military is highly revered in my family and it provided me a path to go to college that we could afford.
My parents and two brothers emigrated to the United States before I was born and I am the first in my family to be born in the US. We grew up extremely poor as most immigrant families do. We were always hungry and couldn’t afford food all of the time, let alone afford college.
My entire family worked very hard from my earliest memories and my brothers and I did what we could to contribute – we worked in some pretty terrible jobs at a very young age. We had so little that budgeting enough for food was difficult to do, but my parents often sacrificed food and suffered with empty stomachs – and instead put that money towards our education to fill our minds.
By the time I was ready to graduate high school, I knew how important it was to my parents that I receive the best education possible, but I couldn’t bear to burden my family with another college bill. I knew West Point would offer a world-class education so I pursued that. Plus, Koreans, particularly from my parents’ generation, revere West Point as the institution that produced leaders who liberated Korea from oppressive Japanese occupation (my parents both lived under Japanese occupation and also lived through the entirety of the Korean War).
Q. What type of education/training do you have?
A. I graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 2003 with a B.S. in Foreign Languages (due to our core engineering curriculum at West Point, everyone graduates with a B.S.). Upon graduating, I served as a US Army Military Intelligence officer.
I served in Afghanistan from 2006-2007 with the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and provided tactical intelligence support to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the Joint Inter-agency Task Force (JIATF). After returning from that deployment, I served in a key intelligence role for US operations in Colombia and Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
Q. What was your favorite part of the job?
A. By far, my favorite part of the military was being part of a team of hardworking people. I’ve never quite come across a team in the corporate sector that was like the teams I’ve known in the military. We formed close relationships and always held each other accountable. Accountability is built into the fabric of the military.
Q. Tell us a bit about your organization, Silent Professionals
A. Silent Professionals is a career services website specifically geared towards helping combat veterans find meaningful employment once they return home.
I was inspired to create Silent Professionals after I met my amazing husband, Adam. When I first met him in late 2015, he was still transitioning to what he called a “normal person job in America.”
My husband enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in 2004 until 2008, and worked as a private military contractor. To many, that life seems exciting and lucrative – and at times, he will even tell you that it can be. But it is a difficult life, especially when trying to get re-established back home in America.
Now imagine being in heavy, direct combat every day for over a decade and then coming back home. THAT is a tough transition. Entire family dynamics change, technology changes…society itself changes.
Trying to find a job is just another thing on top of all of the other challenges. My husband found work as an electrician, but it didn’t make him happy. Unfortunately, this is the message we, as a society, tell our combat veterans– they need to “transition” as if the many skills and knowledge they gained has no value back home.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. And that’s why we created SP, so these skills can be properly valued and vets can find work that fulfills them.
Q. Tell us what a typical day is like
A. A typical day starts early…maybe around 6am. And I end it very late…usually around 2am.
As my husband will attest to, I frequently skip sleeping altogether. It’s a terrible habit, but I’m working on it! Even though that sounds miserable, when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.
My mind never stops running with new ideas and it’s hard to shut it down. To be honest, it’s really easy to lose track of time and work right through the night by accident.
Q. Do you have any advice for our young readers that may want to pursue this type of career?
A. If you’re looking to build your own business, it’s never too early to start. Building your future business starts by developing good habits as early as possible and learning how to have a strong relationship with yourself and those around you.
People often think that owning a business must be great because you’re your own boss. Well, it’s true that you are your own boss – but what kind of boss are you? If you’re lazy and undisciplined, your boss (you) will be lazy and undisciplined and your business (and your employees, friends and family) will suffer for it.
You might think you’ll change your bad habits once you start your business, but human nature doesn’t work that way. Character is built over a lifetime, not a day. Eventually you’ll settle back into your long-lived habits. If you’re miserable running your own business, chances are that’s because you’re a miserable boss.
Thank you, Susan, for sharing your experiences with us.