Kat Barrack shares her role in an event that offers veterans an opportunity to focus on career development.
Kat Barrack is a member of the talent acquisition team and focuses specifically on university and diversity recruitment initiatives in the U.S. As part of her work, her efforts include hiring veterans, and she regularly partners with nonprofit groups and military bases to expand PPD’s reach and support of veterans and military families. Here, we ask Kat to share a recap of an exciting event, hosted at PPD’s global headquarters in Wilmington, N.C.
When I first learned about Whole Vet, a veteran service organization in the Research Triangle Park (RTP), N.C., I knew that PPD needed to be involved. The organization’s passion for the military and determination to be a resource for veterans was infectious. They prioritized collaboration and facilitating connections over their own goals and committed to serving veterans, current service members and their families. Despite being a small, new organization, their reach was extensive. PPD started attending several Whole Vet events in RTP.
Fast forward a year, PPD hosted our first event in Wilmington. The balloons have been taken down, the last of the barbecue devoured and the attendees have gone home, their pockets full of business cards.
Whole Vet’s Corporate Campus Visits offer an opportunity for transitioning service members, veterans, military spouses and caregivers to spend a day at a business to get a feel for the company’s culture. Previous hosts have included Biogen, Caterpillar and Deutsche Bank — all very different industries, all equally eager to hire top U.S. military talent and help them translate their skills to civilian hiring managers.
PPD is no different. Our Wilmington, N.C., headquarters is located an hour from Camp Lejeune and less than two hours from Fort Bragg, making our city a desirable destination for many veterans starting their civilian careers. To help demonstrate PPD’s culture, we kicked off the meeting with a presentation from Mike Gawkins, senior director learning, who transitioned to PPD from the Army in 2016. Mike retired as a colonel after 28 years of service.
Although Mike shared some personal insight into his transition from the military, no two veterans share the exact same story or experience.
A panel of veterans from local employers shared their experiences and the resources they used to help adjust to their civilian lives. Jill Shelton, senior information governance and compliance analyst from PPD, joined the panel to discuss her experience in the Coast Guard. All three panelists emphasized the importance of using your network.
“Join as many networks as you can,” said Jill. “Whether it’s a young professional’s group like the Junior League, or even a volleyball league, you will meet people from so many difference companies. The more contacts you make, the bigger your network is. In my experience, most people are willing to help when asked!”
After breaking for lunch, which was attended by several PPD military veteran employees and members of senior leadership, the group dove into an afternoon of workshops. Event attendees met with recruiters and hiring managers from PPD, as well as other organizations such as Northwestern Mutual, Advance Auto, Verizon, Duke Energy, the University North Carolina Wilmington, UC Synergetic and North Carolina Ports Authority. Participants received advice on specific career paths, as well as had their resumes reviewed, talked through the interview process for a specific company, went over their LinkedIn profiles and discussed best networking practices.
It was an incredible, jampacked day. The closing speaker, Giles Wagler, pathways manager at Amazon, summed up the efficacy of the event.
“Today’s event provided a roadmap to intelligent transition,” said Giles. “The full-day format offered service members the opportunity to develop a long-term strategic focus for personal and professional transition.”
Visit our veteran and military families page to learn more about starting your civilian career at PPD.