Connecting With Veterans

Drive On Podcast
Drive On Podcast
Connecting With Veterans

David Dezso is the founder and CEO of Banyan Risk Group. Prior to starting Banyan, he served 10 years as an Army Green Beret. David is here today to talk about his career in the military as well as what he's done after leaving the military to help veterans.

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Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:00    Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, on this podcast we'll share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let's get on with the show. Hi everybody, welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is David Dezso. David is a founder and CEO of Banyan Risk Group. Prior to starting Banyan, he served 10 years as an Army Green Beret, and he's here today to talk about his career in the military, as well as what he's done afterwards to help veterans. So welcome to the show, David; why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?  

David Dezso    00:00:46    Yeah, thanks for having me. It's great to be able to share my story with the guys that are trying to transition now and trying to figure out the next phase. I served from 2004 to 2014, transitioned out of there and jumped into business and then jumped into the entrepreneur lane, which a lot of veterans jump into these days. So, based out of Houston, I'm married with two kids, so everything so far, so good. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:01:18    And I find it interesting. I want to talk back a little bit about how you ended up getting into the military. I find it interesting to hear about how people get into the military, what their motivations were and ultimately what their career path was along the way. And correct me if I'm wrong, when you were in law school, correct, when you eventually decided to enlist in the military, is that correct? 

David Dezso: Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio:  So, what was the motivation behind that decision to join the military and how did you come about that decision and everything that went along with that?  

David Dezso    00:01:53    Yeah. So I grew up in Texas and went to the Citadel, which is a military college in South Carolina. I wasn't your typical military guy. I was pretty laid back and chill looked at ruck marching as like an abuse of not being out in Charleston on Saturdays. But for the most part, I thought about being a JAG but really wasn't trying to turn anything over on that side.  I was an air force ROTC; so again, as laid back as you can get within the Citadel's framework, I went on to law school and was going to be a prosecutor and 9/11 happened. And in my second year, actually my first year, a year and from then I kinda just felt like I was in the wrong place.  

David Dezso    00:02:40    At that point, I had a little bit of a hiccup with some knee issues. I had two knee surgeries prior and then needed to have a third to be able to get in the military. Because I had screws on the top of my knee, which are on the top, right below my knee. That would be kind of hard to deal with if you were trying to join the army. So once 2001 hit, I was headstrong doing my research. I joined the Marines, Air Force, Army, Navy, and looked at all of them and really liked the structure of the Army where you could go infantry, airborne, ranger, SF, and JSOC. And the idea would be you stop at whatever level you're most capable at and where you're kind of limited to.  

David Dezso    00:03:28    So if you're at an Airborne Infantry unit, that's great. If you're an airborne unit, even better, if you're a ranger battalion, exceptional stuff. And then if you know, at the time I didn't have grand visions of a special operations career, I just kind of set forth with it. I wanted to be in the infantry and I wanted to be deployed. And that was kind of how it started. So at that time, about 2002 we're getting into, my friends that were in the military from the Citadel used to think that this war was going to be about a hundred hour war similar to desert storm. And that sounds shocking as we just wrapped up 20 years of war. But at the time that was what we thought it was going to be. We'd go in, kick their butt and then come back out.  

David Dezso    00:04:11    So the idea was don't waste law school, stay in law school. And then, if the war is still going on when you get out and get the degree, then look at it. And I thought that was good advice. I got out, I graduated in ‘03 and had a knee surgery, and then was all gears ahead towards the military. I couldn't really afford to be an officer as they wouldn't pay your school loans back. And so if you enlisted, they would decide about $70,000 in school loans from law school. So I took that enlisted route that wiped off the loans, which was great. Didn't make any money as an enlisted guy, but at the same time didn't need anything. Right? So the army kind of provides for you, I could live just fine. So I came into the army as an <inaudible>, had a really, fantastic drill Sergeant in the middle of basic training.  

David Dezso    00:05:06    Since drill Sergeant Rodriguez, I've never got his first name, but he was exceptional. He basically saw some future in me and basically changed my contract from 11 Bravo to 18XRay and at that point I got switched over to a different track. So originally I was gonna go to Fort Lewis and then with that change, the drill started and really that was pretty impactful because they were late on their orders. So it was rare that someone in the machine of the army actually cares enough about you to like push it through. So, essentially I used to call this kind of divine intervention. My orders did not come on the completion of AIT, advanced infantry training. And so I was supposed to get shipped out to Fort Lewis and the drill Sergeant and the captain decided to hold me over as a hold over for two weeks and give the SF branch enough time to switch the contract, which they did.  Had they not done that I would have just lost the opportunity and gone up to Fort Lewis where I was going to be in the stryker brigades.

David Dezso    00:06:15    So that was really it as far as timing and divine intervention and a critical moment for me; at that point, I went in the army and went to Brag and was gung ho. All I really had intentions wise was go into the infantry, get a part of the combat, do what I was capable of doing. I was pretty athletic growing up, nothing crazy, at one point they were like, well, we can put you in with a law degree. We can put you in all these admin roles, like get outta here. I'm either combat arms or I'm not in. And that was the way I kind of did it. And then once I got in, I kind of hit all the education.  

David Dezso    00:07:02    I was 27. I hit knee surgeries, hit all that. And so went in and just did the best I could to get in the best group I could. I knew that I didn't have any training options as an enlisted guy. Sometimes you can get airborne training guaranteed or ranger, battalion slots or 18 x-ray slots right out the bat because I had a broken arm previously, they would not give me any training options. So they said I could earn it. So there were a lot of risks and a lot of faith there, but I didn't care about the title. I just wanted to be in the infantry and get a part of the war before it ended. I felt like I didn't want to be 27 and have regrets a little too young to have regrets that early. I'll pause there.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:07:48    Yeah, no, absolutely. And that's a good way to go. I think that, that actually very closely mirrors my career path and getting into the military as well, in the sense that I was in college, decided to wait until I graduated college before joining the military. I was in college when 9/11 happened and everything, and it's one of those things where yeah, if I'm going to do this, I want to do it right. I want to be in combat, that's why I'm signing up for this. I'm not signing up so I can process someone's paycheck or some admin role like that, you know? I want to be deployed and get involved with the military. So, I totally understand where you're coming from there. I also have the option, right.  

David Dezso    00:08:44    It's a different time now. They weren't that motivated from 9/11. They just want to serve in the military and you know, I've got a young little boy that loves the army and loves all this stuff, but I'm like, man, that'll be interesting because prior to 9/11, I wasn't that guy, like I wasn't on anybody's radar to be super soldier, I was a laid back guy that was all over the place. But it was interesting as the shift in the last 10 years of the war, you had people that really weren't that impacted by it, but were still drawn towards the service of the country.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:09:21    Right. Yeah. And I mean, I was brought up in a very patriotic family and so when 9/11 happened, I almost dropped out of college that day and went to the army recruiter that very day. But I decided, let's sleep on this decision and it's not just making the kind of rash judgments. And even though I waited a little bit a few years I still ended up going to Afghanistan. So it's not like I missed out on my opportunity with a short war, like a desert storm kind of thing like that. So, you got out of the military in 2014, right? That's what you're saying. So what was that transition out of the military like for you, were you prepared for what was waiting for you after you took off that uniform? Or was it a bit of a shock?  

David Dezso    00:10:11    I wouldn't say it was a shock, but it was definitely intense. At that point in my life, I had been gone about 10 months a year for a decade straight, whether in training or deployed, and my wife and I wanted to have children. And so she was 35 weeks pregnant. We moved, we drove back to Texas, bought a house with no job and was just working the process. And from what I understood, what I looked at, it was my last couple, senior roles within special operations. I wouldn't get a lot of guidance. I'd get, you're going to this country and brief the commander in six weeks. And so you had to build it up and look at shaping what you needed to accomplish. Well, that was the kind of way I looked at Houston. I looked at it as filling into Houston, how do I figure this out?  

David Dezso    00:11:04    How do I build a network that can support me? Because one of the things is, if you're going to be a hot commodity item, a hot commodity item where you're trying to grow, they need to know who you are. So when I first got to Houston, I had four trips prior, and I probably had about a network of 50 new people at Houston that had heard of me, met me for coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks, whatever, and were aware that I was trying to come to Houston on this date and looking for oil and gas jobs. And I didn't care what the role was. I just wanted to get the best role I could. And in the best company with the right opportunity I had, just like anything, you can beat the pavement for a year and then one week three opportunities come.  

David Dezso    00:11:51    So I think this is probably September, October of 2014, I had an offer from GE. I had an offer from Forum Energy Technologies, and I was looking at an offer at another oil and gas company at the same time. So it all came kind of quick, but what the common theme was is all the groundwork I laid and building that network prior was working for me. And I didn't really understand that at the time. I just knew that I needed to have as many tentacles out as possible. I mean, it's shaking hands, kissing babies, having coffee, whatever it was. And I was relentless at that. A lot of people don't attack the transition. They kind of wait; the Army's kind of great at, well, we do everything for you. We pay you for housing.  

David Dezso    00:12:39    We pay you for food. You don't have to think; you just have to be a soldier. Well, that's great in the army; outside of the army, nobody does that for you. So you do have to think about all the things, but with that comes the gift of being able to shape whatever you want. The Army has a fixed mindset. Everything has gotta be this way. Well, in the civilian world, you can make it whatever you want to be, but you have to push and drive. It's not going to come to you just because your military transition program gave you 77 different briefs that kind of helped you prepare. That's a great thing. However, you always gotta stay engaged and understand your driving around success.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:13:19    Yeah. I mean, that's absolutely right. And I think that that's a great thing that you were doing in terms of working that network and getting out and just being proactive, really taking charge of your own destiny, if you will; getting out there and meeting with people and talking to people and trying to figure out where the best place is for you, you know? During this time period, you got involved with helping out veterans in a networking group, like a happy hour type thing. Tell us a little bit about that.  

David Dezso    00:13:55    Yeah. So at the end of 2014 and 2015, oil was above a hundred dollars a barrel. And so what this meant was that there was a flood of jobs in Houston, as many as you could get, and veterans were definitely prized possessions. So a company like Halliburton even has a transition. When you say I'm looking for this career, and I'm from this in the military, if you say I'm an 18 Charlie or 18 Zulu or whatever your job is, they will then correlate that to what you can apply to in Halliburton. So at the time they've got truck drivers, they've got medics, they've got water, they've got all engineers, they've got everything that the military has, so oil and gas was a huge driver for veterans that were transitioning. And they were pulling a lot, whether it was the F 16 top gun pilots, or it was green berets, or it was mechanics or whatever it was, Houston seemed to have opportunities for all.  

David Dezso    00:14:50    And it does, as the oil price changed, that got a little diminished over time because of the amount of job loss in the industry space. But at that time I had a couple of key people in Houston who really helped me out. And one of the things that they had started was this thing called Houston veterans and business, originally started as Houston veterans in energy. And then we switched it over to business. But, there were a couple of really critical veterans that never not took my call and always helped me answer anything that would make introductions and kind of the commitment was to each other. So we started this happy hour that was every Wednesday, same place, same location, and kinda created this email alert out to the group. So it was, maybe started with like 20 people in 2014 and 40 people in 2015, and then maybe 225 at the end of 2015 and then 400 plus, I mean, I don't know what it is today, but it's a lot.  

David Dezso    00:15:48    And what would happen is you get two or three phone calls a week from a person trying to connect a veteran to a job. And instead of being able to take an hour or two to mentor that person, you'd say, Hey, look, just come to happy hour on Wednesday, I'll help you. And I'll introduce you to a tribe of veterans. That number one is in different categories within working in Houston, build a network there, and then I'll help you rewrite your resume or coach you up on what you're trying to do. And so it was really organic and it was very genuine. It was, there was nothing that we didn't formalize more than a 5 0 1 C3 weren't trying to raise money. All we were doing was the vets that showed up, cared about each other and trying to help a person out whether they were from the Army or Navy, Air Force, it didn't really matter.  

David Dezso    00:16:35    And the only thing we would push back on the people that we mentored was that you need to help raise up the next veteran that comes through. So that was really great. And that in 2014, 15, 16, and was pretty meaningful. And it could happen real organically, as long as you stay committed. Like, I think Dallas tried it. I'm not sure how well it worked in Dallas, but essentially all it takes is five to 10 people to get it off the ground to show that consistency. And then before you know it,  you can do things like leadership development programs. We have consulting companies like Bain, or Egon Zehnder host us. So we put out a list of things like, Hey, we've got 20 spots for an executive seminar from Egon Zehnder versus an executive head or we'd have Bain talk about what they see as the trends and not only gas. A lot of times they'd be hosted by a veteran within the organization, and that would be exceptional. We had GE, Cameron, some really great, great companies come together and host us and really they're looking for talent anyway. So they love the opportunity to share what they're working with. And then at the same time, see what we're able to do.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:17:45    Yeah. And getting together with a bunch of veterans and the companies that are looking to hire veterans that just seems like a win-win; getting that organization, not even an organization, but getting those people together on a regular basis and consistently, and getting to know one another and just like in the military, we try to help each other out as best we can. And I've never really been able to find any other group of people anywhere else that I've ever worked for, or anything that is more inclined to help out one another, as in the military and the veteran community, you know? And so, if you're struggling with something, finding a job in a certain area or whatever, get involved in some of these networking groups is a great way to go and see what you guys were doing is basically getting that network together and making it so that people can help each other out in an easier way.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:18:49    Right.  

David Dezso    00:18:50    Yeah, it was, and it wouldn't be on work. Right. So like if we saw someone that was there, I’m thinking of a specific person in mind that I mentored and I saw some trauma inside of this person and I saw a lot of like, not being able to hold down a job. And when I asked him about how his mental health was and worked through that, it wasn't great. And he had come from an organization within the military that was very rigid. They did not seek help. They were supposed to be tough, for them it was looked at as a weakness if you needed some type of help for mental health. And he got out a little bit before the modern era of a lot of support systems, but essentially we helped him and mentored him and helped shepherd him through to get to the right psychologist, to help him unpack those things he's going through.  

David Dezso    00:19:38    And so it really went from work, let's get a common bond together. Let's help each other out as a brotherhood, but at the same time, it expanded more into that because at the end of the day, it was a great relief valve because you'd come back from if I would've gone to GE, which I did, and I went to chemical form energy, which was a great opportunity for me, but I'd come out and I'd have frustrations, right. So, go meet at a happy hour and kind of blow off steam with other guys that understood your career path and what you had done or what you were frustrated with. And it was very common and so not only was it a great relief valve for veterans transitioning, it was also just that community, right?  

David Dezso    00:20:18    A number of the problems we have with veteran suicide today is that there's no one there when they go home and they're away from everything, right. They're in there alone, they're isolated and they don't have that community. I've always said, and I'll stand by this still, there's no better city in America for veterans than Houston, Texas. This city really does a lot for veterans. And whether that's through its own veteran organization, through community leaders that just refuse to have veterans not be supported. So there was a period of time and I'm going to get some of these stats wrong. In 2011, there were over 3000 homeless veterans. And some of the business leadership in town just said, this is not going to be our city.  

David Dezso    00:21:04    That's not going to be what we're known for and we're going to fix it. And it took civilian leadership and corporate leadership and sponsorship to build a pathway, but they led that program. And then within a year and a half, there were no veterans that were homeless. They had a veteran pipeline that got them onto their own solid footing. And so that's still today. I mean, I don't think it's dramatically reduced. I don't think there's many, if any, but they've got a process that they can still go to today that was started back 10 years ago. But that's a part of the commitment of the community. You know, when tragedy strikes the U S we do well by coming together, it's unfortunate. It takes a damn tragedy to come together.  

David Dezso    00:21:48    But when Houston floods or has a hurricane or something dramatic happens, it's usually the corporate leadership that comes together. The CEOs from Exxon, Connick, all these giants come together and say, this is what we're going to do. We're going to fix this. And the mayor's kind of like a guest; it's not driven by the government. And that is something that's unique that I've seen to Houston, that not a lot of places have. And for us there's a lot of variety, Houston, the most diverse city in America. And more importantly, it's diverse from skill sets. You could be a Green Beret that went to Wharton business school. That's gonna be an investment banker, or you could be a welder and find a great job here and find a great quality of life.  

David Dezso    00:22:33    And there's a range from anything you don't want to be. And that's not the case in most cities. Most people, when they come to Texas from the veteran world, feel like, oh, finally, someone that appreciates what I did. That's kind of true, I travel about 20 days a month, all over the country for my current job. I mean, there are certain states that are definitely veteran friendly and certain states that are not. So as you transition, I would definitely recommend looking at the state benefits, some of the things that they offer, the culture of the people, you can tell a lot, by the way a city or state does care about veterans, by what they're ready to commit resources wise. This is an old statistic, but Houston does a thing where if you're over 60% disabled that on your license plate, you get a specialized plate.

David Dezso    00:23:25    You don't pay on toll roads. Well, not every city does that. Not every state does that. Houston, Texas is old hat, but it used to cost them $6 million a year. Well, let's put your money where your mouth is, right. That's hurting the city budget to support unworthy causes. That is the type of commitment you're looking for. Not just BS coming out of your mouth, plenty of people talk about it and use the veteran as a petting zoo. Like, oh, we need to have our vets mobile, but they don't really intend to help you, empower you to be successful.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:23:56    Yeah. And I think that that whole community aspect is a huge thing because it does require more than just like you said, the mayor, or people like that to be involved in, and certainly their involvement isn't going to hurt anything unless they're specifically trying to hurt the process. But getting more people involved in helping out veterans in people who will do that, they'll go out and they'll put their money where their mouth is and make this process work for veterans. But like you said, that might be unique to Houston, what you were experiencing in your area. So what if there are some people out there who are looking to build together this network, maybe in an area that doesn't have a network group or a happy hour group, like the one that you were involved with, like we're talking about, but maybe they just want to get that going in their area. What kind of things would they look to do to start getting that network going in their area?  

David Dezso    00:25:03    Yeah. It really only takes probably five veterans that come together. If you can get five people that are willing to come together every week, once a week. And what we found successful was keeping it at the same location, same time. And then it was about spreading the word that if you wear a wristband, one of these memory bracelets or a suit, or as you talk, it doesn't matter whether you're in Denver, Charleston, South Carolina, DC, there's veterans everywhere. We all kinda know, we look like it's kind of a surprise. It's not surprising when you walk through an airport and see it. So I just say one of the things that we started from was just genuinely being interested in caring for others. And by having consistency, like if we wouldn't have been consistent in the first three months, it wouldn't have grown because it would have become this one-off thing.  

David Dezso    00:25:53    And then some people will say, well, once a week is too much, I'm married, I've got kids, blah, blah, blah. Sure. But you need at least five people or more that are willing to be there all the time. One thing, I had a brand new baby when I committed to this. And one of the things I said to my wife at the time was look, at first one hour was fine, but now we've got so many people there we're helping so many people get placed in jobs and get even more prepared. You know, I asked him, Hey, look, I need to stay there for three or four hours just to make sure that they're getting all their questions answered. And at that time I actually felt more fulfillment out of placing, helping them get placed than I did my own career.  

David Dezso    00:26:36    And so that also helped me in the transition, like most vets change jobs within two years of getting out. And that's because they're trying to find their place, it doesn't matter how well you target your opportunity. You're really kind of going into new waters. It'd be like in the military from a military angle, I'd be like, you're going from ranger battalion to a surface warfare officer. You're going to be on an aircraft here while you think you might know what that looks like until you're on the ship for six months. You really don't know just like that person when they try to switch the range of time and are not going to have any idea what just happened to them. So you can prepare, you can prepare, you can prepare, but just remember that when you can create that village and you do commit to your fellow veteran helping them, it also makes your life a lot better and more meaningful as well. There's no community or culture that protects its own better than we do. I think there's 2 million combat vets. There's a lot of people that help, but at the same time when you've done a great job, I was kind of looking at your next job to help the next guy come up.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:27:50    Yeah. And I think that's something that we do very well in the military community, the veteran community, we do help each other out quite a bit. And you know, you might as well leverage that network of veterans who might be in your area. And so getting those people together on a regular basis not even just for your own like selfish purposes, but also for helping out those other people who might just be struggling on their own with their career, with their family, whatever, getting them all together and working out a solution to something like helping them with their resume, like you were saying, or whatever the case may be and making an introduction to someone who might be able to hire them.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:28:40    You know, it's just one more way of helping people. And you said something earlier that really sounded really good to me and mirroring what I'm doing now with this podcast, is that you found more fulfillment in helping out the other veterans who are out there then you did in your own career. And for me this podcast is just one of those ways that I'm out there helping out veterans and sharing inspirational stories and different things that are helping out veterans. And to me, that is the thing that is motivating for me is knowing that there are people out there who might listen to some of these episodes and be better off for it. I may never even know who these people are, but I know that there are people out there listening and it's just really motivating for me to get out there and help out those veterans. And I don't need a note saying thanks, or anything for me to keep doing it. I just do it knowing that there are people out there who are benefiting and that's all I need, you know?  

David Dezso    00:29:51    Oh, sure. And you know, it's one of those things when you see someone take your advice and it works for them. Oh man. It's like, I remember placing these two kids they're called kids, but they were probably mid to late twenties. But I remember when they got placed, I was so excited for them. I was like, man, just that three hours with them. And the phone call to this person and connecting a couple dots, took that person from unemployed, kind of hopeless, not real happy to now having somewhere to go create some meaning, get some education behind them, get some time to breathe because there's a group in Houston that was started by Doug Fosha and Donovan Campbell. Donovan Campbell was a Marine officer. Charles Shore and Doug Fosha are exceptional oil and gas leaders.  

David Dezso    00:30:39    I was a big fan, a big, big guy in the CEO world here. But then they committed to starting a nonprofit called NextStop that focused on E4-E7(or 8). And they said, those are the people that are going to struggle. They identified those as being the hardest to help transition to a positive job and get them rolling. Well, Doug and Doug's career, he was a very senior executive at Halliburton and a number of places. And they led a company called El Paso energy, but he really understood the marketplace. And he was a really great listener on what the veterans were saying and needing. And man, I mean, they made a huge impact. I don't know how many people they've placed so far, but it's significant and that's all community driven, you know? And so, it doesn't take much but it's commitment.  

David Dezso    00:31:30    You know, one of the things I saw with Doug is he called his peers out and he was very serious. The other thing I'd say about the group after when I was on my first deployment, we would go to firefights, come back, get the trucks ready to go again, get water ammunition, all that stuff, ready to go. Then we went straight to a room and we had an after-action review and I was way more concerned about disappointing someone in that room than I was about combat. Well, that room was really a very rough feedback session for anybody. It doesn't matter what you did. If you messed up, they called you to the carpet very quickly and said, fix it or you're gonna move off the team kind of thing. But at home, I thought what a gift right in the civilian world, from what I saw, nobody gives you feedback because  

David Dezso    00:32:22    they're too scared of what you're going to say, or they don't want to hurt your feelings, or they want you to continue to fail so that you can make them look better than you. And it was just, it's a gift, get feedback as a gift. And even if it wasn't comfortable, I mean, what a great way to fix your problems and think about life, if you weren't doing your job well, and then you went back to the next firefight and you failed again, someone got killed. Like there's no room for that. Well, not everything's that extreme, but at the same time, feedback is the gift that helps you get better and helps the team get better. So what I would say is, as these veteran organizations come together, don't be as our fellow vets, as they go through, don't give them lip service, commit to them, tell them what it's like, tell them the good parts, tell them what sucks. And at the same time speak truth to power. And for me that's always critical. That doesn't help anybody to sugarcoat candy, sell everything, and it just makes the transition a little harder for them. Because of this, it ends up being anti-climactic on their side.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:33:26    Yeah, it does. And I think that's just generally good advice. I don't think that that's necessarily advice that's specific towards the military; give people the honest truth and you know, if their feelings are a little hurt over it, well, oh, well.  

David Dezso    00:33:43    As they transition into corporate culture, they won't see that, they will not. I mean, from what I've seen, I've worked in a couple of corporations and every time I move around, people are very scared of feedback. And just doing something like career planning with some people like, Hey, let's talk about where you want to go in the company. This kind of questioning was not always available. Right? So if you're in oil and gas, they're kind of giants of industry and they may not be concerned about every position as well. Right? There's the other thing I'd like to go into is you have big companies like GE and Exxon and Halliburton, and you have mid-sized companies. And then you got small companies that are just founders. When you're a veteran transitioning, make sure you focus on what size company and what your skill sets are that you bring to the table.  

David Dezso    00:34:32    If you are a big-time conventional person that likes having size, like if you're coming from Fort Hood and you're used to this big organism, jumping into Halliburton or GE will be just fine. It won't feel that different if you're a special forces guy and you jump into GE, you will be looking for a new job within three to six months, largely because you will be bored or you'll sit there and go, can I make the right decision? I'm not getting fed enough. Like there's hunger. And they're so mature that their processes are like this. We just go tick, tick, tick. Whereas an SF guy trying to do this, you know? And so identify, know yourself, number one, and then understand as much as you can about these companies and what they're doing in small to mediums.  

David Dezso    00:35:18    What I've seen with veterans that are hungry, end up being better fits because they need you to do more things and they don't have time to wait for you to have training. And another scenario with that, a big company will have, but man, I really need you to just lock down Midland, Texas, can you go figure that out? Yeah. If it's me moving men and widgets, we can figure it out. I was told when I was in my oil and gas company, I was a director of sales for the drilling business unit. And this guy, the head of the head, the senior vice, Dave might be our best salesman. He just doesn't know what he's selling. And the point is just to get after being hungry. You know, you gotta work hard. I think what I see the most, and as vets are kind of coming out with so many programs offered to them, they kind of expect that.  

David Dezso    00:36:06    And then it's like this entitlement, well, you didn't show me or you didn't tell them what to do. Get that outta here, go back to being hungry and get to where, whether it was infantry, whatever your school was that you learned. And you had to pass to be a professional in your job. Remember how running on the edge you were and you were scared to fail and you wanted to be whatever, the best mortar man, the best pilot, the best mechanic, whatever it was. Remember that feeling and go back to that because that's what you've got to feel to transition well.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:36:37    Yeah. And it is an intense process. And sometimes when all these programs get thrown at you, it's overwhelming. And you may not even know what programs to go with because you sit in a class that they tell you about all these programs. And it's like drinking from a fire hose. When you get so much information thrown at you, it's like, I'm going to miss something somewhere along the way. And so while yes, these programs are out there and they're available, my guess is that you're probably missing some of the opportunities that are out there because they got lost in the mix of everything else. So like you said, take it upon yourself and figure these things out and you can do it. Like it's not unheard of that people can figure these things out. You don't need to have your hand-held through the transition process. You didn't need to have your handheld as you were going through your military career, you were able to figure it out for the most part. And why should this transition be any different? There are ways that you can get involved with other people and network into the job that you're looking for. You know?  

David Dezso    00:37:54    Yeah. I always say your network will find the next opportunity for you long before you do so if you are doing what you need to do and networking and by networking, I mean, building genuine relationships, I don't mean using people to get a job. If you genuinely care about others, you will see a dramatic shift in things that other people do for you. There's nobody that, I mean, I don't know, not nobody, but there's a lot of people in this country that want to support veterans that are trying to find their way. And you'd be surprised at who would take your phone call to help you, but you've got to do the work too; one of the things that I always see, you can see with an interviewee or for a student, and they ask a real basic question and it's like, what was being in the special forces like, I'm like, well that's kind of a generic question you just wasted asking about, I'm going to give you the answer, but it's kind of a waste of time.  

David Dezso    00:38:50    You could have thought maybe a little bit more pinpointed question. Like when I jumped into business development, what are the two biggest challenges I'm going to face coming from an outsider with no industry knowledge? That's a different question than what's a <inaudible> like. Tell me about that. So do your homework and be relentless. When I thought I was interested in a career field for a while, I looked at consulting and I was reading every damn book I got my hands on to educate myself before I would meet somebody. And if I knew I was meeting someone that was high level or strategic, or that their time was limited, I met them after I met all the other people that I could afford to learn from. And every conversation you should be learning. And there's five things  

David Dezso    00:39:39    I used to tell a lot of people when they would network, number one, you gotta be interested and interesting. Number two, you gotta get from professional to personal as fast as possible. People will walk down the hall a lot farther and more routine for you. If they have a personal relationship for you, someone says, Scott, if you call me and say, Hey, I've got this guy, Jeff, he’d really loved to be in Houston. He heard the podcast. He's really excited about being there. I'm going to make sure I spend the time, write a more eloquent letter, and reach out to us. Some of the contexts, if someone just sends me an email and says, Jeff wants oil and gas; I may not have time that week. And I may not make time. Well, people are personal because there's a lot of leverage in that.  

David Dezso    00:40:26    There's a lot of emotion in that. And that's what drives people to do things extra and go the extra mile. The next thing I'd say is, the third thing is you got to get a second meeting. Without a second meeting, there's no relationship, continuous relationship. So if you meet somebody for coffee and you go through all these great things, they have all that stuff, but you forget to have another meeting or another date to get together, it's a little awkward, or you may have to go start from scratch and be like, oh, would you be willing to do coffee again when you kind of should have set that up before? So be interested and interesting, get from professional, personal, as fast as possible, get a second meeting whenever you can, if someone is willing to meet with you once they'll meet with you twice, it's just gotta be convenient.  

David Dezso    00:41:09    Now, if someone reschedules once or twice, you only have about two times to change. The minute he goes to three, people start blowing you off and you become less of a priority.  Number four, I'd say is, get them to champion you to their network. So if you come to me, as Scott comes to me and says, Dave, who do you think would be great for Jeff to talk to? Then I go back and say these three guys that I know, or this lady that I know can really help shape them, then that's a great step, because now you gave Jeff these four angles of people to meet too. So not only did he get to meet me when he came to town, he's got four other people.  

David Dezso    00:41:53    So that's a really important factor. And then number five, take every single detail down, write every note you can think of, what kind of shirt I wore, what kind of hat I'm wearing, glasses. Everything matters because what will happen is if you're networked in the right way, you're not going to remember a lot of these conversations because they're going to get muddy and you need to be able to look back at your notes. And maybe the last time Scott, we talked about this, this and this. He's got his daughter, he's got a son, and he's looking at this let's get personal. I'm gonna tell him about my five-year-old son, Hudson and my daughter, Hannah. That's a game changer. There was a scenario where I met this lady and I was doing all those things, kind of subconsciously.  

David Dezso    00:42:37    I met this lady that was a very high powered, oil and gas executive early on. And, I met her and we met for an hour and she was great. And I remember writing everything down in the notes, like I just prescribed. And then I wrote, I don't think this is going to go anywhere. She's pretty conventional. You needed to be a geoscientist and petroleum engineer to be successful in oil and gas. And I had a business undergrad and law degree with nothing that would jump me into oil and gas right away. Well, I still wrote down everything and wrote a nice follow up. Hand-wrote all my follow-ups on the cards. And then, she writes back to me six weeks later and says, Dave, I just thought about you when I was on vacation in North Carolina. And I ran into a buddy of mine that's looking for this kind of person for this job.  

David Dezso    00:43:25    I think you'd be great for it, let me introduce you. Do you mind now, how will it shock them? I only met with her for an hour, six weeks prior, and she remembered me on vacation when she ran into someone. So she would be what I would call kind of a strategic witness. So she's witnessing on my behalf. So I go back and I look at my notes on what I wrote, what would she say? She was building Alison Bracker and she was a big skier. She went to Michigan, all these things. And I said, Hey, thank you so much for the note, I loved hearing from you. I hope your home building is going well. And wherever, Colorado, I can't wait to take my wife and kids up there and the love house and make it all personal. And I tied in all of the things that she said, and her response was David, thank you for listening to me six weeks ago, it's really rare that someone actually cares about someone else's conversation. And then you're in a great place for that person to be a help guide for you. And she was an exceptional leader. And so I say all that to say, if I went to write that note six weeks later, I don't remember either. So it's good, I took notes that day and it really paid off in the end. So that's definitely a practice that I'd recommend to everyone.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:38    Yeah. But that is phenomenal advice. Being able to form those personal relationships with people, you're absolutely right. You know, when you have that personal connection to somebody they're much more inclined to want to go out of their way to help you. It's not just a selfish thing either. Like you're trying to use this network. It's definitely a way to grow together and help each other out, you know? And if you have that personal connection with somebody, if we have a personal connection together I'm going to be thinking about you just as much as you're thinking about me, and then we help each other out that way. And I think that's how the whole network grows, when you do that type of thing where you're just out there trying to help each other out.  

David Dezso    00:45:30    Well, that's how we met. That's how you and I met through Mike, right? So Mike was my first team leader in SF. And if he says, Hey, you need to meet somebody. I'm going to meet him, period.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:45:41    So there you go. Yeah, exactly. And so working that personal network and getting those personal connections together with people is just I think a smart way to go. And so I think, especially in the military, the veteran community, a lot of times people will isolate themselves away from each other and not really be too outgoing, and get out there in front of a whole bunch of people. Definitely get out and network with people, it's gonna pay off in the long run. You know, it may not pay off tomorrow when you meet someone today and then tomorrow you all of a sudden are having this great opportunity land at your feet, but down the line, that network will help that.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:46:30    I mean, it's helped me tremendously in my business and in my personal life just having those connections, you may not think it worth going to this networking event or a conference in your industry or whatever; I may not think it's even worth it, but five, six years later down the down the line, you may pop back into some of those connections that you made at some of these events. So it's definitely worth it to expand your network, and reach out and meet people. It's definitely good advice.   

David Dezso    00:47:07    You know, for me now, I don't necessarily need a network to get a job, but I love the network that I have because now I've transitioned for them. A lot of them have grown in their companies. And now if I bring awareness to a charity or something, I get a lot of support from those people. And it's powerful, right? So I do a lot of work supporting the Green Beret foundation and some other charities that are around veteran causes. And now I leverage that network to tap into, Hey, there's a golf tournament coming up. You know, I'd love to get your company to sponsor, then all of a sudden it changes the dynamic for that. So it's a powerful thing. I would say the number one characteristic as an individual going in though, is going into it with a genuine desire to help others.  

David Dezso    00:47:54    And with that, it'll help you, there's a thing called give, to get, be grateful for your opportunities to help others, be grateful that you can walk into that meeting when someone else may come in in a wheelchair. The other thing about those networks is that there's just a lot of great things, whether it's startup incubators or ideas that you have, it's a great community to come through. I went to Rice business school and there's a thing called veterans and business association. And they do like a shark tank thing, right? So now you've got high level entrepreneur ideas, and they've got a big city incubator around them and it's exciting so it can be everything from, let's just have a happy hour to let's have a community, let's have a golf fundraiser, and then let's have some real professional opportunities raising money to drive business.  

David Dezso    00:48:46    I mean, there's a lot of growth. I mean, there's some pretty neat veteran businesses like Black Rifle Coffee in an exceptional, grunt style. That guy was a drill Sergeant. You know, I didn't have a crazy career, I was just a hungry driven guy. There's a lot of great things that are out there now. And I always kind of joke around like the patriotism kind of, for some reason, it's in debate in the country right now, which I can't believe and understand, but at the same time, it's really important for those communities to come together and support each other's brands that come out. You know, I love buying veteran stuff. Like if you're a veteran company and you're trying to get your word out there trying to build something, there's some really neat veterans out there doing some neat stuff. Regimental Barrel Works is a friend of mine that does really cool stuff with wood and makes all these ornate plants like you get behind yourself a little bit. I mean, if not us who, if not now when right.   

Scott DeLuzio:    00:49:47    Yeah, exactly. And I think that's how the military community is, and  we're out there to support one another. And I think that's a good place to end it. So with that, David, it's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today, hearing about your experiences and your stories and your career path. If people in the Houston area, are you guys that networking group, is that still meeting? 

David Dezso:  Yeah. 

Scott DeLuzio: Okay. Where can people go to find out more about that and actually everything else you're doing?  

David Dezso    00:50:24    Yeah. If you look on LinkedIn there's a group called Houston Veterans and Business. You can put my email out, but you can email me and I'll get you on the list for the weekly update, basically there's a happy hour still every Wednesday. Then if you need anything from me, just find me my email or look for my phone as well.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:50:48    Yeah, absolutely. So I'll have links to all of the stuff that we talked about in the episode today in the show notes. So anyone who's interested, if you're in the Houston area, and want to get involved, definitely check that out. I'll have the link to the Houston veterans and business group in the show notes and, again, thank you for joining me. And I really appreciate the information that you were able to share with us today.  

David Dezso    00:51:13    Awesome. Thank you for having me and look forward to talking to others.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:51:17    Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.

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