Transitioning and Camaraderie

Drive On Podcast
Drive On Podcast
Transitioning and Camaraderie

Matt and Brad join me to discuss their time in the military as fighter pilots, a stint as Senior White House Advisor to Secretary Mattis, and their transition to the civilian sector.

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Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:03    Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we talk about issues affecting Veterans after they get out of the military. Before we get started, I'd like to ask a favor if you haven't done so already, please rate and review the show on Apple podcasts. If you've already done that, thank you. These ratings help the show get discovered so it can reach a wider audience. And while you're there click the subscribe button so that you get notified of new episodes as soon as they come out; if you don't use Apple podcasts, you can visit to find other ways of subscribing, including our email list. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let's get on with the show. Hi everybody, today my guests are Matt O'Connor and Brad Byers; Brad and Matt were shipmates together on the USS Stennis for a while  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:52    during their time in the military, Matt was an active-duty fighter pilot in the Navy until 2015 when he joined the Reserves; and Brad was also a pilot in the Marine Corps until 2013 and later served as senior white house advisor to Secretary Mattis in 2017. Both Matt and Brad are working in the civilian sector now and are here to talk about their transition out of the military, as well as some of the interesting stories that they have from their time in the military.  So welcome to the show, Matt and Brad; why don't you tell us a little bit about yourselves and your background?  We can maybe start with Brad first and we can jump to Matt.  

Brad Byers:    00:01:33    Thanks, Scott. I was really hoping that you would start with Matt, but I appreciate the intro. I had an awesome time in the Marine Corps spending about 11 years flying F18s off aircraft carriers; meeting guys like Matt. I got to travel the world and deploy the weapon system as it's intended to be deployed. And I met some great people, had some great times in port and learned a whole bunch of leadership and management things. And after that, I got a chance to enter the private sector with ATI and learning as we go.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:02:21    Awesome. Matt, how about you and a little bit about yourself and your background?  

Matt O’Connor:    00:02:26    Yeah. Thanks Scott. I appreciate the opportunity to join you today.  I grew up on the Eastern shore of Maryland, my grandfather was an aviator in the Navy. From an early age I always wanted to fly. So, I jumped across the Chesapeake Bay, went to the Naval Academy with one thing on my mind and was fortunate enough to get a pilot seat. So, I went through flight school, fortunate enough to get Hornets. And then I spent the rest of my active-duty time, 11 years total, flying Hornets crossing paths with Brad in the same Airwing for a deployment on the Stennis, as you mentioned.  I really enjoyed that and echo his experiences of meeting great people and learning a ton; followed him actually, and we'll talk a little bit about that from a transition standpoint in 2015 to join the company we both work for now in the gaming technologies and there's a good story in that.  But I had a lot of great experiences to kind of round out everything we've learned in the military plus how to apply that in the civilian sector to really bring us to where we are now and what I would say are mildly successful transitions from one life to the next. So, looking forward to sharing that with you.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:03:46    Yeah. Great.  For the listeners, my father introduced me to these two gentlemen here. And I've been told that you have quite a few interesting stories from your time in the service.  I don't know, does that make sound like I'm an old man or something when I say it that way, like your time in the service, I feel like that's something my grandfather would say or something, but I don't know. Maybe it's just me being self-conscious.

Brad Byers:  Not at all.  

Brad Byers:    00:04:16    We had a wonderful night with your dad talking about sea stories over just a couple of beers, maybe a glass of wine or two when we were in Huntsville, Alabama and we spent some wonderful time with your dad and very much appreciate his experience and wisdom and mentorship to us. So, now we do have some fun stories. A lot of them are funny. Some of them are more serious than others, but for the most on our own expense, right.

Matt O’Connor: There's one thing we've talked a lot about what we've learned is being able to look in the mirror and laugh at yourself every now and then, right. Humility, I guess I would call it.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:05:02    Yeah, exactly.  I think that's one of the best kinds of humor when you can turn it back in on yourself and laugh at yourself and not take things too seriously; everybody's a goof sometimes and as long as you can let it roll off and laugh about it, it's all good.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:05:24    Military will teach you that if nothing else.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:05:27    Okay.  When you guys were stationed together on the Stennis, where was this deployment? Where were you located? Was this in the middle East, or was this someplace else in the world?  

Brad Byers:    00:05:43    This deployment was 2009, and we did a Westpac. So, we launched out of Southern California, we headed West, hit Hawaii.  

Brad Byers:    00:05:58    And then, if you remember in 2009 North Korea was kind of hot. The Straights of Taiwan scenario was kind of hot. So, we spent a lot of time in both of those scenarios.  One of the biggest missions, frankly, and one of the Genesis of many of our stories is one of the missions was to flood foreign ports with capital, US dollars.  We did that well, one of the things that we are good at.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:06:30    Yeah. Showing the flag as some people would call it.

Scott DeLuzio: So was that like the official mission, like going there and  

Brad Byers:    00:06:40    I think that was a tertiary mission. So, I think the official mission was to be in and around,  

Matt O’Connor:    00:06:49    Be there, be present

Scott DeLuzio:  Be there, just in case.

Matt O’Connor:  Exactly; persistent presence in that part of the world. But anytime you have a Westpac in, we'll call it non-war times, because we weren't necessarily at war with anyone in that theater and the primary mission, as Brad said, was to show the flag and put capital into ports, you end up spending a lot of time in ports. So, it was barely six months long, which is short by today's standards of deployments and we were in port eight times in those six months.  

Brad Byers:    00:07:23    It was tough, tough.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:07:27    But, for me, one of my most memorable times in a jet came out of that deployment; we were in the sea of Japan in a thunderstorm and, not to get too technical about how to launch and recover airplanes, but they call aircraft carriers the world's biggest weather vanes; because ultimately you have to be pointed into the wind to launch and recover airplanes. And as I'm sure many of your listeners are aware, a storm by nature as circular winds, meaning they're typically low pressure and they rotate counterclockwise. Well, if you're ship, your home, and your airport happens to drive into a storm and there are aircraft airborne, it has to stay in that storm to recover them. Because it's just trying to chase the wind around that storm. Well, that happened one day in the sea of Japan and I happened to be the tanker.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:08:15    So I was going to be the last person to recover. And during this recovery, the weather was so bad. The rain was so hard. We ended up diverting several aircraft to Japan, but there I was a young Lieutenant, relatively new to the squadron, fat, dumb and happy as we used to say, just trying to get a board last guy down. And you know, we record everything out of the front of our aircraft through our HUD heads up display. And I kept the recording because, I didn't see the ship and still I stopped. Luckily, I stopped; but I don't know that I'll ever  

Matt O’Connor:    00:08:56    forget that. Like I said, it was my most memorable time in an airplane, but yeah it was humbling.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:09:06    Yeah, for sure. And like you said, luckily you did stop and stop and just keep going right by next to the ship.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:09:13    That's right.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:09:15    But that is a Testament to not only the equipment on the airplane to allow you to land that way, but also the training that you received that allowed you to trust the equipment that well, because I'm not so sure I would have trusted it; if I can't see it, I don't know that I'm going to trust it.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:09:34    Right. Trust your instruments. That's key. And that plays into a lot of the transition and making that successful. You have to trust the system and the process. We'll talk about it later. I presume, but yeah. Critical lessons.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:09:54    How about you, Brad, any memorable events or stories from your time flying?

Brad Byers:    00:10:01    Yeah, I don't honestly remember a whole lot about that cruise in particular, it was a fairly benign cruise, but I cruised in 2007 where we went to Iraq and Afghanistan and we're supporting OEF and OIF. There were several moments that will stay with me forever, hopefully. One in particular was I joined the squatter and relatively late in our deployment cycle. So, all of the workups that were going on and I showed up about two weeks before we launched on our cruise. And so, in transit, I'm trying to get all the qualifications required to fly into country. And I finally get to where the skipper and the carrier group commander are comfortable with me going into country. And my first night event, my first night combat SORD was with my skipper. And it was over the Eastern portion of Afghanistan, at the Khyber Pass. If you remember,

Scott DeLuzio:  I am very familiar with that. That was where I was stationed.

Brad Byers: Is that right. Do you remember the, we called them kill boxes back then, but where you were?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:11:28    I was right at the Torkham border crossing in Afghanistan. So, our base was about two miles away from the Pakistan border.  

Brad Byers:    00:11:39    No kidding. So, this night, we were flying in the X cast mission, which means we're just loitering overhead and being supportive, getting eyes on if and when there's suspicious activity, and we received a call that there was a troop in context scenario at tick, as you know, and we expedited to the area. And we did at a relatively low fuel state. And as we started to get eyes on the target and situational awareness to what was happening on the ground, we got to our bingo fuel state, which is your signal to go get gas from an airborne tanker. And at the time new guys, nuggets, as we call them, we're not allowed to YoYo tank, which means, you send one of the two craft that are flying in section to go hit the tanker while the other aircraft stays on station and supports the guys on the ground who desperately need it.  

Brad Byers:    00:12:40     But in this situation, they had already taken a KIA. And they were under pressure. And so, my skipper said, “Hey, Brad, I need you to go get gas.” And I'm probably 27 years old. And I leave my lead, my skipper, and it's just a black night. And I think “Holy cow,” and I'm trying to remember back to the brief and remember where the tanker is and all of the communications that I got and find the airborne tanker. I rendezvous on a KC 135 over the middle of Afghanistan, 7,000 miles away from where I grew up thinking, “Oh my gosh, where in the world am I right now? And what am I doing? I'm supporting guys under pressure. I got to get gas.”  

Brad Byers:    00:13:29    I'm all by myself. All right. Plug in; I find the tanker by the grace of God, I get gas. And I come off the tanker and I switch up radio frequency where I try to connect with my skipper. And he says, “Hey, Brad, I just went Winchester,” which means he unloaded all of his munitions and shot his gun until he was out of the ammo. And he says they still need help. Do not drop anything until we get back from getting gas. Yeah. And so I, I said, Roger, that skipper and I show up overhead. And as soon as I check in with the J TAC or the FAC on the ground the J TAC says, “Hey, I need a JDM on this grid coordinate right now.” And I start to explain, “Hey, I can't right now.  

Brad Byers:    00:14:13    I need to wait for my flight lead to get back. And then I'll be able to get that JDM on that target right away.” And he says, “if you can't, you need to get outta here. I need to bring in artillery.” And I said, “all right, where is it?” And he says, “all right, here's the grid coordinate.” And he gives me a four-digit grid, which as you know, is not precise at all. It is a gross area

Scott DeLuzio:  It is a wide area.

Brad Byers:  And so I said, “Hey, I can't do that. I need a 10-digit grid for our ROE. And he said, “Hey you need 10 to do great. He gave me a four-digit grid. Let's just say six, four, two zero. And I said, no, 10 digit. And he goes six four zero zero, zero two zero.  

Brad Byers:    00:15:02    And I started looking around and okay, I understand where the friendlies are. I understand where he wants me to put this JNM and they are there in an extreme scenario, extreme they're under extremis, and I can hear it in his voice. And I said, “all right.” And so, I start pressing out on a 10-mile run and my skipper checks in and he said, “Hey, Byers, what's going on.”  And I said, I'm on a 10-mile run to drop a JDMN. And he said, give me the grid coordinates. And I give it to him in 10-digit grid, but with a lot of zeros. And he says no way. And he checks in, long story short, he confirms a position right before I need to get into my weapon engagement zone, my WEZ and drop the weapon.  I ended up going Winchester that night and by the grace of God we allowed our brothers and sisters on the ground to break contact with the enemy and live another day.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, that's great.

Brad Byers: Although, one of our brothers I should say, and just something that gives me chills telling the story today, it it'll never leave me, it's one of those stories, that tattoos your soul.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:16:15    Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I'm sitting here as one of the guys who has been on the ground and had pilots flying overhead and dropping their bombs and everything like that. That's, from the other side of the story, guys like you are very much appreciated by the guys on the ground because it makes it a whole lot easier.  

Brad Byers:    00:16:40    Had you known it was a guy like me, you would've run. I'll never forget, I'm a knuckle dragger, man. I'm not the smartest guy in the room. O'Connor can't say that, but you do everything that you're supposed to do. You're disciplined, you follow the process and you press the button and you feel the JDEM come off your wing and your wing actually lifts up. And then it's just dead silence. You're not talking to the JTAC anymore. You're taking a cutaway. You're trying to get eyes on with your clear pod or your assets, if you will. And it's just dead silent. And all you can think of is, well, please, please, please hit the target, hit the target at the target. And then literally like 27 seconds later, depending on your outage, obviously; you'll get a confirmation, you'll see an impact and you'll get immediate feedback one way or the other. And there is no feeling in the world after excruciating tense feelings for JTAC to come up over the radio and go “good hits. Good. It's good hits. I need another one.” And you're like, “Oh, thank God.”  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:17:58    Thankfully you hit it. And didn't hit somewhere else that wasn't supposed to be hit, even if it is within a four digit grid.  

Brad Byers:    00:18:10    Anyway.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:18:12     So Brad, you also spent some time working at the White House. What was that like?  

Brad Byers:    00:18:19    I did. So, I got out of the Marine Corps in, in 2013 and came to work for the company that Matt and I are working for now and spent, I don't know, five years or so with ATI. And then I get a call out of the blue from a former colleague and he said, “Hey, Brad, you have anybody that has some DOD or military experience with private industry success.” And I sent him about eight resumes. Matt’s was not one of them

Matt O’Connor:  Thanks for that. 

Brad Byers: And he called me back and he said, “no, you idiot, send me your resume.” And so, I did and long story short, I took the train down from Boston to New York City to interview in Trump tower and a fascinating experience as you might imagine. And then the next thing I know, two days later, I get a phone call saying, “Hey, President-elect Trump would like you to be the Senior White House Advisor for Secretary Mattis.  

Brad Byers:    00:19:22    And I had no business being there, frankly. And honestly, was humbled at the opportunity to go serve my country again; was torn a little bit because for a lot of reasons, but it was an extraordinary opportunity for me to give back, to work with a legend in Secretary/General Mattis. And what a mentor and what a great human being he is.

Scott DeLuzio:  Maddog Mattis.  Well absolutely.

Matt O’Connor:  Pardon the interruption, but at that time too, because you and I spoke a lot during that period because at the same time that this offer was on the table from the White House, you had just gotten a promotion with the company. So, you were debating, what do I do? And what it came down to was the fact that, when you interviewed it was generic to be one of these special advisor positions. You didn't know what it was for. And when it came to be Mattis, department of defense, fellow Marine, in both of our minds that was a discriminator. Yeah. We don't know what this means. We don't know if there's a future with ATI still, but you need to see what this means, because this is an opportunity that doesn't come along very often.  

Brad Byers:    00:20:49    Yeah. It was;

Matt O’Cnnor:  I  was blessed to be a part of that decision because it's not easy to make a pivot like that,  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:20:55    But that's definitely one of those once in a lifetime type of decision or opportunities that come around. And if you don't take that, you probably years from now, you'd be kicking yourself thinking, what if I did, how cool would that be? And all these things that have been going through your head. So, I think he made the right decision there.  

Brad Byers:    00:21:14    Yeah. And, it was a fascinating ride, you know 10, 11 months in with Secretary Mattis and spent just about every day with them and briefed him every morning and was in the oval office with the President. I was in at times sitting in Secretary Mattis' seat in the Roosevelt Room at cabinet meetings, representing the department of defense on trade policy issues. And to say it was surreal is an understatement.  It was a formidable experience. And there's plenty of stories that maybe I'll save for private conversations over a beer someday if we meet.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:21:54    All right. Wonderful.  Let's talk about the transition out of the military and how that looked.  I know a lot of guys and ladies who are getting out of the military, they struggle with that.  They struggle because they lose that sense of belonging that they had in the military.  They struggle dealing with civilians, struggle finding a job, and all that kind of stuff. So, what was your transition like?  Maybe talk to Matt a little bit here and see what was your transition like?  How did that go and what did you find to be challenging and how did you overcome some of those?  

Matt O’Connor:    00:22:45    Yeah, no, that's a good question. And, maybe a little out of order since Brad transitioned first and he's kind of pivotal to my story, but when I was transitioning, I did what is made obvious that you're supposed to do, all the online job boards,, monster, Glassdoor, ladder. And the challenge I had was I didn't really know what I wanted to do as an officer in the Navy and a pilot. I knew I didn't want to fly for the airlines, so that removed one skillset altogether. But beyond that, my skillset was relatively generically leadership, right? And ability to take initiative, solve problems, weed people, which can apply anywhere. And I didn't really know what I wanted to do, which became the challenge with those traditional portals. I didn't have effective search criteria to find, or opportunities that would be what I really wanted to do.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:23:48    So I got all kinds of random things like selling insurance and jobs that just didn't appeal to me. So, I baselined my efforts and ultimately relied on networking and leveraging my LinkedIn account quite a bit. And out of the blue called Brad, who though we flew together, we hadn't spoken in probably two or three years at the time I reached out. He had gotten out two years prior almost.  It was one of those situations where I said, “Hey, man, I'm getting out. I don't know how to do this. Can you help me?” And he said, “Oh my God, I'm at a career conference right now. What do you want to do?” And I said, “I don't know, I'll do anything energy, defense contracting. And he said,”Oh my gosh, we do all that stuff. And I said, “okay, when do you want me there?”  

Matt O’Connor:    00:24:35    And so long story short, six months later I was flying out to Oregon from the East coast to join him in Oregon. He subsequently left three months later, but rotational leadership development program where I didn't have to know what I wanted to do, I would get an opportunity to try a bunch of different things. The point of the story is and where I think my transition can be considered mildly successful is that I was able to have that continuity point through Brad of that comradery that we get from the ready room in the squadron where we would leverage each other.  A lot of times it would manifest itself in just using the old lingo and speaking the old speak just to feel comfortable. But having that relationship is kind of our brand within our company where people know that Brad and Matt get at each other and they provide a levity in otherwise serious situation just from that brotherhood that we built in the service.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:25:41     I think the hardest part of the transition has been three or four years later, trying to figure out identity now that we've been doing this for so long.  Working through that emotion now, all these years later, still leveraging the fact that we did it together largely, I think is the important piece. So, when we talk about what made the transition successful, it was having someone that knew where we came from do it with us, stride for stride. We have many, many Veterans within ATI, but I'm talking about someone who I knew in the service and actually had a relationship with prior.

Brad Byers:  It wasn't a good relationship.

Matt O’Connor:  I wasn’t a good relationship, but I had a wing man. Right. And we can debate who's the leader, who's the wing man. There are probably some $5 fines that that conjures. But,  

Matt O’Connor:    00:26:44     The point is, I was able to leverage someone who had the same path as me to be successful, in a new future, which is our transition to the civilian side. So that's my story. You know, it's a work in progress totally six years now, which isn't a long time in retrospect, but that's my story.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:27:15    Yeah. And I liked that you were able to leverage your network and work with each other to help each other out and use that existing connection to find a way into the civilian sector. Brad, you already dipped your toes into those waters.  How did you come across the company that you worked for and get into that program?  

Brad Byers:    00:27:41    Yeah, it's a really good question. So, and I think Matt and I would both, I think I can safely speak for Matt to say we were very lucky in landing in a place where we had some sponsorship and mentorship at significant levels within the company that recognized our strengths, that we came from the military with while recognizing the gaps that we had and experience with respect to business and manufacturing in our case, and placed some confidence and trust in us that we could fill those gaps.  My story isn't entirely different from Matt; when I was getting out of the Marine Corps, I reached out to my network, although it wasn't active-duty members that I served with, it was people that I had met over the course of my childhood, frankly, and time in service.  

Brad Byers:    00:28:42    And one of those people was a former Army infantry officer who had served in Vietnam who I shot with when I would come home to Pittsburgh.  I shoot a lot of trap and skeet and he was a blue jeans and t-shirt, beer drinking guy that I always hit it off with. And so, when I was departing the Marine Corps, I contacted him and said, “Hey, I'm getting out. And would love to come back to Western Pennsylvania.”  I didn't end up in Western Pennsylvania, but he introduced me to some great people within ATI and one of which is our mentor, John Simms who happened to be the president of one of our business units at the time who served 13 years as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer in the 80s.  

Brad Byers:    00:29:36    And he had obviously a great understanding and respect for the crucible that we had been through as young military officers. And at the time he was excited and interested in establishing a program where he could bring mid-grade military officers from the military in the private industry and rotate us around the business, get us exposure to operations and lean thinking and sales and maintenance and engineering and other facets of the business, and see what makes sense for us and then deploy us into important roles within the business. And we were really lucky to do that and have sponsorship from a guy like John Simms and others, very important folks that really took us under their wing to teach us the things that we desperately needed to know. And I think for both Matt and I, it was great to be able to come in with some leadership and management experience, but not know anything and be comfortable in our own skin to say, “Hey, I know nothing about this. Tell me about your process. Hey, I'm a dumb, dumb, but that doesn't make a whole lot of sense; teach me, teach me why that does.” And there's some value in that, right?

Scott DeLuzio:    00:31:06    Yeah, absolutely. And leveraging that network, and finding the opportunities that are out there.  I think a lot of times guys get out of the military and they kind of just go it alone and they have that tough guy attitude. I could figure this out; I don't need help or whatever the case may be. And why wouldn't you use a network, if you have people available to you who can help you out? Why wouldn't you use that?

Matt O’Connor:    00:31:39    You know, we got lucky from personal relationships, but largely in any city or even outside of cities these days,  there are so many opportunities for Veterans to get connected.  I live in Charlotte and there's an entity called Veterans bridge home. That is a huge, they're not a formal Veteran service organization, but they help Veterans with transition and otherwise. And I'm affiliated with the Travis Mandian foundation, which is more about honoring the heroes we've lost. But it's an opportunity where we can source connections for Veterans. So, I think one of the things you're getting at is what can we offer those that are approaching transition or in transition, ask for help, reach out, there are hundreds of thousands of us and most of us have done this, right.  There is one that should feel like they have to do it alone and it's easy, right? It's easy to fall into that feeling, not knowing how to do it, or I had to rack my brain and fail first before I realized, “Hey, I have this whole network of people that I can leverage. Why am I not doing that?”  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:33:00    Yeah. So, a while back, I had interviewed some people from the VFW, American Legion, other organizations like that. And I think people who are in the post 9/11 era, see those organizations as the old man drinking club kind of thing, that's where their grandfathers belonged and things like that. But if you think about it, organizations like that exist and yes, sure there are some you know, Korea, Vietnam, older Veterans who are members of those organizations, but they all those people at one point or another went through those transitions and they have their own networks. So, it only makes sense. Like if you have nobody else, no friends on the outside that you can reach out to like YouTube, did join an organization like that, go meet up with some of these people. They have connections. Some of them are business owners or they work for corporations and things like that, go out and make these connections. and see if you can get that kind of assistance or maybe they'll offer you some advice on where to go to get the help that you need as far as job search and things like that.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:34:13    Okay. That's a great point, Scott. And as you do, if I could offer one small piece of advice that I think was important to me, because I was lucky and stumbled onto it. But in retrospect, looking in the rear-view mirror, it was critical to my success or moderate success. It is pick the mentor, not the job. Go find a mentor that you want to work with, that you want to have teach you and coach you.  I think that's the most critical thing as we transition out of the military. We have so many great skills. We can offer so much value, but you need a mentor to guide you through the lexicon and jargon and the language differences. It's not a ready room, it's not a platoon, it's different, it's great, but it's different. And you just need a little bit of guidance and help through to navigate the way.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:35:27    Yeah. Corporate America and the military definitely have two different languages.  The acronyms are not the same and the languages don't mesh. So, you definitely need, it's almost like you need a bootcamp of learning how to be in corporate America somehow.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:35:47     Yeah, it's funny you say bootcamp and Brad talks about mentor because from day one, no matter your commissioning source, your drill instructor, your detailer, those are all mentors in a way. I mean, they're teaching you. And sometimes it feels very one way and it's not comfortable, but they become mentors and that comfort blanket, and then you can transition that into your organizational structure and your commanding officers. Those are all mentors. So, in the military, you're used to always having someone to look to, someone to learn from, someone to leverage.  If you're lucky, someone was looking out for you; frankly, that's different and they're not easy to find as you transition. But to Brad's point, find one and work for them, don't just get a job for the sake of getting a job, right. You're selling short there.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:36:46    When you guys say, find a mentor and find the right mentor for you.  It's not like you just Google, who's my mentor, or and just grab somebody, or just bump into somebody on the street, and it's like, “Hey, you're going to be my mentor today and go about your day. How did you go about finding the mentors that you guys had?  

Brad Byers:    00:37:17    That's a great question. I'll jump in, if you don't mind. It was really important for me to ask a lot of questions, show some industrial humility to say, “Hey, listen, I don't understand what this income statement is saying. Hey, our quarterly results just came in. Who can I talk to teach me about why inventory is a good thing on a statement when it's actually a bad guy, right. And tell me about why it's a bad guy. Tell me why that's a liability.  It's actually an asset on a statement, right. But it's a liability in reality. And how do you navigate, how do you begin to understand that stuff? The only way you do that is by raising your hand and saying, “Hey, I don't understand this. Can you show me?” And when you do, and when you come forward with honest questions and an interest to learn, people will fall over themselves to teach you.

Matt O’Connor:    00:38:36    That's absolutely right. But prior to that point, if we're talking to someone who is trying to figure out how's it doing, what we just said and get a job for the mentor, not for the job itself, Brad was kind of talking from the standpoint of what do you do once you're in a job to secure a mentor, treat an interview as if you're interviewing the company, not as the company interview.  I'm prepared with the questions to ask, to find yourself a mentor. That's an important, know yourself and know how you think you need to be developed, know what you want to get out of a relationship and make sure that hiring manager or company or entity can give that to you. So, to answer your discreet question, Scott, that's how you find a mentor. You interview the company. It's not the other way around. And I think that's where a lot of people, they figured they just need to show up and say the right words and answer the right questions and get interviewed, right? No, you're interviewing companies. You want to work for the right company. You want to work for a mentor, and then you look at it that way I need to be patient. Right?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:39:42    Yeah. That's great advice. And I think that's where a lot of people fail in their job search is that they're looking for a job, any job sometimes. And they get all nervous at the interview and are they gonna want me? But if they flip the script in their head and say, am I going to want them, not to walk in there cocky and arrogant, but you want to make sure that that's a company that you want to actually work for.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:40:16    There is no reason a Veteran anywhere should feel desperate.

Brad Byers:  The dichotomy that you just articulated and highlighted, right. This dichotomy between “Hey, I'm valuable. And I have a skill set that is desirable.” and Oh, by the way, as we look around the corporate landscape, God, we want more of us around.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly.

Brad Byers:  Right. And you balance that with intellectual interests and some industrial humility, and you ask good probing questions and you look in the mirror and say, how can I get better? And “Hey, I'm really interested in personal and professional development. How does this company and organization, and culture facilitate that?” And “Hey, I'm really interested to learn more about finance because I don't know anything about it. Tell me, tell me how I can learn more about it. “It is an honest, open kamono, as we might say, politically incorrect, I guess, but, “Hey, these are the strengths that I bring and the warts that I have and the gaps that I have and how I think I can get from here I am to where I to go and how can this organization help me?  

Brad Byers:    00:41:36    I think, gosh, if I interview a candidate that said something like that, that says, “Hey, these are the strengths that I bring. Here are the gaps that I have. I want to go from here to there, I would eat it up.”

Scott DeLuzio:    00:41:52    It’s all on the table at that point, you know what is in their head, what they're thinking, they know what you have to offer as a hiring company for that particular job. And it's very transparent. Everyone knows where each other is sitting there. There's no surprises. I think it's a win-win; you don't want to walk in on day one and then throw a curve ball at the person who just put their neck out there to sign off on hiring you for a job, and then all of a sudden say, “well, this is what I'm really looking for. And now that I'm here…” Gotcha Kind of thing.

Matt O’Connor:    00:42:35    Yeah. And as hiring managers, we're not looking for perfection, right. We're looking for good raw material.

Brad Byers:  Willingness.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:42:44    Yeah, exactly.  If you're able to be trained on the job, and I think anyone in the military can definitely be trained on quite a few different jobs. They had to be trained to do their job in the military. So why can't you be trained to do a civilian job as well?  Obviously in the civilian sector, you don't want to spend all your money on training and things like that; all your time and resources on training, but for the right candidate, for the right person for the job, it could definitely be worth it. So, just because you don't necessarily have the training from the military, I don't think it necessarily means that you're unqualified for a particular job in the civilian world.  

Brad Byers:    00:43:28    That's a great point, Scott.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:43:31    Any other closing thoughts that either you Matt or Brad have before we wrap this up,  

Matt O’Connor:    00:43:41    No, Scott, I appreciate the opportunity. You know, we did enjoy getting to know your dad and getting to learn from him.  We gave you a little bit of Tip ahead of time, but trying to leverage all he did with Danaher and our company and lastly, I just want you to know that we respect your brother, Steven, I believe right.

Scott DeLuzio: Yes. Thank you.

Matt O’Connor: Thank him for his service. Thank you for your service and your loss.  I think never forget, right?

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:19    Absolutely. Definitely. Appreciate it. 

Brad Byers:    00:44:21    Happy to be a part of this and I echo that.  Tough, tough, tough to follow and one of the things your dad had told  

Brad Byers:    00:44:32    us that resonates with us that, I think this is all about is that for people, right? Build trust, build relationships, demonstrate respect, and you'll be successful. And thanks for all that you're doing Scott and that your family has done.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:53    Absolutely. Well, thank you both very much. It has been a pleasure getting to know you and chat with you today.  Thank you very much again for taking the time to join me today.  

Matt O’Connor:    00:45:03    Thanks Scott.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:45:09    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 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @DriveOnPodcast.


  1. gerard s oconnor,MD on 20 April 2021 at 11:26

    I think you have provided critical guidance for Veterans re entering society and job force

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