Sally Nordeen on transitioning from the military to corporate life
After graduating from West Point in 1998, Sally Nordeen served in the US armed forces for eight years including a tour in Afghanistan as a combat heavy engineer. Today, Sally is a Senior Director, Aviation & Government at Smiths Detection, based in Edgewood in the USA.
“In the military you are involved in a tremendous mission and have a sense of being part of something much bigger than yourself – so when I left that environment, I was looking for a job with meaning and relevance,” explained Sally. “Initially I joined a large corporation which I knew would recognise and value my military experience but, although this did ease my transition out of the army, it was just a job and the products didn’t excite me.”
Sally then took the opportunity to join Smiths Detection and be part of a company with a rewarding purpose and a mission – making the world a safer place – that better aligned with her experience in the armed forces. Add her engineering background and Sally felt this company seemed a natural fit. And, as many customer contacts are in some way related to defence, there is a sense of common understanding which helps enormously to build trusting relationships.
“I knew Smiths Detection also valued military experience and there are several ex-service men and women working both on my team and in other departments,” Sally added. “We understand the challenges faced by the military out in the field and can develop strong connections with the government bodies and customers in this sector.”
Navigating a different structure
Transitioning from the services into a company presents a few challenges but the biggest is perhaps navigating the organisational structure. “It is quite a culture shock to move from the top down, vertical military framework to something much more horizontal, however if anyone needs guidance, there are resources and people with similar backgrounds available within the company,” Sally concluded.
Since joining Smiths Detection in 2011 as a Strategic Account Manager, Sally has moved on to the roles of Federal & Military Programs Manager; General Manager, Infrastructure Protection & Field Operations; Director, International Market Development & Channel Management; Senior Director, Global EDS; Senior Director, Sales & Business Development for the Aviation and Ports & Borders markets before taking up her current position as part of Smiths Detection.