In honor of Veterans day, we interviewed CEO of Cloudtegic, Mike Hoal, about his experiences serving as a E-7 Sergeant First Class in the United States Army. From steak & shrimp night to sleeping in a tree, Mike shares his formative experiences that have shaped his career and the culture here at Cloudtegic.

Q/A:

When did you enlist in the military?I enlisted in November 2004 out of Raleigh, NC.

What were some of the reasons that you joined the military? How did you choose your branch of service? I chose the Army due to the availability of jobs based on entry tests that were given, and the ability to get that job guaranteed in a contract. Learning a foreign language and the associated intelligence field was very appealing, and the Army could guarantee that and had a signing bonus. Navy was my second choice, but the only thing available at that time was nuclear submarine engineering that shipped soon and that wasn’t as appealing as Linguistics/Intelligence.

What was (is) your primary job after training (MOS)? I got to learn Korean at the Defense Language Institute, followed by some intelligence training. While I was in, I got the chance to serve as an intelligence analyst, on flight crew, in staff positions regarding operations, planning, and project management, and as a sexual assault victim advocate as well.

Where did you serve while you were in? Most of my time in service was spent in the Republic of Korea, being a Korean linguist. I was on flight crew status for a good portion of my time there. I also was stationed state-side in WA (JBLM), TX (Goodfellow AFB), and short stint in CO.

How did you imagine military life before you joined? How did your perceptions change after serving? I only had 1 family member that I met that had served, which was my grandfather who served in Merchant Marines back in WW2. That was obviously a while ago, and a different world setting, so I didn’t have anything really to compare against other than what you hear from recruiters. Post-service, I look back on it as the best decision I’ve made, other than having kids. I got to serve a great country and serve with amazing people, got to learn a foreign language, and learned invaluable skillsets in leadership, operations, planning, and of course shooting!

Can you describe a funny moment from boot camp? Never thought I’d be able to say I slept in a tree, but I can say that’s off my bucket list. We were on a field exercise in the latter stages of basic, and a family of bears and a mountain lion got attracted to where we were located. Several of us were pulling what was called “fire-watch” which is really just staying up on guard in the freezing Missouri winter to torture you, at least in a basic training sense, and in lieu of being on the ground, I actually ended up inadvertently falling asleep in a tree with all my gear on, while it was snowing.

How do you think your time in the military affected you? It changed my life and provided me with direction & growth, one of the best decisions I made.

Is there anything you wish civilians understood about military service? Like other first responders, there are many soft & hard skills that veterans can bring to many employers, and different perspectives they can provide instead of “That’s the way we’ve always done it”. Most veterans have operated in austere conditions where lack of planning and attention to detail have caused severe consequences, and while not directly related to income statements and balance sheets (with rare exceptions depending on their job/position), it can add value in areas of logistics, operations, planning, training, HR, healthcare, education, technology, and more.

What are some habits you developed in the service that you like? Attention to detail, self-project-management, personal accountability, team mentality, and GSD (Get Sh*t Done) were aspects I’ve taken from service that has been very valuable in the business world.

How has serving in the military shaped you as the CEO of Cloudtegic? I got to see some great examples of leadership while I served, and I was able to take a lot away from those experiences. I also had some great training and opportunities to serve in various capacities in key job functions that have added value to our day-to-day here at Cloudtegic as well, from operations, planning, project management, leadership, mentoring, and training. I think it has a direct effect on our company culture, the team members we select, and our core values, our primary value being service. Our team is currently made up of former teachers, police officers, coaches, volunteers, military spouses, and veterans.

What rank are you most proud to have earned, and why? I left the service as E-7, Sergeant First Class – I was really proud to be a non-commissioned Officer as I got to be a leader, an adviser, an expert, a coach, a trainer, a mentor, and a counselor at times.

What was the best and worst ‘military’ food you were served, and why? The best was when I was stationed on an Air Force Base (steak & shrimp night) and the worst food in the Army was out in the field, out of mobile kitchen trailers (chili-mac). A close runner up would be certain Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), the breakfast ones are just disrespectful. The best non-US food was in Singapore when we were there for exercise, Chili Crab or Laksa (Sedap) from the hawker food stands, or when living abroad in the Republic of Korea, all food there is amazing.

Mike’s final thoughts:

I wouldn’t have been where I am today without the military, it was a life changer for me and provided the direction and goals I needed at the right time. The opportunity afforded to me in service was unmatched.

I encourage all Americans to volunteer with local veterans organizations either with time or resources, start Veterans Resource Groups at your companies, and visit veteran cemeteries and homes. If you are in a hiring position, consider what value a veteran, first responder, or military spouse could bring to your organization. Network with the military community, it’s full of amazing people who are looking for what the rest of life post-military can look like. Also, if you have children, encouraging them to serve, or at least educating them about what veterans and military families have done for this country is beneficial as well, and if you don’t know, educate yourself.

Resources for veterans and transitioning military:

Hiring Our Heroes
Merivis
Candorful
Salesforce Military
VETS Program
Veterati