The cavnessHR podcast – A talk with Nick Tran, Manager, Community and Veteran Affairs for Schlumberger Limited.
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Jason: 0:01 Hello, and welcome to cavnessHR Podcast. I’m your host, Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Nick Tran. Nick, are you ready to be great today?
Nick: 0:11 I'm ready.
Jason: 0:12 Nick Tran is Manager, Community and Veterans Affairs for Schlumberger Limited. Before this role, Nick served as Manager of Veteran Programs, Human Resources for Cameron, a Schlumberger company where he was responsible for providing strategic leadership for Cameron’s development and implementation of a veterans program to focus on veteran community outreach, career development and veteran recruitment initiatives. During 2014 – 2015, Nick was Military Recruitment Program Manager for Cameron, a Schlumberger company, where he created and implemented a veterans program to attract, recruit and retain former military veterans for the organization. Prior to joining Cameron, Nick held several leadership positions in Human Resources to include, Talent Acquisition Manager for Express Energy, and Recruiting Manager for Igloo Products Corporation. Nick was acknowledged as a contributing author for the Recruiting for Dummies book, published in 2001. Nick is a US Army veteran and served in several combat deployments including Operation Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
Jason: His military decorations include two Combat Action Badges, two Army Commendation Medals, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal and the Governor's Twenty Tab. Nick earned a Professional Human Resources Development certificate from the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. Nick is currently attending the Executive Program for Leadership Development at Harvard Business School. His board affiliations include Executive Advisory Board for NextOpVets, Executive Advisory Council for Military Friendly, committee member of the Boy Scouts of America, and Advisory Board of the Alliance for Multicultural Community Service. Nick, thank you for being here, you're definitely doing a lot for our community, and I know I appreciate that. So, I want to turn it over to you. What is Nick Tran doing right now? What are you involved with right now?
Nick: 2:18 So, I'm in charge of the veteran initiative we have to empower veterans, that's our focus – to empower veterans in two main, key areas. One is recovery – and that's recovery from physical or mental wounds – and secondly, is to empower veterans by helping them transition from the military into a career. I'm not talking about a job, but we're interested in bringing them into a career, something that is sustainable for them and their family and they can they can retire from. So, for those who don't know, we’re the largest oil and gas services company in the world; we have over a hundred thousand employees in 85 countries. The focus to hire veterans made sense for us because a lot of our roles are field-related. Where you either have a mechanical technician or electrical technician or field engineer. That spends a lot of time on the oil rig and we can send them out to a customer’s rig – a customer being like Exxon, BP, Shell, some of the main players – and they could be out in that rig for three weeks at a time. We're operating all over the world, so it could be real hot, it could be real cold. For the longest time, we had problems with retention because people would just go there and just realize, “hey, I can't do this.” The money is great; first-year income for a lot of our field engineers is over six figures, but the operation tempo of staying out and working in those harsh environments were just something they were not able to do.
Nick: So, I was thinking back on my military career and all those deployments I had, a lot of people that I work with, we worked in some pretty tough environments from 134° in the desert to negative 16° in the mountains of Afghanistan. We still did what we had to do; we had to get the job done, get the mission accomplished. So I proposed a pilot program to allow us to hire some veterans and put them straight into field service positions and see how that goes. So, on average, our turnover rate for field service technicians historically have been 68%. So, people just come in and within 180 days, they're out. We had to hire new people and retrain them. So, with this pilot program that finally got approved, I was able to hire 12 veterans initially for the program. After a year later, only one left. So, we have a turnover rate of 9% versus a company which has 68%. So, obviously, I was a pretty big success and things just launched from there. I realized, we’re hiring a lot of vets but what are we doing to keep them around and are we developing them. So, I created a training program for vets – it's a career development – so, once a quarter we’ll invite speakers from different levels of the organization. From the executive leadership team to outside speakers that have been successful, that have been veterans, that have been successful in their careers, to provide career advice on how to grow your career within the organization. Topics like personal branding, gravitas, time management, just all different topics, to help people within an organization to continue to grow and move upward within an organization. Then another thing is, instead of just going out to recruit and by going to specific, military job fairs, we wanted to go out and make a name for ourselves as an employer who really, truly cares about the veteran community.
Nick: So, we go out and we support nonprofit organizations that focus on the two things I've talked about before – to help veterans in recovery and transition. So, we have organizations that help mentor vets, give them resume advice, interviewing tips and we also volunteer. There's several vets within an organization; we have over a thousand vets here in the US, and for example, recently I went to Fort Bliss and was invited by a USO to provide a resume and interviewing clinic workshop for transitioning vets. So, the class had 55 veterans in it and we came out there. I brought some HR folks with me, and we sat down and looked at all the resumes and just gave them tips and advice to give them off interviews. It's just stuff like that working with them at Fort Bliss, there're still 180 days out from the discharge. So we're obviously not there to hire them immediately, but we want to bring our organization out there, help vets where we can. Our statement is pretty much, “we want to give you the skills to help you transition successfully.” If you choose us, that's great, but if you decide to work with someone else, that's fine too; our goal is to help you. So, pretty much that's my program in a nutshell and I’d like to open up for questions if anybody had specific questions that I can help based on some of the lessons I've learned developing different programs through different companies.
Jason: 7:51 Nick, so I actually grew up in Odessa, Texas in the middle of oil country in West Texas, and there's a lot of boom and bust in the oil industry. How does that affect recruiting veterans? Do you have to explain that to them, that it’s boom or bust? Or how does that work?
Nick: 8:07 So, obviously the downturn starting from 2014 really hurt the industry quite a bit and we've lost a significant amount of people, just like every other major oil player in the game. But, the thing is, in the Permian Basin right now specifically, it's a very competitive market. Employers are basically nabbing employees from other companies and everybody's just doing like musical chairs – they’ll work for come one company and get pulled out, work for their competitor and then eventually come back – and that model is really not sustainable. So, the reason we go to Fort Bliss, which is four hours away from the Permian Basin, is to establish our brand there and educate people who are not familiar with the oil and gas industry and are afraid of the oil bust and boom, the cycles that this industry has. Also, the shift towards cleaner energy is eventually going to happen. For us, we understand that.
Nick: Personally, I feel oil and gas is not going anywhere for at least another 80 years. But we are also investing in a lot of technology to put us in positions for us to be able to transition whenever the new energy and new, sustainable, green energy is available. That we're also going to be a player in that market as well. For those that don't know, we're the eighth largest employer of IT professionals in the world – when you think of IT, you're thinking of Amazon, you think of Facebook, Google, Apple. But we're ranked number eight as far as hiring IT folks. So, technology is very, very important to us. And that's some of the things we help educate when we also go to the bases – to educate veterans that this is a sustainable organization, we're not going anywhere and we're also prepared to make that shift whenever it's appropriate.
Jason: 10:13 Nick, so when you recruit veterans, do you recruit them all the same, or there's a different plan based on the different branch, different ranks, different lists of service? Are there different plans for that? Or is it all basically veteran recruiting?
Nick: 10:28 No, it's not. We don't recruit veterans just because they're veterans. So, there are two targets that we hit – one is mid-level NCOs (which are non-commissioned officers) those are listed in the civilian sector that will be considered your workers, your supervisors; and then we also have a Junior Military Officer program, and those are your managers. So, the first one is the NCO program, we look for folks that have worked in the military as either a mechanic or an electrician, or have gone through the Naval nuclear program. We hire those folks for field service or field engineers, putting them in manufacturing plants, and we start them off with a pretty good salary. Like I said, they average between eighty to one hundred and twenty-first year. And then our JMO program for junior military officers it's a development program. What our intent is to bring them in and put them into several business segments.
Nick: Initially, first year or two years, they're going to be in a certain business segment and then the second year we're going to move them into a different one. For example, if we start them off as a field engineer, they work out in the field managing a crew for two years. After that, we're going to move them to something in a corporate; it could be HR, it could be finance, could be communications. They will move on to another spot. The reason for that is because we want them to be well-rounded as far as business leaders do in an organization, to understand how different business segments operate. Another thing we also do is we want to make sure that they have exposure in at least three countries. So, they start right here in the US, the next opportunity we offer them could be somewhere in the Middle East, could be in Europe, or it could be in Asia. Because we're such a global company, we want them to have that global exposure because if they're going to be in a senior leadership position, they need to have that business acumen and also the cultural awareness that we require from everybody in that level.
Jason: 12:44 Nick, so through your experience doing recruiting with veterans, is there like one skill that a lot of veterans are missing when they try to transition?
Nick: 12:56 The biggest thing that companies have challenges with is, they look to see what that veteran did in the military, and they're stuck on that. Now, if you think of the military like a college job or something somebody did in high school, this does not mean that that veteran is only capable of doing that specific thing. For, just as an example, my military career, I was a Special Operations Medic; I'm definitely not doing anything medical-related in my career now. If a recruiter just saw me as a medical guy, then I would never have been in this spot to make these contributions for this organization. So, look at the bigger picture. There are certain positions that you require a certain skill set or background, and that's fine. But if you're looking for somebody that can learn quickly, somebody that has the tenacity and the grit to get the job done no matter what, then look at your veterans. The key for those is to ask for their evaluation reports. So, a Non-Commissioned Officer has an NCOER, and what that is Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Report – you get two of those a year, officers get two of those year, as well. Basically, that's kind of like your annual review, and on a civilian side, it tells us what accomplishments that veteran did during that year, what areas that need to be improved. So, it gives you a good, solid, I would say like a microscope, into what they did in the background. They can say they were a great soldier or veteran, but you have that paperwork. Any veteran that is at least squared away, is going to have a book that has all of this information, his or her information, that they can share to you.
Jason: 14:47 Yes, thank you, Nick. Nick, next talk about a time you were successful, what you learned from this success, and what we can learn from the success that you had.
Nick: 14:59 From a personal standpoint, I think it was just my attitude. I don't know how applicable this is for your listeners that are companies, but when I got out of the military, I knew I had to take a couple steps back. I was 25 years old at that time and I got a job working selling computer training for business-to-business. The hours were pretty hard – you had to get there at 7 o'clock and you work until 7:00 at night, you had to make a certain amount of calls. I hate to say this, but this the job was almost a sweat shop, because if you wanted to go to the bathroom, you had to raise your hand, ask for permission to go. It was tough. But at that time, everybody that was around me that were hired were just saying, “hey, this job sucks, I'm not going to put up with this.”
Nick: They pretty much left. I just stuck around and said, “hey, this is great.” This was first time I got to work in a corporate office, I got to go there before the sun came up and left after the sun went down. For me, at 25 years old, that was my first corporate job and I thought it was the best thing in the world. I didn’t get paid much, but I was there longer than everybody that got hired in my group (because they hired a group at a time and then put them through training) and I’m the last. I worked there for about over a year, did pretty good, and I just moved on to a better career. But I think it was just attitude that helped me be successful. I think you'll find a lot of that with veterans; not every veteran is going to be like that because veterans are just people, they come from the population, the general population, as well. But there you can find the cream-of-the-crop if you do your research and just learn more about the veteran culture and you just look at some of their background.
Jason: 17:01 Yes. Nick, next, talk about a time that you failed, what you learned from this failure, and what we can learn from this failure that you had in the past.
Nick: 17:10 The thing about failure is, if you don't fail, you're not pushing yourself hard enough, you're getting complacent. When I built the program, I had an idea of what the program was about and I failed because my vision was so one-dimensional that, hey, I want to help veterans. But I didn't take into accountant how does this program benefit the business. So, I made my first presentation for the president of our business segment and I was like, “I want to help veterans, we want to do these things.” And she's like, “that's great, I've got 20,000 employees here in North America and only a thousand of them are veterans. I can't spend all my resources to just help the thousand.” So, I went back to the drawing board and realized that, how can I sell this program that will benefit the business? So, obviously, I brought in different business managers from the segment and asked them what was important and why they would want to hire veterans or what was the performance gap that they needed and how veterans can fill that. Then after I fixed that, represented it, and, of course, I got buy in on it. So, you have to fail. If you don't fail, it means you're not pushing yourself hard enough and you're not going to get to the next level.
Jason: 18:41 Yes, I definitely agree with that. I agree that you’ve got to be uncomfortable and failure is good as long as you learn from it, of course. Nick, talk about someone that’s helped you in the past and how they helped you.
Nick: 18:57 It's not always just been in my past, it's every day. So, I've built a good network with veterans from other organizations, even competing organizations, veterans from nonprofit organizations. So, it's not just one person, it's a whole coalition of people who want to help veterans and most of them are veterans within organizations. So, we do a lot of knowledge-sharing with our competitors, with their customers, we do co-presentations with Exxon – they have a pretty good network of veterans within the organization – we work with Phillips 66, BP. So, it's not one person, and always there's a ton of people willing to help. You just have to get out there, make a name for yourself, and establish your network within the veteran community.
Jason: 19:49 Yes. Thank you, that's very good advice. You have to be open to advice every day. Next, tell us something about yourself that most people don't know. Of course, your close family, close friends, know this but most people don't know this about Nick Tran.
Nick: 20:07 So, for me, it was somebody told me a long time ago, “don’t get complacent; what's the next best thing you're going to do?” So, I know I find a lot of people, or veterans, that have done some great things when they're in their military career, but they lived the rest of life based on those accomplishments. Then, for me personally, I don't want to be that old guy that just talks about the war and how I did this and that in the war; I want to continue to evolve my career, my personal self, I want to continue to grow, I want to move forward. Professionally, I brought Cameron on the map with getting the Military Friendly Employer Award, first time ever. I could very easily just live off that and say hey I did that. But now, it’s 2017 and there’s more conscience that I have to continue to search for, to strive for to make. And I want to continue to do that throughout my life. That's my advice, hope it works for everybody, but never stop evolving, never stop growing, and never stop learning.
Jason: 21:26 That's great advice, Nick. Nick, we’ve come to the end of our talk. Can you provide any social media platforms for yourself or Schlumberger so people can reach out to you?
Nick: 21:38 You can connect with me through LinkedIn, that's usually the best way to do it. My name is Nick B. Tran and that's what I'm listed as on LinkedIn. I'm pretty busy but I would love to help share some of the lessons that I've learned through the development of our program. And I'm still learning to make things better; I'm working on making this program global for our organization, there are certain countries we want to go into. But feel free to reach out to me, LinkedIn is the best way to do it, and it's a Nick B. Tran.
Jason: 22:14 For our listeners, all the links will be provided in our show notes. Nick, before we end the talk, can you provide any last words of advice, like to veterans, those whose jobs are in transition, or other companies trying to recruit these veterans?
Nick: 22:29 So, I have a couple. For veterans, you're going to have to take initiative like you did in the military; you're going to have to do your recon – what I mean by recon is, you’re going to have to research some companies before you go there – and try to figure out what you want to do. You have to figure out what you want to do; you can't bring your resume, give it to a recruiter and ask the recruiter to say, “hey, where do I fit into your organization?” You need to find out what that organization does, you need to find out what jobs are available. You need to find out the minimum requirements for those jobs – in the military, we call those the standards. You have to meet every one of those standards, and you have to exceed them, and you have to beat everyone that also needs those standards, because the market’s very competitive. So, you need to get there, take the initiative, and take charge of your own career. For employers, again, don't look at the veteran based strictly on what he or she did in the military. Because whatever job they did in the military, it may not necessarily be the role they want to continue in their civilian career. Look based on their behavior patterns, look at their evaluation reports. If you're going to hire veterans, don't just go out there and hire veterans; you’ve got to fix your house first. Make sure you remove the barriers to entry to your organization.
Nick: Like if a position doesn't really require a bachelor's degree, can you substitute that with four
years of military experience? That's just questions you have to answer yourself. Also, do you have military-friendly policies within your organization; if you have employees that are currently serving a guard and reserves, and they get deployed either for disaster relief or they get deployed to war, what are you doing going for them? I know the federal law requires you to hold their jobs for five years but, for us, we like to go above and beyond – we match their salary of what they lose when they go back to service up to a year. So, for example, if they're making a hundred thousand here with our organization, and they get deployed for a year to go to Afghanistan and they're only going to make fifty thousand in their military salary, we're going to compensate the other fifty for them. Now, the concept for that is, we want that service member to go focus on the mission, get home safe to their families and to us; we don't want them to have to worry about paying a mortgage, we don't want them to be struggling while they're out there protecting our freedoms. So, think about what programs you have that are military-friendly for your organization and have that in place. So, like I said, fix your house, first build your foundation before you go out and start recruiting people.
Jason: 25:13 Thank you, Nick. That’s great advice, that's very good advice. So, Nick, thank you for being our guest on our cavnessHR Podcast. I know you're a busy person, you're doing a lot of great things, just not only for veterans but people in general. So, thank you very much for that. To our listeners, thank you for your time, and remember to be great every day.
The cavnessHR Podcast can be found at the following places or you can just type in cavnessHR on the respective app.
Social Media links for Nick Tran below!!