BTU #101 - Joshua Jabin: Marines to COO at the Travis Manion Foundation


“When I got out after 12 years I was married, we had our first child and were looking at having our second child. I was very focused on a career that would pay me what a Major with twelve years in was currently paying me. I wasn't so interested in taking a step back and thinking about these questions of what am I good at, and what do I enjoy doing and what do I think is important. What most people don't think about is that you have forty more years in your career - so really, that's the right time to start asking yourself these questions - what do you enjoy doing, what are you good at?” - Joshua Jabin

Joshua Jabin is the Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Travis Manion Foundation. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served in the Marine Corps for 12 years, first as a Aviation Supply Logistics Officer, obtaining his MS in Operations Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, and teaching Mathematics at the Naval Academy. After his transition to the civilian sector, Joshua worked as a Senior Management Consultant at the ReefPoint Group, before joining the Travis Mountain Foundation about 2.5 years ago.

The top 2 reasons to listen to this episode is:

  1. Passion + Skills - Joshua works for a incredible organization and resource for veterans. They have a transition workshop that doesn't focus just on finding the right job... they focus on helping you find the intersection of passion and skills in your personal and professional life. Joshua LIVES this, as he initially took a 1/3 pay cut from his initial consulting job, in order to follow work that he knew would be more fulfilling for him and his family.
  2. Great resource for veterans - whether you're on active duty, recently transitioned, or transitioned decades ago, The Travis Manion Foundation has a variety of way to volunteer and serve after leaving the military including “Character Does Matter” which trains veterans to educate and mentor youth about character and leadership.

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Selected Resources

Show Notes

Note: I've typed these notes during my interview with Josh, so they may not completely represent his words, and may contain spelling and grammar errors. My intention is to provide veterans with a quick reference to see the gist of our conversation, along with timestamps to hear Josh's actual advice in his own words within the interview.

  • 3:50 - Joshua's background
  • 4:35 - What would you want listeners to know about the Travis Manion Foundation?
    • Membership organization led by veterans and survivors to develop character in the next generation to help communities. They want to create THRIVING communities and individuals - creating meaning through serving others, relationships, and engagement (leveraging your strengths).
    • Veterans volunteer to work with youth through a character program
    • Travis was a Naval Academy Graduate (2004) and 1st Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He was killed on April 29, 2007 on his second tour overseas. His mother started the foundation to help other veterans and families of fallen veterans
    • Today they are an organization of 90k people located in regions throughout the country
    • Their goal is also to help create the next generation of leaders by training veterans to mentor youth about character and leadership
    • For all veterans who come back and want to see how they can continue to serve, they also provide a way they can do this and have that same sense they had in the military
  • 9:45 - What is the TMF transition workshop program?
    • It is VERY different from a lot of other great transition programs out there - they don't focus solely on the career piece. Their goal is to help veterans have a successful post-military life - meaning, relationships, engagement. Both in your career and how you can continue to grow.
    • After this, they help veterans identify their strengths and passions, and how to incorporate into their story, along with their training and education and experience. This helps them network, communicate as they find their ideal job
    • The final piece of the transition has successful veterans come in and share what they do and what they've learned, and how that relates to their passion and strengths (to see options)
    • There are partner organizations that offer additional workshops - resumes, interviewing, job placement etc
  • 16:16 - If someone listening would like to get involved with or help support the Travis Manion Foundation, how can they do that?
    • Not exclusive to veterans - we have "inspired civilians" as well
    • If you're 1 year out from leaving or recently left the military and need help in the career transition, you can find info about attending workshops and also resources directly on the website
    • There's also info on the website about “Character Does Matter”—TMF’s main effort— train veterans to educate and mentor youth through doing school assemblies sharing stories about character or Character & Leadership courses for veterans to mentor kids. Great way for veterans to continue to serve outside of military.
  • 18:00 - For someone listening on active duty, how would you explain what you do?
    • He is the #2 at the Travis Manion Foundation. Started 2.5 years ago, and worked way quickly to COO (initially Chief of Staff)
    • He is the #2 next to the President/CEO
    • Their President is very external - partnership & fundraising meetings, presenting at conferences. So Joshua's role is about overseeing daily operations - finances, budget, programs/curriculum, operations... all the daily operations
    • They have Regional Heads throughout country and various departments - his job is to hold them all together
  • 19:46 - How would you explain a COO role? What does this look like on a day-to-day basis?
    • Every day is different - this is one thing he really loves
    • 5-5:30 - wake up before kids and check email (West Coast team emailed through the night)
    • Spend time with kids
    • When in at the office, every Monday morning he (and his program & department heads) put out their top 3 list for the week
      • This week: #1 Program evaluation, #2 Developing Curriculum, #3 - 1st Spartan Leadership summit
    • Review finances
    • 2:30 - meet with Regional Heads to review big picture anything that affects their programs
    • get home, play with kids, check email afterwards depending on the day
    • End of week they share a weekly summary. This allows to support as needed all the execution that occurs throughout the week
  • 27:08 - You got out after 12 years of service. How did you think about transition from the military earlier, vs staying in for 20 years?
    • What he found from his transition - and working with thousands of vets who have transitioned - it's challenging no matter when you transition
    • After 12 years I felt too senior to go through the JMO Recruiters, but I wasn't senior enough for some of the other positions available
    • He started with a JMO recruiter - they were very knowledgeable and had great advice. TMF uses a lot of this info in their transition workshop as well now. But he knew it wouldn't be a good fit because Joshua wanted a small company rather than a large company. He would need to take a step back in terms of salary and authority / leadership when going to a larger company. However, there would be a larger runway to be able to build into a very senior role.
    • He realized there are other options: working for a smaller company (like Travis Manion Foundation) or starting your own company
  • 30:18 - Big company v. small company.
    • He LOVED being a Marine, and is still a Reservist and loves it
    • It did get to a point where he was in a HUGE organization and realized he couldn't move the needle
    • Wanted to go to a small company where he could see a big impact from his work
    • He loves now that he will be there for a LONG time and enjoys seeing the impact of his work
  • 33:32 - What is the ReefPoint Group?
    • It was started by three Naval Academy grads who started the year before him. He didn't know them at the Naval Academy, but heard about them while teaching math at the Naval Academy
    • He was applying to IBM, Booz Allen, etc and had several friends refer him to the owner of the ReefPoint Group
    • Met with Chris (using his network) and joined them - they were the smaller company he was looking for
    • It's a very bright team - a Management Consulting firm that focuses on data analytics, so different from traditional MBA Management Consulting type roles
    • Enjoyed it but quickly realized it wasn't his passion in life; many people were way ahead of him technically
  • 35:50 - How would you explain to someone on Active Duty what you did as a Senior Management Consultant?
    • Was living in Annapolis as a subcontractor for a large organization and also at a hospital in San Diego. He would fly out every Monday and fly back red-eye on Thursday. He was doing consulting work for Navy Hospitals
    • It was important work, liked the people he worked with
    • When thinking about how he spent his time when he wasn't working, he was a "Character does matter" ambassador for the Travis Manion Foundation going into schools and working with the kids - this was his passion. He loved being a leader and a mentor
    • When he spoke with the family he found out they were looking for a #2
    • He wrestled with Travis Manion at the USNA - he was at an Army vs. Navy wrestling match and saw Colonel Manion (Travis’ father). He told him "at some point I'  want to work for you full time"
    • Joshua though he wanted to make a lot of money first and then come work there. But Colonel Manion encouraged him to talk anyways
    • He didn't think there was any way he could do it (financially)
    • He was going to need to take a 1/3 pay-cut. He told his wife he couldn't do it, and she actually pushed him into it. He initially turned it down and couldn't sleep afterwards. His wife pointed out that they didn't need all the things they currently had and he decided to make the leap
    • His kids still have way more things than they need and he's never regretted it
    • Everyone deserves to be happy - we as veterans are so competitive and set such high bars for ourselves, always looking ahead. He stepped back and said - "when do I cash in these chips... how long to defer happiness"
    • Find a career and company that aligns with your values and does something you think makes a difference (for example teacher, coach or a company like Johnson & Johnson innovating in the health care space)
    • If you don’t have that in your full time job, look for a non-profit organization that will give you the opportunity to give back in a way that best fits your strengths/passions. TMF’s Character Does Matter program was the right fit for Josh; loves mentoring kids and telling stories about people that demonstrated character. But other great organizations like Team RWB and Team Rubicon that may be a good fit for other veterans.
  • 47:20 - Are there any resources - books, podcasts, conferences, websites, trainings - that have helped you in your civilian career that you would recommend to veterans listening?
    • Hire Heroes USA - great resource for veterans. TMF is a great Step 1, when veterans leave he recommends them to Hire Heroes USA (resumes, job placement)
  • 48:47 - Final words of wisdom?
    • Life is short - you have to do what it takes to be happy
    • Career is important, salary is a factor, but step back and think what makes you happy.
    • Think about your strengths and passions and how to channel them to make a difference—both career and how you continue to serve
    • Don't wait - don't think that if you grind it out you can do it later