We’re honored to have held a panel with Amgen back in June, and had over 40 people sign-up as part of this live, video seminar. During the seminar we had three members from Amgen, each with three very different military experiences, interacting with and responding to our live audience. I wanted to share this seminar with you so you can benefit from their fantastic advice.
About our Panel:
Bre Cameron - Bre was featured in BTU Episode #252. She is based in Findlay, Ohio and is is the Veteran Employment Program Manager at Amgen, where she has worked for over two years. She started out in the U.S. Navy as a Photographer’s Mate, and has been in talent acquisition for over 7 years. She holds a Master’s degree in Engaged Humanities and The Creative Life from Pacific Graduate Institute, and a Bachelors in Liberal Studies from Bowling Green State University.
Troy Knapp is based in San Francisco, CA and is a Talent Acquisition Senior Manager at Amgen, where he has worked for nearly 9 years. He served in the Marine Corps for 8 years, and has worked at Bank of America, Transmerica, Aon Hewitt and more. He holds a B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience form the University of Colorado, an M.A. in Organization Development from John F. Kennedy University and is currently working on his EdD in Organizational Leadership at the University of California, San Diego.
Mariela Quirk is based in Tampa, Florida and is a Project Manager at Amgen, where she has worked for nearly two years. She served in the Air Force for 20 years, and did her undergrad at Trident University International, and earned her MBA at the University of Maryland.
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Transcript & Time Stamps:
Can you explain Amgen to us?
Troy: Amgen is one of the world’s leading biotech companies. We transform new ideas and discoveries into medicines for patients suffering from various illnesses. Amgen covers multiple modalities including cardiovascular, oncology and radiology.
The thing I love about Amgen is our mission statement - Serve patients.
Can you tell us more about Amgen’s veteran employment network?
Troy: Amgen is very good at employee affinity groups. Most large organizations have affinity groups - veterans groups, Africian American groups, women groups, etc. The veteran group sponsor at Amgen is a Vice President. We work together to implement policies that will help us recruit and retain veterans.
Bre: I work remotely so I don’t sit in one of our offices. But I work very closely with our veteran networking group. Frequently I send members of our veterans affinity groups resumes from transitioning veterans. That way the veteran is able to receive feedback about how to improve their resume. When a veteran is hired here, we try to match the veteran with a veteran mentor that can help them get completely up to speed on their role and the company at large.
Mariela: Even before we had the veterans affinity group here, veterans at the organization would find each other more informally and go to one another with issues or ideas.
Troy: The veteran affinity group here runs through the entire organization. Amgen has had two CEOs that were former Navy submarine guys. So from the executive level down, there is a real push to hire veterans.
Are there remote work opportunities at Amgen?
Bre: We do have some remote opportunities within Amgen. There are some contractor roles that allow you to work remotely.
Within Amgen, most veterans work in sales. Those positions are all over the country. We also have Regional Medical Liaisons. Those are remote positions from the beginning. In other cases, you can work with your supervisor to create a schedule that will work for you.
Troy: Bre put together an event at McDill Air Force Base and met a military spouse there. That spouse is now a recruiter for me down in Tampa. So there are definitely opportunities here for spouses as well.
Mariela - you’re in a project manager position. How important are formal certifications for someone in that role?
Mariela: The most important thing about the certification is having the knowledge behind it. So experience is more important than the qualification itself.
Troy: As military members transition out, many think about certifications and education. There are quite a few studies that have suggested that certifications in a specific area can often be more valuable than a degree. So definitely don’t rule out the opportunity to obtain a certification.
What is the Regional Medical Liaison role?
Bre: In that role, Amgen is looking for people with a nursing background. The Liaison works with the doctors and customers in that region to make sure there are no gaps in knowledge or communication regarding the implementation of our products.
Does Amgen hire new PhD graduates?
Troy: As a recruiter, I would look at what field the PhD is in and guide you toward roles that would be particularly suited to your background.
Do you have any advice on the veteran job search process?
Bre: One mistake I often see is that the resume is too long. I encourage veterans to have two versions - a long resume and a short resume. When you actually go to submit an application for a role, create a shortened resume that is aimed at that specific role.
You also don’t need to break your resume down into all the different units you were at. You can combine all those positions into one military section on your resume.
Also make sure you spell out acronyms and clarify any terms that would be unfamiliar to a civilian employer. Have a civilian friend look at your resume and tell you if anything is confusing or unclear on your resume.
If you’re applying for a position, make sure you hold 100% of the basic qualifications and at least 75% of the preferred qualifications.
As far as interviewing, people want to hire someone that has achieved results in the past. They really aren’t interested in what you think you can do in the future. So focus on clearly communicating what you have achieved in the past. And be familiar with typical civilian roles. I’ve had junior transitioning military members apply to Vice President roles at Amgen. That’s really a much more senior position. So you need to know what roles you are realistically qualified for.
What are typical roles that would be a good fit for veterans?
Troy: As we developed more veteran recruiting practices here at Amgen, we found that a lot of veterans we were interacting with felt that they were only qualified to do the exact same role that they had done in the military. That doesn’t always have to be the case. I can help you figure out where we can apply your military experience to a role here.
Bre: One of the things transitioning veterans can struggle with is that they are accustomed to overseeing a group of people in the military. Many civilian companies aren’t structured that way and it can be hard to adjust to a role in which you won’t be overseeing anyone.
If you’re interested in going into a particular industry, I encourage you to be willing to take a step back at first to give you time to learn about that industry. Once you do that, you will start to advance very quickly.
I encourage veterans to try to get personal and face to face meetings as much as you can. It will make a difference to make a personal connection rather than just submitting an application online.
Troy: Veterans have a lot of soft skills that make them a candidate of choice for many companies. Amgen is a value based organization. That makes it a good fit for veterans who are also used to a value based system inside the military.
How would you describe the culture at Amgen?
Troy: No matter what the company is that you go into, transitioning out of the military can be very disorienting. But if you find a company that has a culture that aligns with your own values and beliefs, some of that disorientation can be relieved.
To me, Amgen is a nice and humane place to work. We have a program for mothers that breastfeed. They will provide a dry ice container for you. During the day at work, you can store breast milk in that container. Amgen will then package and send the breast milk to your home. That shows how much this organization cares about its people.
Mariela: I encourage transitioning military members to take a hard look at yourself and really consider what is important to you and what you value. Then as you job search, make sure the companies you’re applying to align with those values.
Troy: Many veterans will find that the corporate ranking structure is much more flat than what they are accustomed to in the military.
Bre: What sticks out to me here is how much collaboration there is. We all look out for each other and help each other. Ultimately, we are trying to impact patients' lives in a positive way. With that higher purpose in mind, people here feel that they are really making a difference in people’s lives.
How is Amgen so successful at hiring veterans?
Bre: Amgen cares enough to have someone in a role like mine in which I am completely dedicated to recruiting veterans into our organization.
For transitioning veterans that aren’t sure where they would be a good fit, I encourage you to go online and search top military employer lists. Those lists will give you an idea of some great companies that make pointed efforts to hire veterans.
Troy: If you want to work for an organization, try to find out if they have a dedicated military recruiter. If they do, make sure you reach out to that person. They will help you with the application process at that company.
If you apply for a role at Amgen, a recruiter will compare your resume to the job description that you applied for. If there’s a match, we’ll then reach out to you for a phone call to start the conversation. But in order to get that first phone call, you really need to have a good idea of where your strengths lie and apply to positions that play to those strengths.
How can someone reach out to Amgen if they are no located near the Amgen headquarters in California?
Troy: We also put on recruiting events at our locations in Tampa, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico. I would encourage interested veterans to go to one of these events.
Bre: I also encourage you to reach out to me and I can provide you with more specific advice.
Troy: If you’re willing to move, that’s something to consider too. We will pay you re-location benefits.
What are misconceptions hiring managers have about veterans?
Mariela: During my interview at Amgen, I thought I was knocking it out of the park. At the end, I was asked about what civilian IT systems I had worked with. That made me realize that I needed to be more specific about exactly what systems and software I had worked with during my time in the military.
During my transition, I also noticed that many hiring managers were surprised that I was a woman veteran. They didn’t realize women served in the military. That really surprised me.
Are there any specific qualifications Amgen requires?
Bre: Not necessarily. Especially if you’re transitioning out of the military, we understand that you may not have specific certifications. I will work with you to present your application in a way that demonstrates your experience.
Troy: Most jobs here do not require a specific certification. Job requirements have basic and preferred qualifications. If you don’t meet the basic qualifications, you’re probably not right for that position. But if you meet those basic qualifications and most of the preferred qualifications, apply for that position if it’s something that interests you.
What was the most difficult part of the military transition for you?
Bre: I missed my friends inside the military a lot. I missed that camaraderie. I didn’t expect that as I transitioned out. I sometimes also felt misunderstood by hiring managers - that they didn’t really understand what I had done in the military.
Troy: I transitioned into the Reserves because I missed the sense of camaraderie as well. Communication in corporate America can be very different and that took me a while to adapt to. In the military, you keep going until the job is completed. On the civilian side, you have to reign that in a little bit and make sure you are checking in with various other people to make sure you are doing things according to policy and compliance.
Bre: I do see a lot of veterans struggle with work/life balance in the corporate world because they are so accustomed to working non-stop in the military.
Mariela: I struggled with that work/life balance too. I found myself with free time that I didn’t know what to do with. Affinity groups within your company or in the community can be a good way to fill that time in a way that will help you continue that camaraderie.
What was the biggest mistake you made during your transition?
Mariela: I met Bre pretty early on in my transition and she was able to help me along with that process. I did struggle a bit with my physical appearance. In the military, I was used to wearing the same thing every day and arranging my hair in the same way every day. So during my transition, I had to invest a bit of money to make sure I was presenting myself in a way that was professional but also made me feel comfortable.
Bre: I really didn’t set myself up very well during my last few months in the military. If I could go back, I would do more mock interviews and resume preparation during that time.
Troy: I also completely missed the boat on timing during my transition. I didn’t give myself enough time before I left the military to build a network and start applying for specific positions. Often the civilian hiring process can be up to 60 or 90 days. So the idea that you will find a job immediately and start working is not always accurate. You want to give yourself enough time that you’re not just finding a job but rather finding a job that is actually a good fit for you.
Can you explain your role at Amgen?
Bre: My main purpose at Amgen is to work directly with veterans to advocate for them during the hiring process and find a place for them here. We really try to go above and beyond to be a veteran employer of choice.
Mariela: I am a Project Manager with a specific focus on IT projects. I’m based out of Tampa and we handle IT issues across Amgen. We support 34,000 workers across Amgen. I specifically focus on security and IT projects.
Do you have advice regarding finances during the military transition?
Troy: You will get a base salary and then depending on the role you’re in, there are options to obtain stock or bonuses. So when you’re considering a role after the military, don’t focus just on the base salary, consider the compensation package as a whole.
What are the benefits that Amgen offers?
Troy: Amgen has tremendous benefits. The retirement plan is excellent. Amgen puts an amount equal to 5% of your base income into your retirement even if you don’t put anything into that account. If you do pay into that retirement account, Amgen will match you up to an additional 5%.
There are also very generous vacation packages. The medical benefits are also quite good. We have a gym on campus available to all employees.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Mariela: Take your time when you’re transitioning. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Transitioning and searching for a job is a full-time job. Have different people look at your resume and give you feedback. Also when you’re applying for positions, be confident but also be realistic.
Bre: Don’t give up during the job search process. It’s can be very difficult. Reach out to organizations out there to help you through that process.
Troy: Start planning your transition early. If you’re entering today’s employment market, being veteran can be very helpful. There are many resources out there to help you. So don’t be afraid to reach out.