Read the Transcript
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Eagles’ Transition Podcast where your host financial planner, speaker, and author Curt Sheldon talks to senior military officers who have made the retirement transition before you. You'll hear about different hiring processes, interview questions, salary negotiations, and how each one of them successfully settle into a rewarding second career. Now, here is your host Curt Sheldon.
Curt Sheldon: Welcome to episode 11 of the Eagles’ Transition Podcast. Today I'll be talking with Brian Yolitz. Brian has in one sense branched out, in another stayed close to home. He used his experience from the military dealing with installation support to land a position in higher education in the Minnesota state college and university system. Brian has some insights into the differences between a face to screen interview and a face to face interview that you might want to hear about. You'll also want to listen to how he used professional organizations to help with his networking process, and he also highly recommends another podcast you might want to check up.
Curt Sheldon: But before I talk with Brian, I'd like to make a special offer for our podcast listeners. If you go to www.clsheldon.com/eagles, that's www.clsheldon.com/eagles, you can get a financial checklist to help with your transition from active duty to the civilian world. Brian welcome to the show.
Brian Yolitz: Curt it's great to be with you, thanks for reaching out.
Curt Sheldon: Yeah, I'm excited to talk to you today, you've gone out into an area where I haven't spoken to anybody about yet, and I'll let you kind of describe what you do. So what are you currently doing?
Brian Yolitz: Sure. Currently my role is, I guess my duty title is Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities. So it's in the system office for the Minnesota state college and university system, it's a system of public state universities, community technical colleges where I do facilities business. This system is about the fourth largest public entity in the nation, we serve around 300 to 75,000 students every year at 54 campuses around the state of Minnesota, and there's a whole bunch of different ways they break it up into seven state universities depending on how you do the math and accreditation standards 31, correction, 26 colleges.
Brian Yolitz: My job I'm responsible for, I'm at the headquarters if you will, so responsible for helping the college university campuses do their capital planning and programing, we do advocacy on behalf of the institutions with our legislature and with our board of trustees, and we oversee the design and construction of the major projects on campus as well as provide guidance and policy around campus plant operations and maintenance of campus safety and security, environmental management and compliance in that area as well as emergency management. We've got staff of about 20 subject matter experts that really do a good job serving our colleges and universities.
Curt Sheldon: So would it be fair to kind of equate that to an A4 or a G4, S4 type job-
Brian Yolitz: Yeah, it's-
Curt Sheldon: ... at the base level?
Brian Yolitz: Yeah, A7 depending on your background Air Force kind of integrated some of those things, A4, A7, I think same kind of thing for the Army G4 Garrison kind of activities I think those are probably very similar.
Curt Sheldon: Okay, good thanks. So work in that area what did you do while you're on active duty?
Brian Yolitz: What was that again?
Curt Sheldon: What was your last position on active duty?
Brian Yolitz: On active activity, sir? It was, I was the A7 for Air Forces Central where I was responsible for the in essence the same sort of thing, the operations and maintenance and capital planning for the air bases in the AOR across them in some countries within the Middle East. Did the same kind of thing, helped with sourcing of the airman, particularly in the areas of contracting, civil engineering and EOD that rotated through the AOR as well as some of the permanent party, and did advocacy through the air staff to the congress for the Mil-Con type of work. So it was similar aspects, just a different environment in terms of operating in tempo.
Curt Sheldon: And if you could summarize your career in general, was it mostly in that area or was that, did you kind of move towards the log support side or were you pretty much a log guy throughout your military career?
Brian Yolitz: Yeah. I started kind of as a general engineer was a CE officer and a squadron. I got an opportunity to go to Alaska and do the same kind of thing did the readiness thing. Did a little bit of headquarters work there in Alaska then went to a major command staff position in Ohio when AFMC was created with logistics command and systems command a while ago. And then like officers go off to server school then did my first tour in the Pentagon. After that got to do some neat stuff got to be a squadron commander then, and then went back to school, and then stayed on at the Joint Staff, and then did group command at Langley Air Force Base as a mission support group commander, and then ended up at a US Air Forces Central at Shaw Air force Base in the west in a position I retired out of in 2010.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So a pretty varied career there a lot of good position. So your job that you're in now, your position that you're in now, is this the first thing you've done? I guess, what year did you retire? I should have asked you that earlier, and is this the first position you've had since you retired?
Brian Yolitz: Yeah indeed. I retired in 2010 I started with the Minnesota state system in August 2010 and I've been with them ever since. It's kind of one of those interesting things, I've never had the same job for this long in my life, and my wife and I kind of joke around or waiting for that call from the personnel center saying, hey, or a command list coming out saying, hey, it's time to move. And that hasn't happened yet. We're still having fun a lot of work to do, but we're enjoying what we do, and being in one place and be able to see some programs all the way through to fruition.
Curt Sheldon: Good. And I would say you're probably, I'm getting my sample size is pretty small here with the podcast, but I would say probably about two thirds or more of the folks I speak with are on their second or third position, so you're a different side of the spectrum there. So you're working hard at AFCENT, which I'm thinking it was probably a pretty busy job, and in South Carolina and you end up in Minnesota. Just how did you find out about the position?
Brian Yolitz: We all retire or we all leave the military at one time or another, and people were asking, what do you want to do afterwards? And I'm sure you've heard from others, there's a couple of different methodologies or approaches to what you do next, it's you go to where you bought a house and you've had a house for a long time. I know a lot of my colleagues have had a house in DC and want to get back to DC and they take whatever job that they get there.
Brian Yolitz: My wife and I didn't have anything really hardcore that said, hey, we need to go to place x or do a job x. We did say it'd be great if we kind of get close to, closer back to family and reconnect with brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and help a little bit of, help with the parents as they get a little bit older. And so that word was kind of on the street, and then when this position came, I had done some interviews with some other firms and actually had two other offers, but had said I wasn't going to make a decision until I had followed through on a couple more things.
Brian Yolitz: And then this position came open, and I think that day I had like three emails from prior mentors, or supervisors, or leaders and said, hey, this sounds just like you. Somebody wants to go to Minnesota, and the role sounds very similar to what you've been doing in the past. So that's what kind of got the process started with sending a resume and cover letter to the search firm, and then I followed up with a call, and had a very good conversation with the search director, and then it went off from there.
Curt Sheldon: So did any of those people that brought the position to your attention, did they work in the university system or did they just happen to know about it through their network?
Brian Yolitz: Just through their network and I got ... I was tracking a couple of professional organizations in the Higher Ed business, there's one called APPA, although it's an acronym, they really kind of that's what they call themselves. I guess they used to be called like plan professionals or something like that, but they've really just stuck with that and they focus on the education sector facilities management. Also, was watching some websites around what's called SCUP, I think it's a Society for College and University Planners, and I saw the job pop up about the same time. So all these different kinds of things all came together at once, and so I knew I needed to act on that one.
Curt Sheldon: So you mentioned something there, a term I haven't heard before and now I'm drawing a blank on it, I think it was a recruiting firm, was that what you use, the term you used?
Brian Yolitz: Yeah, it was a search for ... The Minnesota state system had hired a search firm to fill this position, so they did a national search. So they used their networks as opposed to doing something with an internal HR process within the Minnesota state system. And they've done that with other, like for institution presidents, for colleague industry presidents, or some key leadership roles within the system office like our CFO, my boss, they have reached out in the past with the search firms to go ahead and do that process for them.
Curt Sheldon: So two things about that. I'm curious about. The first one and I'll ask them both and then I'll let you answer. First one, would it be fair to say that you essentially saw a job and made an application although you've got some other people pointing on you at it, and then any, I know this is your one position post retirement so it's hard to make comparisons, but any observations I guess perhaps in working with that search firm?
Brian Yolitz: Actually you're right it was multiple indicators the day this job was available and it made sense when I looked at the position description, and other people had seen it and said, hey, this kind of matches, so it kind of confirmed what I was thinking. And that was, and then the process started from there. In terms of working with the search firm, they were very professional. I guess one thing that I would encourage other people to do, and I think other people that you've had on the cast, podcast have done as well is follow up with a phone call. Do that personal touch, because as soon as I sent my email cover letter and said respond to this email address, I immediately called and said, "Hey, I just sent you an email of my resume, and why don't you take a look at it and make sure it came through okay, is it in the right format? Do you have any questions to kind of follow up with anything?"
Brian Yolitz: So I think that was a very beneficial conversation to have right away and establish a connection, because you never know if that search firm it may not work out for that job, but they may say, Hey, this guy or girl has got some skills or some experience that we may use it in other search. So I think the personal reach out was an important part of that process.
Curt Sheldon: So the ... I'm going to make some assumptions here and then you can tell me what actually happened, or describe what happened. I assume that the search firm did the original screening and then at some point you started interviewing with decision makers, can you kind of talk through that process?
Brian Yolitz: Yeah, sure. Indeed, from my understanding, the search firm gathered a whole bunch of resumes I don't know the exact number, but it was a pretty good pile of applicants. They narrowed it down and made some recommendations based on the position description and then the position profile that the system had offered them, and they gave it to a search committee that was established for the position. And what's kind of interesting is the search committee had a wide array of people on it. It was about a half a dozen people. They had somebody from their legislative affairs office, they had a counterpart, or a colleague of the position that did budgeting for the college and universities that would do the submission to the legislature. They had two CFOs, one from a college and one from a university. They had an HR specialists from the system office, and they also had what I had ... From this conversation when you reached out I was thinking back, they had a gentleman from the AIA, which is the American Institute of Architects that is a state professional organization, not associated with the colleges and universities on the committee as well.
Brian Yolitz: So it was kind of an interesting mix, then that team then reviewed that initial stack of resumes and then they racked and stacked them, and then they did interviews.
Curt Sheldon: So were you doing, I mean that was a pretty good bunch of people it sounded like seven or eight or so. Were you doing interviews with a panel or were they one on one interviews with a whole bunch of different people, how did that work?
Brian Yolitz: Well, they started off first of all with a video interview with the panel. So I got to link that said, "Hey, we want you to do a video interview, we're not going to have people travel just yet." So another interesting thing, I reached out to the technology person they offered and said, "Hey, would you do kind of check with me on this?" And so I had thought I had the greatest place set up in my dining room, I had some notes laid out and she goes, "I can't even see you. It's too dark in there." So I said, "Okay, let me turn some lights on." She goes, "That's even worse." So she was, "Why don't you walk around your house and I'll tell you where it looks good." So we walked around with my computer and she goes, "That's a perfect place."
Brian Yolitz: So it was in my kitchen, and then got set up there so that there wouldn't be anything peculiar about the visuals. And then did the sound check, and then later on the next day we did the actual interview. And so we did a video interview, I think it was about 45 minutes, a host of questions based on my experience and background, and then got a call a couple of days later and said, "Hey, I want you to come to Minnesota we want to talk to you in person." And then we did some more interviews here in Minnesota.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. That's interesting on the video that, and that's pretty remarkable that they were willing to, or the tech was willing to help you out with that? I would, when I talk at ETAP down at Randolph in one of the panels, I bring up the fact that I do a fair bit of video conference meetings and a lot of times the camera in your laptop is not, doesn't give the best perspective of you, and a lot of times it's looking up basically at somebody's face, and I think it's worth it to consider at least ... I'm not a hiring guy but from appearances, a separate camera that is more at eye level and maybe even some headsets so that you can, if you're on a phone interviews so you can be a little bit, you're not trying to hold onto a phone and write while you're doing things. Those are things that have helped me not necessarily with interviews, but just doing my job cause I do a fair bit of remote work with people.
Curt Sheldon: Now, I have done a couple webinars, and I find that to sometimes be challenging when you're just talking to a screen. Did you have any problems with that in that video interview, anything you did to overcome it if you did?
Brian Yolitz: What I did do is I tried to ... Yeah, it was hard because on their end I knew there was six people on this committee, but I could only see three of them. Well, three and a half maybe. So I made kind of a list of who was supposed to be on the committee and kind of their background, and then I tried to really make sure that I, if I knew who was asking the question I tried to use their name. And it was a bit odd, but I really tried to make sure I was thinking about a group of six and not just this, what I saw in the visual of three or three and a half people. I think though that would be the only thing that I can recall from the time it was a little bit different.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Thanks for that. So got through the video interview, they called you up to Minnesota, how many, what did the interviews look like and how many of them were thereafter that?
Brian Yolitz: Sure. So I did face to face with the same committee and went over some of the same stuff, reaffirmed some of those questions, and they had done some homework, and they had a couple more questions for me. I interviewed then with my ultimate supervisor, had a very good discussion with her, and then I was afforded an opportunity to talk to the guy who was retiring from the position that I was applying for. He was camping up in northern Minnesota so we had kind of a sketchy connection, but we talked just briefly and I had a good conversation. And then they said, "Hey, let's go walk through the facility's staff area and kind of see what's going on."
Brian Yolitz: So my assumption was we're just kind of be walking around and saying, Hey, this is where the offices are and here's key staff. And we did that, but then we went into a conference room and there was the entire staff, I think it was 18 or so at the time, and then they kind of went around the room and introduced themselves and then each asked a question. And after about the second one, I go like, "Oh, I'm in trouble here because this is going to be an interview committee of 18." I wasn't really prepared for that, but you kind of say, "Okay, this is what I'm getting myself into, let's answer these questions as best we can." So that was a little bit different experience that's something I hadn't heard of in the past was a committee of that broad in a conference room by individually asking questions from the entire staff.
Curt Sheldon: Yeah, I don't think I've heard of that technique either. I do occasionally hear of people having you meet with, meet the staff and then the staff getting to provide feedback, but I don't think I've ever heard of quite that extensive of involvement from the folks you'll be working with in the future and folks that will be working for you. Beyond that any questions or anything that kind of surprised you in the process? I know it's been, for both of us, we retired the same year, so it's getting dimmer and dimmer for both of us, but anything that kind of surprised you or stood out in your mind in the interview process?
Brian Yolitz: Actually no. The two things that stood out I guess was really trying hard to help people understand that one military officers or NCO’s, we don't get things done just by looking at the rank on your epaulet or on your shoulders or sleeves. And that it's a lot of personal engagement, a lot of listening, a lot of taking input, it's not just barking orders kind of putting that aside. And then the other piece, and I guess it was trying to get examples of where I had as a squadron commander had to work through an issue with resource allocation or take action on employees whether military or civilian, and took input from everybody and didn't just kind of sit and bark out what I wanted to have happen.
Brian Yolitz: And then the other piece is just, particularly in the facility's Garrison business if you will, is the incredible parallels between life on a base or a port or an installation, and a campus of a college or university. There's a mission critical facilities, whether they're a runway or a hanger, in higher ed it's going to be a research facility it's got your clean room, certain mechanical systems had to be working all the time, we got residence life programs, whether it's dormitories on an air force base, or Army Garrison, or dormitories that I'd College University, dining facilities. Oftentimes under resourced on the administrative or support side, and how do you manage the priorities. Changing commanders, changing presidents, the parallels are incredible, it's just that you've got to understand the language around each one, and the cultures around each of the military setting versus the higher ed setting.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So interview process obviously went well because you received an offer. Again, I don't know it's a state, I guess you'd call it a government position. So was there a set pay for the position and that was it, or was there some wiggle room for negotiation and if there was, how did you handle that?
Brian Yolitz: Yeah. What's kind of interesting is my now boss, I was getting ready to go the AOR, I was driving to the airport, and she called and said, "Well do you accept the offer?" And I was kind of like in a bit of a loss, and I said, "I haven't gotten an offer yet." And she goes, "oh." So she had to go back to the search firm and get that process scored away. But indeed I got an offer, and then she followed up and said, "The numbers is a number, what you got to understand is not where it ends. That there's a payback in the position and that the way your position would be classified, there's an upward in that depending on merit and what you produce over time. Here's the higher end potential." So I said, "Okay." And the only really negotiations was around a start date and then around leave accumulation. And I was able, they were very forthcoming and said, "Hey, because you're a military service, we can start you with a certain account already of leave and vacation, which is very helpful." So that's kind of how that process worked.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. So you've accepted the offer, you shown up to work on the first day. In the military we're pretty good at spinning people up into their new positions. How was the onboarding, if you will, or the spin up for the job? Was it a little bit of handholding or were you on your own to figure it out, how did that go for you?
Brian Yolitz: It was, that process was rather interesting because the guy that had been there before me had been there for about 10 years. Had long established he was the go to person, and then there was kind of like this void. And it was a hard, you send a note out, "Hey, I'm the new person here, look forward to meeting with you." So it was kind of quiet the first couple of days as I got to know people in the system office, key contacts, following up with people and introducing myself. And then I had an opportunity to go to an engineer's guild, which is basically a conference of employees who run state facilities in terms of physical plant. And we had a breakout session with all the people from Minnesota state colleges and universities. So I was able to then get in front of all the facilities directors that I would be representing, and kind of got to tell my story. But my goal really was to listen to what their priorities and concerns were and how we can be most effective as a staff, and how it can be most effective in my role.
Brian Yolitz: And that's got, that got things started then. And then that kind of said, "Okay, here's, we're going to start sending you your request for help and see how you can help us out." And then we also spent some time with the legislatures I spent a good amount of time working with committees that are responsible for funding our major capital projects similar to Mil-Con but at the state level making contacts there. So that was a more deliberate process. But that time at that engineers guild conference is really important to kind of set the stage and establish the first relationships.
Curt Sheldon: So you mentioned early on that your network was there, when this job hit your network was on top of it and let you know. How did you kind of get your network and I guess the best word I can come up with is energized to help you out?
Brian Yolitz: The process it was just a matter of just letting people know what my intentions were and what my desires were. Like I said, I had sent some emails to some folks that I knew had retired, I did spend some time with the Society of American Military Engineers they had a transition workshop, and went down and participated in that to kind of get the word out through that mechanism within the facility's community great relationships with the firms that support, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard, National Institute for Health. So I kind of got the word out there, and that was really where it started. A lot of stuff was just making the shopping list of those websites that had job postings in the facilities' area. Like I mentioned APPA, SCUP, and then IFMA was another facility's organization, International Facility Managers Association. And we're kind of tracking and trolling those job postings on a weekly basis so they started getting a little more serious and closer toward the time I retired.
Curt Sheldon: So one of the things I always like to ask people about I guess kind of based on what I do, any surprises or not necessarily surprises or money issues as you made the transition or after you transitioned?
Brian Yolitz: Didn't run across any specific issues. One of the things that my wife and I struggled with was buying a house. And it was what kind of house do we buy? We had kind of agreed that we weren't going to have another military family housing unit. We joked about some of the things that some of the houses we lived in. But also we knew at the time our kids were in college and a lot of our friends were having the kids didn't launch, they'd get out of college and then would come back home and live with mom and dad. And then also we knew if we were coming back close to family, my mom, her mom and dad were getting up in the years, there may be a need for us to maybe help with them and have them live with us. So we kind of, I guess if we were to do it all over again, we'd probably not, wouldn't buy a house with as many bedrooms as we've got.
Brian Yolitz: But we did wrestle with that we said, "Well, we're afforded the opportunity to have the financial means to get a house that if needed, the boys could come home and live with us and grandma, or grandma or grandpa could live with us as well, and we'd all be pretty comfortable." So that would be kind of the one thing that we struggled for a little bit about, but made a decision and we're just fine.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. You mentioned actually quite a few resources already and I'm going to look them up and put links in the show notes for APPA or what was it? APPA, SCUP and IFMA, but any other resources that you found particularly useful, whether it'd be a book or a tap course that you thought helped with your transition?
Brian Yolitz: Yeah. I know everybody does, everybody should take the ETAP or TAP that's afforded through your service. The one tool that I really found incredibly beneficial was a podcast, and a web offering of resources called manager tools. It's by a couple of guys were in the army, got out and did ... worked in the business world and now are consulting, and they've done a really, really good job on just practical, actionable recommendations on everything about a job. Everything from your resume through interview process. I found it very beneficial, so I spent a lot of time listening to their podcasts and then making notes about interview, how do you answer a behavioral interview question, how can you get your point across, how can you do it so succinctly? I think I, and then how do you prepare for an interview? I found that probably the most beneficial.
Brian Yolitz: Because you know, in the military it's usually MPC, or Air Force Personnel Center, or equivalent in the Army or Navy or Marines, they kind of tell you where to go. And a lot of that is, especially the more senior you get is the more, Hey, I know them or the command, process assigns you to a position there are not a lot in interviews. So the interview process was something I was a little bit concerned about and it didn't ... I wanted to make sure I was fully prepared for that. So that I would highly recommend that, and it kind of goes into the whole business did a resume and I'm sure that you've seen, if you ask 10 people what makes up a good resume, you're going to get 25 answers. They've got a pretty straight forward guide, and a template to use, and I think that's again, my opinion, a very straightforward and something that we can all use and apply as we transition.
Curt Sheldon: Okay, thanks. I'll link to that as well so folks can take a look at that as well. As I always like to do I'll give you a chance here, I've kind of asked you questions that I have, but I want to give you a chance to pontificate on anything that you'd like to relating to your transition.
Brian Yolitz: As I think back it's been eight years, but there's just several things that kind of struck me is, there's ... First of all as part of the transition process, there are just so many people who want to help. And I find myself now on the other side, and I'm just tickled when somebody reaches out and says, Hey, I see you're in Higher Ed, or how did you get there? So I'd really encourage people to just reach out and ask. So I know you'll give up my contact information later on, and I look forward to helping anybody in any way I can.
Brian Yolitz: And you never know where those connections are going to come from. So just let people know what you want to do and how you could be, how you'd like to have somebody to help. But one recommendation I would make is that if you do reach out to somebody, and you say, "Hey, can you be a reference?" Follow up with what's the position description and a copy of resume, and maybe a couple of points your bullets around, why do I think I'm a good fit for this job to help that person should they be a reference for you. And then follow up to make sure that you say, Hey, interview process went good, thanks for your reference. I was selected, or I wasn't selected, but I sure appreciate the help. You just close the loop so that somebody that helped you out.
Brian Yolitz: And then a couple more things, just we are afforded such an opportunity the fact that we were able to get a full military career. Not everybody has that opportunity, and so any chance you get to make a difference, do that. Give back and serve in some role or capacity in your local community or in the job that you've got. Don't pass that up, because there are many that didn't get to come home, and I think that's something we kind of get wrapped up in the day to day business and kind of lose sight of.
Brian Yolitz: And then I guess one final thing is that take care of yourself. The organized PT or formation kind of stuff stops when you walk out the door and hang up the uniform, but we've got to take care of ourselves so that we can be as fully functioning and are capable to serve in any capacity, whether it's at work or around the community or being a good grandma and grandpa. So take care of yourself and find some way to engage in some physical activity that you'll miss out on as you leave the military. I think that's about enough pontification for now.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Well thanks for that. That was good. So you mentioned you don't mind helping folks out, what's a good way for people to get in touch with you?
Brian Yolitz: Sure. I'm on LinkedIn, Brian Yolitz, last name is Y-o-l-i-t-z. Also, it's a pretty original Gmail address, email@example.com. Any way that I can help anybody I'd be more than happy to do so.
Curt Sheldon: Okay, great. Thanks. So we'll go now to my kind of wrap up question. So again, we both retired back in 2010, so go back that far if you can remember it, and then it's late ... early 2009 or maybe mid-2009, six to 12 months before you're retiring, what do you know now that you wish you had known then?
Brian Yolitz: Well, a couple of things is that six or nine months out, I wish I'd have taken ETAP already. Because there's a lot to consume in that process, getting ... sitting down and going through your military records, trying to make, build a resume that has great bullet points on it that demonstrates leadership succinctly, have specific examples with outcomes, that takes a lot of work and I wish I had started a bit earlier. The same thing goes for the whole medical process, Getting that documentation done, getting the physicals and follow up in documentation done. My experience was I thought I started it really early, and when I left active duty it still was in the air and then it got lost somehow in the ethernet, and then we pick up the pieces and parts but in a good place now. So it's not too early to start organizing your stuff and getting that health VA documentation done and scored away. It can't encourage anybody to get started as soon enough on that.
Curt Sheldon: Okay. Well we'll wrap it up with that Brian, I want to thank you again so very much for spending the time. I know your time is valuable, and as you mentioned it's a sunny day in Minnesota, which sometimes are few and far between, so I appreciate your spending some time with us, and helping folks that are getting ready to retire. So thanks a bunch.
Brian Yolitz: Great Curt. Thanks and all the best and thanks for what you do.