Kevin Tate spent 20 years in the United States Army and now works as a management analyst for the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Information Office. “I am responsible for helping to shape and modernize the Department of Defense information network. I provide guidance for the implementation of the Department’s transport infrastructure, monitor synchronization of efforts among the military departments, track resources, and find opportunities to reduce the Department’s cost of ownership.”
Kevin joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program while pursuing undergraduate studies at Old Dominion University. He planned to attend law school but was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps (communications field) after graduation. Kevin spent the 17 next years in the operational Army. “During that time, the Army sent me to a host of schools and courses that not only honed my leadership skills but kept my technical skills current, which was significant given the fast paced changes that occurred in the telecommunications field over the last couple of decades.”
He served his last three years in the military at Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA), where he learned how the Department of Defense prioritizes, plans, and programs resources to organize, equip, train and deploy the military. “It reinforced how important it is to build personal and professional relationships. As I retired [from the military], I found that my experience, reputation, and relationships honed over the years were instrumental in making a seamless transition to the civilian sector.”
Kevin says that one of the highlights of his civilian career has been researching, writing, and briefing a comprehensive Report to Congress on the Department of the Army’s Tactical Radio Modernization Plan. “This work provided an opportunity to engage with several senior leaders within the Department of Defense and become a recognized subject matter expert on tactical networking. It eventually led to an assignment as the lead analyst for acquisition oversight of several multi-billion dollar communications programs intended to deliver tactical networking capability to our warfighters. This series of events significantly advanced my civilian career.”
He also gives back to the community as a youth sports coach, religious education teacher, and volunteer youth counselor. “Most recently, I joined a fledging non-profit organization called the SlyeStrong#6 Foundation with the goals to give back to the community, provide scholarships to Stafford County Public Schools, raise money to support medical research in fight to cure cancer, promote cancer awareness, and provide comfort to those living with cancer.”
Kevin struggles with maintaining a balance between work and family—and managing expectations. “I have a pretty strong type A personality and put a lot of pressure on myself, and others, to excel. The key to keeping this challenge in check is to remain engaged and to listen to those around you. I have learned to focus my efforts on what is important and to throttle back in other areas.”
That drive led Kevin back to school to pursue his graduate studies. He earned a Master of Business Administration in Business Administration from Argosy University, Washington DC in 2014. The knowledge gained in this program helped him to get a better handle on the business side of his job. “[The school’s] hybrid instructional format supported a working professional.” Kevin used the Post 9/11 GI Bill® to help pay for his education.
He says that his military background helped him in school. “The discipline, organizational, and time management skills absolutely made me a better student. My ability to lead, communicate, and work together—an output of my Army experience—made me a better classmate.”
Kevin attributes his positive experience at Argosy University, Washington, DC to his instructors, who treated him fairly and with respect. “Beyond providing me with additional tools, I have a better appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges that face my colleagues who attend classes after hours. I think it has also helped inspire my own two young adult children to remain motivated to learn.” He admits that he had challenges when returned to school after so many years in the Army. “My biggest challenge was learning to use the new tools such as blackboards, digital books, and online libraries. Unfortunately, to find balance, I did not fully embrace all the campus culture had to offer.”
Kevin recommends that veterans who plan to return to school commit themselves to making the most of their educational experience. “Assess your personal situation because finding a balance with work and family can be difficult enough, but add school on top of everything else and it could be too much.” He suggests that working students talking to supervisors to let them know they’re taking classes. “You might be able to work out an agreement to help alleviate some pressures. Finally, once you commit, stay organized and on top of your work or you are likely to become overwhelmed very quickly.”
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