From the Army to Deloitte
An interview with Armed Forces BRG lead Kirby Brendsel
He used to direct intelligence activities for a battalion of 407 soldiers that provided intelligence and electronic warfare assets to a brigade of 4,000 soldiers and 750 tactical vehicles. Now he’s helping federal agencies and commercial entities with strategy matters related to effectively managing energy and resources so that they can be more efficient and sustainable organizations.
Kirby Brendsel, Deloitte Consulting LLP (Deloitte Consulting) senior manager and national lead for Deloitte’s Armed Forces Business Resource Group (Armed Forces BRG), traded in his Army-green fatigues for the bright green dot, leaving a career in the military to join Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy & Operations (S&O) practice. We sat down with Kirby to learn more about his transition from the US Army to Deloitte as well as what Deloitte is doing to attract and retain military professionals.
Tell us a little bit about your background and where you grew up.
I’m a military brat—my dad and my grandfather were both in the service. Growing up in a military family, my brother, sister, and I lived all over the world—from Korea and Germany to many different spots here in the US, including Georgia, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, and Virginia.
I went to the College of William and Mary on an ROTC scholarship, receiving a bachelor’s in Business Administration. After graduating, I served in the US Army as a Military Intelligence Officer. This involved collecting and analyzing intelligence and assessing risks, and then providing this information to soldiers on the front lines to help neutralize threats or locate enemies.
My wife, Teri, and I have a seven-year-old daughter, Anna. I love being a dad. Although I’m a bit worried about the teen years, seven is absolutely brilliant.
What has your career path looked like, and what are your current role(s) at Deloitte?
After leaving the Army as a Major, I graduated with honors from Rice University with an MBA and then was hired into Deloitte Consulting in the S&O Financial Management practice in Houston. After a few years, a stint in Deloitte’s Competitive and Market Intelligence group, and my promotion to manager, I was accepted as the first Deloitte Consulting participant into Deloitte’s Energy & Resources Management Development Program (MDP) – which was a great honor and a tremendous opportunity to experience so many different areas within Deloitte. I worked on both internal and client facing projects, with leadership of Deloitte’s national and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s global Energy & Resources industry groups and the Enabling Areas which supported these industry groups, such as Talent, Finance, Knowledge Management, and Marketing, to further develop a specialization in the Energy & Resources industry.
Since completion of the MDP, I’ve been part of Deloitte’s Federal Energy & Resources Management team as an S&O senior manager, where we’ve been developing a practice to address federal clients’ needs around the topic of energy and sustainability.
I’m also the national lead for the Armed Forces BRG – Lieutenant General Harry Raduege is our sponsor – and a contributing member on the Federal Partner, Principal, Director, and Senior Manager Advisory Councils.
What are some of the skills you developed while in the Army that you leverage at Deloitte?
Leadership is the most obvious one. In the military there are incredible opportunities for men and women of all ages to lead large teams and very complex projects. Next, I’d say diligence—the ability to work hard and do whatever it takes to get things done—as well as teamwork and loyalty.
As I work in the federal space, an understanding of Department of Defense, US Military command structure, and Federal practices has also been very advantageous.
What is Deloitte doing to attract and retain our military professionals?
Our leaders recognize that the skills veterans acquire during their service enable them to be great assets to the organization. We have over 1,000 veterans at Deloitte, and among them, roughly 700 are involved in work directly supporting the federal government. So we’ve developed a number of recruiting and development initiatives to help us attract and retain talent with a robust military skill set.
One example is Veterans Deloitte Day which is a recruiting event run by our Armed Forces BRG. Another example is the Junior Military Officer (JMO) Recruiting Program where the Armed Forces BRG teams with Talent Acquisition to pair candidates with a Deloitte buddy for the day and they also meet with senior leaders in the Federal practice and former JMOs who are now at Deloitte. In the past year, we’ve hired 312 veterans through this program.
We participate in other brand-building activities such as the Army Career and Alumni Program and Military Transition Assistance Program where Deloitte veterans attend events at military installations to discuss career opportunities and transitioning advice to separating soldiers. Recently, Deloitte’s Talent Acquisition team developed a newsletter called the “Wounded Warrior Spotlight” that showcases the skills and experience of severely injured veterans who are looking for civilian employment to our hiring managers and other leaders.
Deloitte has a strong brand within the military, and this year we were, once again, named a Top 100 Military Friendly Employer by GI Jobs and were also recognized by Military Times EDGE as a top 20 best employer for veterans.
In addition, we support our professionals who are actively serving through Deloitte’s Military Leave Policy, which includes supplemental payment of salary and continuance of benefits during military leave (when supported by appropriate documentation/orders). There are also options for our practitioners to take time off to engage in military reserve training without having to use their paid time off.
What else has the Armed Forces BRG been involved in this year?
We have been involved in numerous pro bono efforts that support veteran service organizations, such as where Deloitte assisted the USO with a strategic review of their Operation Enduring Care fundraising campaign which raises funds to support construction of two USO Warrior and Family Centers.
Also, in conjunction with the USO, we participated in fundraising efforts for “United Through Reading” – a program that allows a deployed service member to read a children’s book on camera and record it to DVD, to send home to their children.
Within Deloitte we established the Veteran Practitioner Program where service members work with experienced practitioners with similar backgrounds to distinguish how best to apply their own experiences and how to convey them to their civilian profession.
Another highlight of the year involved the Warrior Games presented by Deloitte where several of our Armed Forces BRG members, along with members from Ability First BRG, volunteered their time.
What advice do you have for military professionals transitioning to the civilian workforce?
First, stay true to who you are -- and by this I mean don’t disregard your existing skills, but continue to build upon them and add to your toolkit.
Next, get plugged in, and engage and connect with others. If you need help, be sure to reach out and take advantage of the numerous programs, benefits, and flexibility Deloitte offers to help support your career and life goals. I would also encourage you to join the Armed Forces BRG which can provide a great support network with people who share your experience.
Lastly, give back. Help others just as you were helped.
What does the fourth of July mean to you?
It’s a time when I reflect on our country’s history and those before us who risked their futures and fortunes for liberty and freedom. I think about the brave men and women who are currently away from home serving our country and preserving our freedom, and I wish them all well.
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