Military Veteran’s Transition from Active Duty to Civilian Life as Lean-Agile Methodologist and Coach

Rob Smith, Lean Agile Coach and Expert

By Rob Smith, SPC, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, PPO, ICP-ACC, Senior Practitioner and Lean Agile Coach, PhoenixTeam

How a Veteran found his purpose and belonging in the civilian workforce after decades of military service. A story about a mission to succeed with a military mindset of lean-agile.

The launch of Blue Phoenix earlier this month caused me to reflect on my own transition to civilian life after 22 years of service in the military.  

Just over nine years ago, while taking off my uniform for the last time, I had big dreams for the future ahead. During my tour, I led hundreds into battle and accomplished some of the toughest missions imaginable. I demonstrated extreme flexibility by changing mission sets and even geographic areas of operations overnight. My capabilities and skills were put to the test, not only on the front lines but also among numerous IT professionals, demonstrating my ability to excel both in action and behind the scenes. With this multi-faceted experience, future options seemed unlimited. At the time, I had no idea this marked only the beginning of an extensive journey back into civilian life. 

The Transition to Civilian Life 

When I ventured out of the military into the civilian world, I never thought I would struggle as much as I did to land a job. I was quickly humbled when my professionally written resume resulted in zero interviews. After five months of searching with no success, an unexpected turn of events unfolded, thanks to my two-year-old son. His innocent conversation with a stranger proved to be the catalyst for an incredible opportunity. As fate would have it, Tony, the stranger, made a life-changing introduction to his business partner, Ed, a lean agile coach, and trainer. This was the start of a new career path where I could use my skills and experiences to impact businesses worldwide significantly, and my next chapter began.  

I leaned into the skills I gained during my tour of duty for our great country and used them to deliver successful outcomes in the business world. While this story is my own, it illustrates Blue Phoenix’s mission of empowering Veterans to leverage their experiences and leadership in civilian roles and how those skills can deliver greater value realization to your organization.     

Summarizing My Transferable Skills and Experience 

It is nearly impossible, to sum up the translatable skills and experience I gained over 22 years of service leading teams of 8 to 800! I think of the various mission sets throughout my military career in Korea, Kuwait, Europe, Albania, Kosovo, and Iraq and the countless positions and additional duties I held at various levels. I served as Fire Direction Officer, Platoon Leader, Fire Support Officer, Battery Commander, Maintenance Officer, Training Officer, Ground Liaison Officer, Targeting Officer, Distinguished Visitors Bureau Deputy Chief, Joint Air Ground Integration Instructor, Operations Officer, Executive Officer, Director of Technology Solutions, and the list goes on. It is important to mention the Army provided formal training for the first four positions only. The other roles were all OJT (on-the-job training) and experience based.   

Describing the transferable skills from my distinct military career can be just as daunting, but for starters, the most obvious: leadership, team building, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, teamwork, adaptability in the face of diversity, flexibility, self-sufficiency, dedication, and integrity. Others might not immediately come to mind, such as continuous learning and improvement, the ability to coordinate and influence external stakeholders, integrating the value of multiple team efforts, coaching individuals and teams to improve, innovative and predictive, strategic planning, and compliance. I learned and perfected all these skills in the armed services, which I now use to coach organizations and leaders on the fundamental components to deliver technology-related initiatives successfully.  

Finding Purpose After Service 

Technology excellence has never been in higher demand, and organizations, tech included, need to adapt to respond to the demand. Successful software delivery is not only achieved because of industry knowledge or skill in functional areas such as product management or architecture. Without question, those are key elements to success, but not the only elements. In my experience, teams that are precise, adaptable, well-coordinated, and have synergy are those that consistently deliver with quality and speed to market. Our country’s veterans live and breathe these fundamental skills and not only can they drive initiatives to success, they are experts in continuous learning, growth, and servant leadership. 

Blue Phoenix sees the value veterans bring and found a unique way to merge military fundamentals with technology and industry expertise to supply the tech excellence demand. Led by a Marine Corp Veteran advised by a board of accomplished business and tech experts, together they know how to tap into the intrinsic skills of veterans to deliver value efficiently and effectively for any organization. And that, my friends, is the best of both worlds.  


Rob Smith is a retired military officer with over nine years of experience as a Lean-Agile Trainer and Coach. He is a Senior Practitioner and Lean Agile Coach at PhoenixTeam. His distinct and adaptive international experience, combined with his military service and ethos, give him a unique perspective that applies to anyone who desires to succeed. Rob is passionate about sharing how his experiences in the service translate to success as a civilian. Please stay tuned for more articles on Veterans in the Workplace and how Blue Phoenix can help you leverage the power of our Nation’s Heroes!  

Connect with Rob | Connect with PhoenixTeam | Connect with Blue Phoenix