Eliot Sippola’s (pictured above) father was a civil engineer in the Army stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War era. His job was to understand the area’s infrastructure and how the surroundings could be used to prevent an enemy from advancing. Sippola’s grandfather was gifted at disassembling complex machinery and putting it back together from memory and served in the Army as a mechanic during World War II, repairing equipment and writing step-by-step manuals.
Sippola says that both men were proud to be members of the military. While they rarely shared details about their service and the many sacrifices that go along with being in the military, they often communicated the importance of teamwork, supporting fellow service members, and properly representing the military.
Sippola sees that same humility in his Ally colleagues who are veterans.
“I’ve worked with a lot of amazing people across Ally who are veterans. They’re very proud, but at the same time, they’re humble,” says Sippola. “For example, they will do a phenomenal job on a project. You thank them for their contributions and give them positive feedback, and you hear responses such as, ‘Oh, well I owe it to the Marines,’ or ‘It’s my Army training.’”
“It’s like they take a step back and think, ‘I’m just part of the mission. I know what I have to do, and I get it done,’” Sippola explains.
Because of his father and grandfather, Sippola was familiar with the service members’ modesty. But he wanted more of his Ally coworkers to understand the values and honor that comes with military service. So he jumped at the opportunity to join an organization within Ally, the Veteran ALLYs Employee Resource Group (ERG). A common misconception is that to be a part of the Veterans ERG you must be a veteran. This is not the case as the ERG welcomed Sippola to be a pillar lead for the veterans.
“Veterans don’t necessarily want to be acknowledged for performing what is expected of them, as they know that there is an objective to be met. They don’t like to be too vocal about what they’ve been through or all they have accomplished,” Sippola says. Yet, “people need to understand what they give up every time they are called for duty, the families they have to leave, the friends they lose — it encompasses their entire life,” he says.
“Oftentimes, you see world events unfold and there is a push to thank soldiers and veterans for their service, but then these matters drop out of the spotlight. We move on with our day-to-day activities and tend to forget about the impact and the sacrifices they’ve made. Appreciation needs to be a constant state,” says Sippola.
Ally’s Veteran ERG doesn’t just put a spotlight on veterans’ sacrifices. It also works to combat misconceptions about veterans all the while generating an environment of compassion and inclusion for their personal situations and backgrounds.
This is particularly important since it can be challenging for veterans to transition from an extremely structured military lifestyle to the more relaxed civilian workforce.
For instance, someone might be offended because they talk about a trying work situation with a coworker who’s a veteran, but the conversation isn’t reciprocated. What that person might not realize, says Sippola, is that the service member has been trained to keep communication within the chain of command or specified channels.
“Veterans can have a hard shell out of necessity, because in some instances, it can mean life or death,” says Sippola.
In another instance, a veteran might get frustrated with a colleague who misses a deadline or doesn’t complete their work on time. That’s because, for example, in a combat zone, lack of discipline isn’t an option.
At Ally, veterans and civilians bridge these divides through open communication and interactions showcased by the ERGs.
“It’s up to the ERG to help call attention and facilitate understanding,” says Sippola. “We highlight the individual stories, but we also open the conversation across the organization so employees say, ‘I sit next to this person every single day. What are their stories? Let me get to know more about this person.’”
“In the end, it doesn’t matter what the group is, as long as you recognize that there are extraordinary people out there who have different experiences than yourself. Everyone has different ways of thinking, working, and a lot of value to offer,” he says.
“It’s up to all of us to understand that, reach out, and have the ability to bridge that connection.”
Much like the military, the Veteran ALLYs ERG is working to fulfill its objective and succeed in its mission: building better relationships.
Our team members who are military veterans demonstrate every day what it is to be a good ally to their coworkers and customers, helping the broader team hold itself to a higher standard of dedication and service. We are honored to have them among our ranks.
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