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Like you, we have a strong sense of mission. You serve our country and we serve our country's pets. We'll learn a lot from each other.

Integrity, Passion, Expertise, Performance, and Innovation are what we call our 5 Talls. These are the same principles you have perfected through your service and sacrifice in the form of leadership, adaptability and resiliency. It's a shared partnership where we take care of one another like family – the kind of brother-sisterhood that brings out the best in each other. #WeStandTaller

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Career Stories

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"My experience as a Supply Officer in the U.S. Navy and as a Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy provided leadership experiences that continue to resonate in my career at Nestlé Purina. Collaborating with a team to accomplish shared objectives, eagerly jumping into ambiguous assignments and forging a path forward or constantly challenging myself to grow and develop are just a few of the parallels between my military service and my career in a corporate environment."

Brian

Director of Marketing, Innovation and Emerging Growth

More Career Stories From Our Veterans Meet David Meet Jason Meet John Meet Karen Meet Michael Meet Peter Meet Ramon Meet Tim
Chris Survillo Headshot

Chris's Story

Celebrating Veterans Day every year reminds me of the honorable service and sacrifice of the millions of Americans who have mustered up the courage to selflessly serve a nation in this all-volunteer force, and those who continue to take the challenge even after many years of current conflicts.

There are thousands of reasons why people decide to join the military, but one of the common reasons is to serve a higher purpose and to be part of something greater than themselves. This is not too much different than when our company's founder, William H. Danforth, decided to join the Army during WWI to serve to defend our way of life and protect the freedom we hold dear. These are very similar to the reasons why I decided to join the world's finest fighting force – the United States Marine Corps.

One of the things that amazed me in my 20 years of honorable service is captured in one of many quotes from Mr. Danforth, which states, "Motivate young people to achieve their best." While this may seem to be a simple task, it can be quite challenging, especially in times where it may be less than comfortable.

I recall several different leadership and training schools that I attended as I rose through the ranks from Private all the way up to Chief Warrant Officer-3 (the shortest being four weeks and the longest four months). The common thread was the 14 leadership traits and the 11 leadership principles the Marine Corps live by. These leadership traits and principles are what motivate Marines to rush machine gun nests and enter buildings in urban combat knowing that the bad guys are waiting for us.

I remember specifically sitting in an operations order briefing a few days before we went into what would be known as Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq, and wondering "How in the world are we going to be able to re-take the city since the enemy has had such a long time to dig in?" The other point being how do we motivate Marines to do this?

One of the leadership principles states "Set the example," and that is what every leader should strive to do. So with that, the best way I found to motivate young people to achieve their best was to set the example and challenge them to live up to that example. If you, as a leader, are not willing to accept the same risk as the Marines that served with you, then why should they do it? The same thing can be applied here at Purina. Be a leader. Set the example and you will motivate those around you regardless of age. While the future of the Marine Corps and Purina will always rely on the strength of our leadership, it cannot be done without the support and efforts of those in which we lead.

Many of the Marines that I served with were decorated for Valor during that battle, including myself. That shows the type of leadership we had in that unit. Those bonds will last forever.

David Vancil Headshot

David's Story

Current Job Title: Senior Engineer II
Military Title: Sergeant
Military Branch: Army and Army National Guard

Tell us more about your military background:

Armor Crewman for three years in the Army, and a truck driver for five years in the National Guard.

What has been your career path so far?

I worked 14 years at our Davenport, Iowa factory as a Controls Technician before transferring to St. Louis three years ago to work at the Corporate Headquarters

Tell us about your current role at Purina – how would you describe what you do to someone else who've been here ever since.

In your opinion, what are the most important transferable skills from the military to the corporate world?

Organization and a "can do" attitude. The military taught me self-motivation and the drive to always improve myself. This has served me well in the workplace.

What, if any, obstacles did you face upon transitioning out of the military?

The biggest one was probably just feeling like I was behind friends of mine that went straight to college.

Why Purina? What led you here and why have you stayed with the company?

Purina originally intrigued me because of how much automation we do. Then shortly after I was hired, my father was diagnosed with cancer and despite not having any vacation time, the management group worked with me to give me as much time as I needed to spend time with him during his last months. I was very impressed with them putting the employee first and realized it is a rare quality in business today. The job itself has always been interesting because we are constantly changing so it stays challenging. In my previous jobs, I became bored after a couple of years because it was always the same old thing. I have been with Purina for 17 years and being bored has never been an issue.

Would you refer other veterans to work here? And if so, why?

Yes. They respect and honor their military employees, and go above and beyond to show this.

What advice would you give to others preparing to transition from the military?

Prepare ahead of time and have a plan. It may not always work as planned, but it, at least, gives you a path. From there you can overcome and adapt from the obstacles.

Jason Zeltmann Headshot

Jason's Story

Current Job Title: Nestlé Purina Corporate Security Manager
Military Title: Sgt. Infantry Squad Leader
Military Branch: United States Marine Corps

Tell us more about your military background:

Stationed at Camp Lejeune NC 1995-1999 assigned to Weapons Company 2nd Battalion 8 Marine Regiment. Deployed to Yugoslavia in 1996. Served with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Tell us about your current role at Purina – how would you describe what you do to someone else who's not in our field or in our company?

The Corporate Security Manager is responsible for hiring, developing, coordinating, influencing, leading, and measuring all Corporate Security programs, personnel, contractors and consultants. This role is responsible for the strategic identification and evaluation of all security risks, threats and vulnerabilities to prevent and protect or mitigate harm to people, assets, property, and brand reputation.

Describe your transition from the military to the civilian world.

It was self-driven with little to no support. Spent a few months re-acclimating to society and then enlisted in the police academy.

In your opinion, what are the most important transferable skills from the military to the corporate world?

Leadership

What, if any, obstacles did you face upon transitioning out of the military?

Having a steady stream of income and housing, as well as adjusting to society norms. Certain behaviors were installed that did not transition well back to civilian life, such as aggression.

Why Purina? What led you here and why have you stayed with the company?

Opportunity.

Would you refer other veterans to work at Purina? And if so, why?

Yes. Opportunity, work-life balance and the culture.

What advice would you give to others preparing to transition from the military?

Have an open mind and utilize the experiences you have endured to your benefit. The life experience will serve you well and will help you find success.

What advice would you give to employers seeking to hire veterans?

Look for life skills, for example: leadership, responsibility, working while under extremely stressful situations, teamwork. All these honed traits can be found in most veterans.

Can you share a special, or funny, memory from your time in the military?

The most special part of my service were the lifelong friendships and camaraderie that was formed.

John Williams Headshot

John's Story

Current Job Title: Manager, Business Analysts
Military Title: Airborne Infantryman
Military Branch: U.S. Army

Tell us more about your military background:

I served as an Infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division from 1985 to 1989, deploying in peacetime to Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Alaska for short durations and training opportunities.

What has been your career path so far?

I began my career as a Systems Technical Specialist at our Atlanta Factory in November of 1999. After pursuing a Bachelor's Degree, I entered the management track in 2006, leading to assignments in Zanesville, OH and Flagstaff, AZ as an Information Systems Manager. Currently I am serving in the Engineering Department as a Manager of Business Analysts leading software development efforts as a Product Owner.

Tell us about your current role at Purina – how would you describe what you do to someone else who's not in our field or in our company?

I lead a multi-skilled Software Development Team, while advocating for stakeholders at our Corporate Headquarters and within the factories.

Describe your transition from the military to the civilian world.

My transition was fairly pleasant due to the nature of my work in Telecom when I left the service. I was able to rely on myself for the majority of my work, and utilized my abilities to communicate effectively to ensure customer satisfaction.

In your opinion, what are the most important transferable skills from the military to the corporate world?

Tenacity. Leadership. Innovation.

What, if any, obstacles did you face upon transitioning out of the military?

Finding a purpose that was as rewarding as the accomplishments while serving.

Why Purina? What led you here and why have you stayed with the company?

Personal interactions with specific people while servicing the Atlanta Factory Phone System. I knew almost instantly that I wanted to work for and with the people I encountered in Atlanta. My continued success and desire to stay with Purina is directly attributed to the relationships and rewards of serving in this company. Opportunities to improve myself have continued to be presented at nearly every turn, and I am extremely grateful for that.

Would you refer other veterans to work at Purina? And if so, why?

Absolutely, and I have had the opportunity to hire a veteran while working at the Flagstaff Factory. Purina is a place for veterans to thrive.

What advice would you give to others preparing to transition from the military?

Prepare to form relationships with people in many different ways than you currently do. Trust is earned and given in different ways than in the military.

Pie in the sky: What's your dream job beyond what you're doing today?

I would like to continue my current path to learn as much as I possibly can about the art of Software Development and our Business Processes.

Can you share a special, or funny, memory from your time in the military?

My Father spent the entire week at Fort Benning during my Jump week in Jump School, observing all of my jumps, and spending time with me when I was not on duty. He was a Cold War Era Veteran, and it was my honor to have him pin on my Jump Wings upon certification.

Karen Bolhuis Headshot

Karen's Story

Current Job Title: Associate Wellness Center Manager
Military Title: Hospital Corpsman/HM3
Military Branch: Navy
Rank/Rate: When I got out, I was an HM3, Hospitalman 3rd class, but had just technically had achieved advancement to HM2 (based on a point system, which takes into account an advancement test score, awards received, evaluations and several other factors). My specialty was aviation medicine, and I was attached to a squadron that deployed on aircraft carriers. In fact, I had just completed a six-month deployment on the USS KittyHawk in April before I separated in June '97.

About Karen

What I love about my job at Purina is what I loved about what I did in the Navy. No two days are the same! I love challenges and variety. I do have the privilege of taking care of our sick associates and answering medical questions that they have, but I get to spend time teaching them. Sometimes they have questions about something their doctor told them, or they have a problem they don't understand, or the doctor is testing for a certain diagnosis that they are concerned about. I can spend more time with them actually answering all of their questions, which you never have time for in a private practice. I can plan educational events like lunch-and-learns. But, I can also be part of our safety team, work with Community Affairs, go out to our other local facilities to give flu shots (I was the first person that I know of in the Navy that used to go from the clinic to my squadron's hangar to give flu shots and medical screenings) and help plan awesome companywide events, like our Health Fair and our Veteran's Day celebration.

Advice

Don't underestimate the value of what you did and learned in the military. While the job titles may be very different, your experiences are something that no civilian that is applying for a job can match. Show off! Brag about the cool stuff you did. You led teams. You worked in multiple, diverse environments. You taught your peers. Sometimes civilian jobs will list requirements for a degree, but please don't let that prevent you from going for things that may seem out of reach. Call the company and talk to their recruiter. If you're in college, use the resources for veterans to help you get ahead. Attend job fairs and recruiting events. Participate in veteran's organizations like Amvets, The Mission Continues, American Legion, etc. Not only can you get info on job opportunities, you can network and fellowship with people who will understand you better than most. Remember, right now companies are looking to hire veterans. Don't be shy, be proud of what you have sacrificed for your country, and of all that you've accomplished.

michael Bolhuis Headshot

Michael's Story

Current Job Title: Marketing Associate
Military Title: Captain
Military Branch: Army

Tell us more about your military background:

Following ROTC at The College of William & Mary, I spent four years in the US Army split mostly between Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and Kandahar, Afghanistan. During this time, my primary roles were Platoon Leader and Executive Officer, both in an Infantry Company.

What has been your career path so far?

After leaving the service, I moved to Missouri to get an MBA at Washington University in St. Louis. While in business school, I completed a summer marketing internship with Nestlé Purina and was fortunate enough to receive a full-time offer. Following graduation, I began as a Marketing Associate on the Pro Plan® Brand Team in June 2015.

Tell us about your current role at Purina – how would you describe what you do to someone else who's not in our field or in our company?

Brand Management is constantly evolving, which means I am doing something different every day. My current role includes many facets, but some of the more significant ones include digital media execution, leading brand operating planning, managing the brand budget, and leading analytics.

Describe your transition from the military to the civilian world.

I utilized business school as a stepping stone to open new doors in the civilian world. For me, it was the perfect way to add business acumen to the skills I developed in the Army.

In your opinion, what are the most important transferable skills from the military to the corporate world?

I believe the two biggest are managerial and communication skills.

What, if any, obstacles did you face upon transitioning out of the military?

Experience in the military helps to build a valuable skillset that is hard to replicate, yet gaps when transitioning to the business world do exist. Some of the larger obstacles include needing to build a knowledge base around business terminology and processes, as well as adapting to a world that is increasingly digital.

Why Purina? What led you here and why have you stayed with the company?

Nestlé Purina is an excellent company that makes excellent products. Similar to the Army, it is also an organization that has a strong set of values. The ‘Five Talls', as these values are called here, permeate the company and continue to guide the business. I believe this has led to a high-quality and positive work environment that I enjoy coming back to every day.

Would you refer other veterans to work at Purina? And if so, why?

Absolutely. We value what veterans have to offer and are an outstanding company.

What advice would you give to others preparing to transition from the military?

Examine all of your opportunities before settling on a new career field and company. There are infinite options, but if you can find a place that embraces veterans and diversity, you will do well. In this regard, I have found Nestlé Purina to be a perfect fit.

Pie in the sky: What's your dream job beyond what you're doing today?

I would like to progress within the Marketing department at Nestlé Purina, but I also greatly value breadth of experience. Two things I would like to do specifically would be to spend time working in the Sales department and also to do an international rotation.

Can you share a special, or funny, memory from your time in the military?

When I was in Afghanistan, we were at a relatively remote outpost. Even so, the surrounding villages were full of kids. At a high level, it felt good to provide security for them in such a vo latile area, but what was really special was simply the look on their faces when my Platoon and I came by on a patrol. I am sure it helped that my Soldiers and I eventually had our families send candy to us in the mail for the kids, but it was these small moments that really resonated with me.

peter Bolhuis Headshot

Peter's Story

Current Job Title: Business Specialist, IT
Military Title: Captain, Armor
Military Branch: Army

Tell us more about your military background:

I graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1985. I attended Armor Officer Basic Course at Ft. Knox. I served two years as an Executive Officer of a Basic Training Company in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. Then, I went to Friedberg, Germany, for four and a half years with an Armor (Tanks) unit. I was a Platoon Leader, Deputy Subcommunity Commander Executive Officer (big title, meant I was responsible for dealing with the dependents of all the soldiers on the Caserne and other activities), and then a Battalion Maintenance Officer for an Armor Battalion. I went to Desert Storm at that time and spent six months in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. Upon return, I deployed back to Ft. Knox where I became a Project Officer for revamping the training of National Guard and Reserve Armor Units. I then got out of the military as part of the RIF (Reduction in Forces) program.

What has been your civilian career path so far?

When I first got out of the military, I did not have a job lined up, so I had to do a lot of job hunting. I finally landed a job as a Production Supervisor for Packaging Corp. of America, a Project Engineer for Engelhard Corporation, a Production Supervisor for Roadmaster Corporation (made treadmills), a Maintenance Supervisor, Planner and Manager for Kelly-Springfield Tire Company and then went to work for Nestlé. Working for Nestlé, I have been a Maintenance Supervisor and Maintenance Planner for the Jonesboro Prepared Foods Plant. I then went to work for the Nestlé USA GFIT (Global Field Implementation Team) getting all the Nestlé USA factories live in SAP (I did this for six years). I am currently working for the Regional Business Solutions Team at Purina to implement new projects and tools for the markets to use.

Tell us about your current role at Purina – how would you describe what you do to someone else who's not in our field or in our company?

I provide assistance to the different markets; everything from Purina to Prepared Foods and Ice Cream to Nestlé Waters, and try and help develop programs and tools to help them do their job better.

Describe your transition from the military to the civilian world.

I did several of the recruiter (head-hunter) job fairs specifically aimed at junior military officers, with few results. I don't know that the companies that were hiring knew what they were really looking for as far as the military and the recruiters were just interested in filling a slot, even if you weren't the best qualified or it was your best choice. When I got out of the military, I was unemployed for about a month. I did a lot of knocking on doors and visiting companies to get my résumé in front of them before I finally landed a job.

In your opinion, what are the most important transferable skills from the military to the corporate world?

Ability to adapt. Ability to take charge and make difficult decisions. Ability to handle crisis when needed and go with little or no guidance.

What, if any, obstacles did you face upon transitioning out of the military?

Sometimes it was difficult to understand the motivation (or lack thereof) of the people working with or for you. In the Army, there is a lot of Esprit de Corp and people were there because they wanted to be. There was a sense of teamwork. They knew they made a difference, so it was more a matter of guiding to get the job done. I have been in some jobs, luckily not with Nestlé, where people are only there for the pay check and to do as little as possible.

Why Purina? What led you here and why have you stayed with the company?

I liked the stability of Purina and greater Nestlé. Nestlé is diversified enough that when one market is down, another will be up and they are very thorough in thinking about what companies/businesses they get into.

Would you refer other veterans to work at Purina? And if so, why?

Yes, it is a good place to work with the potential to grow, not just within Purina, but within the greater Nestlé organization.

What advice would you give to others preparing to transition from the military?

Give yourself a lot of lead time. Don't rely on "head hunters" (recruiters) to find you a job. Make sure you have some savings, and that you're whole family is ready for the transition. Most importantly: You will need to be actively involved. Also, contact a résume' writer who specializes in transferring your skills, duties and job responsibilities into something that the civilian work place can understand.

Can you share a special, or funny, memory from your time in the military?

My unit went to Hohenfels, Germany which is a training area for tank units. I was the Battalion Maintenance Officer at the time and had about 60 guys that worked either directly or indirectly for me. Right as we were getting ready to start our maneuvers, it started raining and the dust that Hohenfels was known for turned into soupy mud. The tanks kept getting stuck and my guys would be running around pulling them out. We spent five days, muddy and nasty, eating cold MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, or so they claimed), with very little sleep, yet my guys were happy because they were doing their job and having a good time.

Ramon  Headshot

Ramon's Story

Current Job Title: Director, Food Safety Operations North America
Military Title: E-4 Corporal
Military Branch: United States Marine Corp

What has been your career path so far?

I began my career with Purina as an Operator in the packing department of our manufacturing dry pet food facility in Flagstaff, AZ. After a couple years I began working in the lab as an Ingredient Specialist testing incoming ingredients. I then moved to Product Safety Team Leader responsible for Food Safety and HACCP at the factory. Later I moved to St. Louis as a Quality Specialist auditing the other factory food safety programs in North America and assisting implementation of improvement projects. Eventually I returned to Flagstaff as the Assistant Quality Manager and became a Quality Manager for several years. More recently, I transitioned to production as an Assistant Production and Production Manager.

Tell us about your current role at Purina – how would you describe what you do to someone else who's not in our field or in our company?

Assure the Food Safety Programs at our factories, drive improvements and support factory needs specific to their food safety plan.

Describe your transition from the military to the civilian world.

I was born and raised in Flagstaff, so I was lucky to be able to go back to my hometown and begin working with a good company that always had plenty of work.

In your opinion, what are the most important transferable skills from the military to the corporate world?

In my opinion, the most important transferrable skill is learning how to work up and down the organization. This includes explaining items and ideas to all levels of the company. Like the military, people are our most important asset and we must engage with them to get their ideas, perspective and feedback.

Why Purina? What led you here and why have you stayed with the company?

My father started working for the company as an Operator in 1987. I was able to see how stable of a job my dad had and the opportunities that were afforded to him through hard work.

Would you refer other veterans to work at Purina? And if so, why?

Absolutely. The culture here at Purina is unique. The people are very friendly and there is a family-type culture. The company offers great benefits for you and your family members.

What advice would you give to others preparing to transition from the military?

Plan and have a few back-up plans in case you find your initial job or career intuitions are not right for you. Find what makes you happy and pursue that.

Can you share a special, or funny, memory from your time in the military?

What is special to me is the connectivity that I have to the men and women I served with. They are like extended family. Great memories, and there are plenty, including watching people grow and succeed which felt very good as being a mentor and their non-commissioned officer.

tim  Headshot

Tim's Story

Current Job Title: Brand Manager
Military Title: Captain
Military Branch: US Army Infantry

Tell us more about your military background:

I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1997 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army infantry. I attended Fort Benning as my first duty station and completed the Infantry Office Basic Course, Ranger School and the Bradley Leader Course. After training at Fort Benning, I reported to my first unit Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood Texas. I was a platoon leader, company executive office, battalion assistant S-3, battalion S-4 and brigade assistant S-4. I finished as a captain in 2002.

What has been your civilian career path so far?

After leaving the Army, I attended Washington University in St. Louis for the full-time MBA program and graduated in 2004. My first private sector job was with Guidant Corporation as a Product Manager in marketing. Guidant was later acquired by Boston Scientific. I decided to leave Boston Scientific and join Purina in 2008.

Tell us about your current role at Purina – how would you describe what you do to someone else who's not in our field or in our company?

I try and understand what makes people happy and sad, and then identify what role their pet plays in their happiness. Once I understand that, I can work on products that improve and extend the life of their pet via nutrition to keep that great relationship between owner and pet strong.

Describe your transition from the military to the civilian world.

I realized how much I knew about the Army was how much I didn't know about the private sector or even a specific industry. I decided a full-time MBA program was the best transition for me so that I could add skills and experience while learning more about where I wanted to go next.

In your opinion, what are the most important transferable skills from the military to the corporate world?

A sense of duty and responsibility I think are the most important things you can transfer from your military experience to the civilian world. I get the privilege of working in a role where I make decisions all day that the majority do not have a process associated specifically with them. Having a sense of duty and responsibility is a good compass to make sure I am making the right decisions that are lasting for our business in a positive way.

What, if any, obstacles did you face upon transitioning out of the military?

I had to make some cultural adjustments in how I talked and worked with others. The most important being building the skill of empathy.

Why Purina? What led you here and why have you stayed with the company?

I found working in medical devices that I really enjoyed marketing. Consumer products is a great place to have a marketing career and Purina is a leader in a fun category. I get to spend my day talking about cats and dogs!

Would you refer other veterans to work at Purina? And if so, why?

We are a large company that has many different opportunities outside of the experience I have had. We have a great culture of respect and collaboration.

What advice would you give to others preparing to transition from the military?

Make an informed decision on your next career change and don't just take a job.

Pie in the sky: What's your dream job beyond what you're doing today?

I really enjoy teaching and coaching. I would like someday to teach brand management and business courses and share what I have learned over my career.

Can you share a special, or funny, memory from your time in the military?

There are so many, but what makes them great is that they were with other people who are lifelong friends. The stories are great because they are shared, not because they unique on their own.


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