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National Veterans Small Business Week Panel

On November 7th, Jennifer Goetz, Kellie McCoy, and Jim Phelps discussed transitioning from military culture to business culture at our Innovation Conversation as part of National Veteran Small Business Week and the inaugural St. Louis Startup Week.

Jennifer Goetz is the Veteran Student Services Advisor at WashU. She also serves as an Air Force Reservist. In the Air Force, she has over 17 years of experience in human resources, business operations, program and project management, policy development, logistics, and executive support. After serving in various capacities for 15 year, she transitioned to a career as a veteran social worker and founded Washington University in St. Louis' Office of Military and Veteran Services. Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Virginia, a Master of Education in Education, Culture and Society from the University of Utah, and a Master of Social Work in Veteran Social and Economic Development from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. In her current role, she serves as WashU's focal point for military and veteran matters, working to include transitioning military-connected students in higher education, providing and connecting students with programs and services, and partnering across campus and in the community.

Kellie McCoy is the founder of The Candra Group, which offers customized advisory services to executive leaders, business owners, and non-profit organizations. She is co-founder of Upkeep Partners, and the founding City Leader of Bunker Labs STL, a national non-profit supporting veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs. Kellie served over 20 years in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer officer. After her service, she served as Chief of Staff to the CEO and Director of Operational Planning at Starbucks Coffee Company.  She graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holda a master's degrees in engineering and strategy. She is currently an Executive MBA candidate at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Jim Phelps is the Vice President of Operations at UNCOMN, which provides services supporting data science, business architecture, system engineering and project management. Jim has been a partner at UNCOMN, LLC since 2012 and currently manages a portfolio of 28 client projects, generating annual revenue of approximately $14 Million.  Since 2007, he has provided management consulting services to the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, St. Louis public sector planning agencies, and commerical firms. Jim served in the U.S. Army as a career soldier, joint logistician, operations analyst, and strategic planner. He holds a Master's degree in Economics and Operations Research from Colorado School of Mines, and an Executive Master's in International Business from St. Louis University. He is Past President of the APICS St. Louis Chapter and is an instructor for certification of Supply Chain Professionals (CSCP) and Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution (CLTD). 

Panelists shared advice and personal anecdotes about transitioning from military culture to business culture, from discussing the struggles of continuing education to learning how to dress without a uniform.

Kellie McCoy discussed how the trials of being a woman in the military prepared her to take on other challenges in like. She said that, "being one of the first or only women in a lot of units meant figuring out how to stay intensely focused on a mission and figuring out how to make connections with other people and get things done... The leadership that the army instilled in me has allowed me to put my arms around a group of people, identifying who fits where, and begin marching towards a common objective." 

Jim Phelps expressed how many of the skills learned in the military transfer to valualable traits in academia, relating how the "grit" one develops during service builds intellectual curiosity. 

Jennifer Goetz considered the prejudices that exist against members of the military. "We are a very inclusive culture here at WashU, but we need to know this diversity extends to many groups, including military... Don't assume, try to understand who these individuals are."

The event was moderated by Joe Steensma, Professor of Practice at the Brwon School at WashU and veteran of the U.S. Army.