- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Military-to-Civilian Transition Story: A Success Story Waiting for You
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: American Military University

A ComSonics employee

at work.

Great things are known to come in small packages.

Such is the case with ComSonics, Inc., a growing electronics company living large on the cutting edge of groundbreaking technology. With its corporate headquarters in Harrisonburg, Va., ComSonics is an international manufacturing and services firm in the electronics industry. Founded in 1972, much of their 40 plus years of electronics expertise was developed in the highly-technical cable television industry.

Today, ComSonics' operational capabilities include a state-of-the-art electronics manufacturing facility, three dedicated bench repair facilities in California, Indiana, and Virginia, and four regionally-located mobile laboratories offering onsite certification convenience.

"We are a smaller, employee-owned company, having 215 employees. In the past ten years, however, we have grown and diversified so much," said Pam Snyder, director of human resources.

"In addition to our service and manufacturing processes, we now also innovate. We look for the customer solutions before they are even needed," said Snyder.

Looking for the best employees
As a growing company, ComSonics is interested in hiring only the best employees and watching them succeed professionally.

ComSonics has often turned to the military, by way of Bradley Morris, Inc. (BMI), to fill its vacant positions and tap into the strengths often seen in those who have served in uniform.

"Because we are so diversified, we often look to BMI and our senior consultant, Eric Salzman, to help us fill a variety of jobs. We don't just go to them for one thing," said Snyder.

ComSonics typically seeks to hire customer service and sales representatives, repair technicians and field service technicians having a strong electronics background, the same backgrounds often found in the transitioning military members.

Depending on the specific position, presentation, customer service and technical skills are also required. As the company expands, it finds itself seeking candidates with a varied skill set.

"Many of those skills are found within the Navy electronics career field, Air Force avionics and Army signal occupations," said Salzman, who is based out of the Austin, Texas BMI office.

The strengths of transitioning military personnel
"We find good talent in and results from those who have served in the military," said Snyder.

"We are devoted to BMI and to Eric [Salzman]. Despite our small size, BMI has never treated us like a small company," said Snyder.

BMI is equally devoted to ComSonics.

"ComSonics is special to me. We've enjoyed a long-lasting relationship. We fully understand their varied needs and do everything we can to fill them with the best possible matches," said Salzman.

Over the years, ComSonics has hired 25 candidates from BMI, primarily by attending their Hampton, Va. ConferenceHire hiring events.

"Prior military members tend to be more flexible and more dependable. They are able to effectively do things on short notice," said Snyder.

"In interviews for positions that require traveling, we ask them if there are any issues with being away from home for a few weeks at a time. They simply laugh. Many of them are so used to being deployed for such longer periods of time that our three week on the road, two weeks at home work schedule seems easy in comparison," said Snyder.

And those aren't the only military related strengths that work for ComSonics, either.

"Employees who have spent time in the military are also often more skilled in working with diverse personalities and people. That is a real plus in our line of work," according to Snyder.

What ComSonics has to offer you

"In 1985, ComSonics became a 100% ESOP corporation, which means ComSonics is 100% employee owned. All our full-time employees who are 21 years of age and have worked for the company for at least a year own a part of the company, so our employees have a vested interest in every product or service we provide. We all want to succeed because we all benefit as a result," said Snyder.

According to Snyder, the organizational culture of ComSonics is a comfortable one having an open door policy.

"We are not a formal, stuffy kind of company. We are friendly, open to new ideas and respectful of our employees," said Snyder. "Our reputation and many years of success are built upon a quality commitment to our valued customers. And at the heart of our success are the employees of ComSonics."

ComSonics also offers competitive salaries and lucrative benefits. This includes not only employee ownership but also medical, dental, and 100% tuition assistance.

Advancement opportunities are also a reality.

"We like to promote from within wherever possible," said Snyder.
And, it would seem like employees like to stick around once hired by the company.

"Our employee turnover rate is very low. On the average, our employees work with us over 15 years," said Snyder.

"Employee ownership also creates a different work culture. Everyone wants to succeed because everyone has skin in the game," said Snyder.

Admittedly, there are some aspects of working with a smaller company that can differ with those of a larger one.

"We aren't able to offer as big of a compensation package as a very large company might, but we offer good salaries with additional benefits that could never be realized in a larger organization," said Snyder.

"At ComSonics, you don't get lost in the fray. I know everyone here on a first name basis and they all are important to the company. As a ComSonics employee, you are a valued individual who owns a part of the company," said Snyder.

Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Jeff Voelkers agrees.

"I enjoy working with ComSonics. It's a good company and it was the best choice for me. The job itself is fun, offering a nice variety. We get to do a little bit of everything," said Voelkers.

Voelkers retired in 2006. While on active duty, the former master sergeant worked as an aircraft electrical and environmental technician.

Transitioning from military to civilian life was not without it challenges, according to Voelkers.

"I had only had one job in my life and my employer that whole time was the U.S. Air Force. I wasn't sure what to expect," said Voelkers.

Voelkers credits BMI with helping him to make the move an easier one and offers his own brand of been there, done that wisdom.

"The number one thing I would tell someone thinking about leaving the military now, is to contact BMI. They made the whole process of finding a job easy and smooth for me," said Voelkers adding that it also helps to be open to moving to different geographical locations.

Voelkers learned about BMI when he attended the mandatory transition assistance briefings provided by the Air Force. There he met Chris Stevens, a BMI candidate recruiter / regional operations manager, who arranged for him to learn about the company and interview for a position with it.

"In January 2006, I contacted BMI and started working with Chris [Stevens] to locate potential job opportunities. I attended a BMI hiring event in the springtime and within two to three weeks I was offered the job as a Technical Support Representative with ComSonics," said Voelkers.

Voelkers hasn't stayed in that same job, however.

Within a year and half, he was promoted to Supervisor of Technical Support.

Now that sounds like an on-going success story.


Janet Farley is the author of "The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide" and she writes the JobTalk column for the Stars and Stripes newspaper.



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