- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Military-to-Civilian Transition Success Story: Your Next Career is in the Pipeline
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

Article Sponsored by:

Donnalyn Bornheimer,

field engineer, at work.

You already know a thing or two about safety, quality, technical excellence and commitment to others. If you also happen to have an engineering degree listed on your resume, you might want to consider becoming a field engineer or a project manager with BJ Process and Pipeline Services (BJ PPS), based in Houston, Texas.

Known as the leading and most diverse provider of process and pipeline services worldwide, a day on the job can be anything but typical.

"One day I can be typing on the computer and doing calculations, and another I could be sent to a different state or to the middle of the ocean. I never know what my next project is going to be and where it is going to lead me," said Donnalyn Bornheimer, a field engineer with BJ PPS since April 2008.

Bornheimer spent five years in the Marine Corps and worked as an F-18 Air Frame Mechanic. While attending a Transition Assistance Program (TAP), she learned about the military recruiting firm, Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI). After researching their services online, she contacted BMI to assist her in finding her current position.

"BJ PPS is a service company. We solve problems for our customers," said Martyn Bates, vice president and region manager of the Americas Region for the company.

"We go wherever our customers are located and our engineers must be willing to travel to those places," said Bates.

Customers can be located,as Bornheimer mentioned, anywhere in the world to include such on or off shore locations such as an oil refinery, a gas plant, a petro-chemical facility or an offshore platform.

BJ PPS is part of the BJ Services Company and employs more than 1,200 professionals at twenty-four locations worldwide. The parent company, with over 14,000 employees worldwide, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange as BJS.

The PPS group specifically offers customers a range of pre-commissioning, commissioning, turnaround, and decommissioning services across the spectrum of process plan life cycle.

To find highly-qualified engineers transitioning from the military, BJ PPS has partnered with BMI to find candidates having a solid technical background coupled with a willingness to travel worldwide.

"Justin Henderson, our BMI representative, initially contacted me and explained how BMI could assist us in locating potential employees. We decided to pilot the program and see what happened," said Bates.

What happened was a whopping success.

"So far, we have placed eight engineers with the company through our ConferenceHire hiring event process," said Henderson. He added, "To be considered as a potential employee for BJ PPS, you have to be an outgoing person who is willing to travel and possess a 'get your hands dirty' kind of leadership style."

If your inner engineer's interest is peaked but you are concerned over your potential lack of specific pipeline and processing experience, relax. It's not required.

"We have placed service members with BJ PPS who worked in various military occupations such as aviation, signal and explosive ordinance disposal," said Henderson.

"We don't expect people to come out of the military to know our business," said Bates adding that it is the engineering degree itself that is important.

"We are not particularly stuck to one type of engineering degree; someone coming from a general engineering background with solid abilities, practical hands-on skills and leadership experience is [most desirable]," said Bates.

"We also look for candidates who have a good work ethic and willingness to go into the field to learn our business, then we expect them to become our leaders of the future," said Bates.

The company has found that qualified engineers who served in the military are able to offer more than recent college graduates.

"Those coming out of the military have "life skills" and that's a plus compared to those having only an academic background," said Kevin Johnson, the technical manager for the Americas Region of BJ PPS.

"Military candidates offer distinct qualities. They are disciplined, motivated and possess a level of maturity that stands out [among the rest]," said Johnson.

Generally, employees are hired at the field engineer, level I position and may progress to level II within twelve to eighteen months, depending upon their work performance.

Level II engineers may advance to project managers within one to two years, again depending on their work performance and the available opportunities.
"Promotion within the company is definitely a skills and abilities driven thing," said Bates.

Engineers hired by the company are offered more than a competitive salary and benefits package which includes an enhanced age-linked matching 401(k) plan, Employee Stock Purchase Plan, medical, dental, vision and tuition reimbursement.

Additionally, tenured field engineers and project managers receive field bonus benefits that, depending upon the location of the job and their work performance on a given project, can drive their total compensation into the six figures.

Engineers are also afforded formal training opportunities in both technical and soft skills areas and a company vehicle after being employed for at least six months.

BJ PPS conducts no less than two job interviews before they hire an engineer.

"The first interview is usually held at the [BMI] hiring event. During the second interview, the candidate is brought to Houston for a more detailed full-day interview where he or she might well meet a number of mid-to-senior level managers," said Bates.

"When we attend the BMI hiring events, we typically see 10-14 potential candidates in a day. During that event, it is easier for us to whittle down the potential pool based on the candidate's attitude and enthusiasm," said Johnson who typically represents BJ PPS at BMI's ConferenceHire events interviewing pre-screened and pre-matched job seekers. "I have been very impressed with BMI's process and how it has worked for us," said Bates.

Whether from the employer or job seeker perspective, BMI delivers.

"My experience with BMI was great. I attended the [hiring events], which were attended by many good companies. There was always someone from BMI calling me to update me on the jobs that were available and would fit me. Through that process, I was able to get into BJ PPS," said Bornheimer.

Bornheimer reports being highly satisfied in her new job.

"Everyone, even management, has been willing to help and support me professionally, as well as personally. The employees are very diverse, and I am able to meet people from different cultures, which interests me," said Bornheimer.

Bornheimer advises those who are in the process of leaving the military to draw upon their military experience in order to land a civilian job and succeed in it.

"Don't forget what you have learned in the military. What I mean is the discipline, professionalism, and dependability that the military is known for," said Bornheimer.

"I have learned that one of the reasons many companies hire prior military is because they know that when they hire us, we will always do our best to get the job done," said Bornheimer.

Fellow BJ PPS field engineer and West Point graduate Chuck Wilke offers another piece of advice as well.

"Take the time to learn what you're talking about in your new job. Expect and accept that there will be a learning curve," said Wilke, who was also hired by BJ PPS through via BMI's free military job seeker placement services.

In the end, by utilizing your military experience, dedication and training to negotiate this learning curve, you too could find your next career in the pipeline.

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.  She can be reached at for comments and/or column suggestions.

Return to December 2009 Issue