- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Military-to-Civilian Transition Story: Creating Higher Standards
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: American Military University

TH Hill employees at work.

While the recent events in the oil and gas industry have impacted many lives and many companies, T H Hill Associates, Inc. (, a Houston, Texas-based consulting and services company in the oil and gas sector, is looking to the future.

"What has happened in the Gulf is a tragic occurrence," said Keith Grogan, manager of technical services for the company. "There is obviously a lot of uncertainty now. As a company, however, T H Hill is weathering the storm better than others. We haven't put all our eggs into one basket and we will even have a need in the near term for more employees," said Grogan.

The privately-held corporation, founded in 1980, offers engineering, quality assurance and training solutions designed to reduce the risk of structural failure in downhole drilling equipment for oil and gas projects around the world. The company is well known for creating the global drill string inspection and design standard DS-1¨, which defines the procedural inspection requirements used for drilling equipment. The company is dedicated to providing the highest quality and most innovative solutions possible.

"We are a smaller independent company, essentially comprised of an engineering department and a technical service department where I work directly for the vice president. Under me, there are 15 project managers working with our valued clients," said Grogan.

"Despite our smaller size, we have extensive global experience working technically challenging and critical drilling projects on very high profile wells belonging to such big names as Exxon, Chevron and Shell," said Grogan adding that while a good percentage of their business lies in the Gulf of Mexico region they also have significant land and international operations.

The firm also works extensively with independent operators and service companies.

"We just opened an office in Brazil and we will be expanding into other regions as well. With this growth comes increased [employment] opportunities," said Grogan.

Looking to the transitioning military workforce

In an effort to meet the company's growing need for highly-motivated and intelligent employees, T H Hill has struck oil, so to speak, in the resource rich work force transitioning from the military.

"We hire those having strong leadership abilities and the proven ability to effectively communicate. Those skills are often found in those who have served in the military," said Grogan who frequently uses the services of Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI) to help him find employees.

"Since 2008, we have placed military candidates with the company as either project managers or as quality assurance technicians," said Eric Salzman, T H Hill's BMI account manager, based in Austin, Texas.

"Eric [Salzman] has done a very good job finding candidates for us. We have provided him with feedback and, in turn, he has presented us with qualified candidates to fit the role of the positions we seek to fill," said Grogan.

"Typically, the company looks to hire project managers having at least a four year college degree and ample experience managing people, time and budgets. They want someone who has the ability to work independently," said Salzman.

"Communication skills are also critical," added Grogan, as project managers are the liaison between the all important customer and the technicians actually working on the projects in the field.

Prior experience working within the oil and gas industry is not a prerequisite.

"They like to bring their project managers or quality assurance technicians on board even if there is no experience in the oil business. If your track record shows exemplary performance, they can teach the rest," said Salzman.

"We train our project managers in-house. These positions are demanding jobs that often require around the clock attention. Project managers may get a telephone call at two a.m. and have to send a technician to a site where that person in turns works on a situation for another 12-14 hours. The manager has to gather information from the technician, report to the customer and continually facilitate the continued communication between the client and the tech throughout the whole process," said Grogan.

"We also offer our quality assurance technicians on-site training with state-of-the-art tools provided via extensive on-the-job and classroom training," said Grogan.

Advancement within the company is a definite possibility.

"This is a dynamic and growing company that promotes those who work hard and make a big impact in a short period of time," said Salzman.

Employees may find advancement opportunities to senior level project manager positions, senior level technical positions or within sales.

T H Hill provides a comprehensive compensation and benefits package that includes a 401(k) plan, paid time off during the first year of work, medical and dental coverage, life insurance and disability coverage at no cost to the employee.

Every day is different

Whatever the job, employees at T H Hill Associates can be assured that each day is unique.

"It's not the same thing day after day. Ours is a fluid working environment which can and often does change," said Grogan.

Former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander (O-4) Pat Harrah, who is now a project manager at the company, agrees.

"I like working here a lot. It is challenging and the job enables me to build on a skill set that I learned while in the Navy," said Harrah who served as an officer, primarily in the Navy's nuclear power program.

T H Hill Associates hired Harrah in September 2008 as a result of meeting him at a BMI ConferenceHire hiring event held in Norfolk, Va.

Harrah learned about BMI by attending the Navy's Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and by word-of-mouth.

"At the TAP I attended, there was a guest speaker from BMI. I liked what I heard. I also felt comfortable using BMI because other people I knew who had transitioned before me had gone through them and experienced success," said Harrah.

"I attended two BMI hiring events. I was very targeted at the onset. I knew that I wanted to get out of the nuclear power career field but I wanted to capture that QA/QC skill set that I developed and used while on active duty," said Harrah.

He offers advice to those in the process of a military to civilian career transition.

"There are two key elements to a successful transition. First, get with a placement organization that assists you in meeting your post-military goals with the minimum stress. I would highly recommend BMI to any transitioning service member," said Harrah.

"Secondly, seek out a company that welcomes the prior successes of your military career and brings you into the fold by providing a work environment that fosters both a willingness to contribute to the company's overall goals and your professional development," said Harrah.

Harrah urges transitioning service members to think outside the usual box, too. "Don't get too wrapped around the axle about staying in your current career field. Go outside your comfort zone and spread your wings a little bit. You can transition into a different career field within another industry that uses the same basic skill set you learned in the military," he said.

Additionally, Harrah advises job seekers to keep a positive attitude.

"You have to stay excited throughout the entire process. If, for example, you attend a BMI hiring event, you may experience 14 interviews in only eight hours. You have to be just as excited about the 14th interview as you were about the first one because you never know which one will be the right one," said Harrah.

"Don't get disappointed, either. You might experience some rejection along the way but you will eventually succeed," he said.


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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