Archive for May, 2012

Every Salute Must Be Earned!


 Last week, I attended the swearing in ceremony of a friend Peter Jean-Louis as second lieutenant in the US Navy. Along with the fact that how Peter got to become a lieutenant was inspirational enough, I learned during the ceremony about a long Navy tradition called the first salute.

But first, let me tell you about Peter. ..

 He immigrated to the US on January 10, 2000 to be reunited with his mother. She left Haiti when Peter was three and he did not meet her again until he was 18 years old. Peter’s father had left Haiti to look for work in Martinique before his mother went to the US. As a result, Peter was raised by his grandmother, a lady who did not know how to read or write. Ironically, Peter’s grandmother turned out to be his greatest inspiration in the pursuit of higher education. She impressed upon him the importance of education and always motivated him to do better.

In 2000, the same year Peter immigrated to the US, he enrolled in a technical school in Miami where he met a retired Army Officer who encouraged him to join the military to take advantage of educational opportunities. A year later, in 2001, he enlisted in the Navy. At first, everything seems complicated; it seems as if Peter landed on a different planet. He was dealing with a double whammy: He was not completely assimilated in the US, including not speaking English proficiently, and yet he had to assimilate into a military way of life. Eventually, it did not take long for him to realize that success in the military required commitment, discipline, and great work ethic. Peter quickly progressed through the ranks, from E1 to E5 in five year.

Early on in his military career, Peter decided that he wanted to become an officer. The Navy offers a level playing field to all enlisted members who want to progress through the enlisted ranks or become an officer, and provides many incentives for enlisted members who decide to pursue higher education. These incentives include tuition assistance, and scholarships. 

As Peter progressed through the ranks, he was also enrolled in college during his off time. In 2006, he became eligible to apply for a full scholarship through the Navy’s Medical Service Corps to study pharmacy.  Enlisted members who are granted this scholarship and who complete the PharmD program are subsequently commissioned in the Navy to the rank of Lieutenant (O-3). This scholarship is highly competitive and the process of application includes obtaining the recommendation of several leaders within the command the members is attached to. This process also includes scrutiny of the member’s performance through the years, including demonstrated leadership development, community involvement, and academic achievement. In 2007, Peter was accepted in the scholarship program and attended Campbell University from 2008 to 2012. He graduated with honors with a doctorate in pharmacy (PharmD)  on May 11, 2012 and subsequently was commissioned as a Lieutenant in Navy Medical Service Corps. 

Back to the Navy tradition of the first salute!

Apparently, this tradition dates back to the 19th century. According to the tradition, a new officer must give a silver dollar to the enlisted member giving him the first salute. The idea is that the newly minted officer needs to buy his first salute and earn every salute after that through his or her performance.

I like this tradition of the first salute because it reminds us that a leader does not deserve respect based on his or her position in the organization but based on the work of the leader: including maximizing the performance of the team under his or her leadership, helping those under his/her leadership to become better individually or creating possibilities for higher achievement that would not happen without the leader’s presence.

May 22, 2012 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment

Advice to Graduates 2012

A journalist asked me to share some bits of advice with graduates. Below are my 15 cents:

Continue to learn: A college degree is only the beginning of learning. However, it is an important milestone in the journey called life: It shows that you have the capability to learn. I urge you to learn not only by taking training classes or seminars that may be offered on the job but also by being pro-active. Don’t hesitate to pick a book to learn more about a topic. There are excellent resources available online, use them! But more importantly, learn from your colleagues. Don’t just ask questions such as how do you do it but why do it this way? Are there alternatives? What goes into your thinking when you make those decisions? What you are trying to achieve is not to learn how to do a task which is like asking someone to give you a fish but to find a pattern in their actions and thought processes which is like learning from them how to fish.

Offer more than just your technical skills: Offer to your employer than just the skills you acquired in college (journalism, computing, engineering or whatever your major was). There are other qualities that will help you well such as being resourceful, having a great attitude, being able to work independently, demonstrating leadership by taking initiatives. If you think something needs to be fixed, take ownership for making it happened. Do you think your workplace or department could benefit from having a social committee? Offer to create one and lead it or serve on it. Do you think the company Facebook page or Twitter feed could use more updates? Propose a solution and be part of it. Don’t underestimate the difference you can create outside of your technical area of expertise.

Have a life outside of work: You need work to make a living but you are not living for work. Don’t let your job define who you are. I say this because work has a way of creeping into other aspects of our personal life. First and foremost, I encourage you to take care of yourself. Watch what you eat. Go out there and exercise. Play pick-up soccer, basketball, hockey or simply walk around your neighborhood. I wish someone would have told me earlier that there is such a thing as your metabolism slowing down. I learned too late that staying at a desk is not the same as walking between buildings on large campus. The second aspect of your life outside of work that I urge you to be careful about is relationship. You can retire from a job but you will never retire from your relationships. In fact, after you retire, you will probably need those relationships more than ever. (Personally, I am very grateful for the friendship of my wife who has helped me to remain grounded). To me relationship is not restricted only to our immediate family and friends. It includes your neighborhood, your community and even the entire world. One of the quest of humanity has been to find the purpose of life. If you want my 2 cents, I believe that our purpose is to be of service to others. We all have a responsibility to reach out to make a difference, to make this world a better place than we found it.

A clean slate: Recently I saw a quote that said, that to learn about the present, look at your past and if you want to know the future, look at your present actions. Your achievement today represents the hard work that you have put in the last few years. Your future will depend on the actions that you will take in the next few days or the next few months. Remember, once you start that first job nobody will ask you for your transcript, how high you scored on the SAT or the GRE. You are starting with a clean slate. Use this clean slate to write your own successful story.

May 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm Leave a comment

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May 2012