Recognizing Military Veterans Across Utilities: Leadership from the Military Arena to the Utility Sector with Bill Krieger - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]
- Nov 10, 2022 9:45 pm GMT
To celebrate Veterans Day this upcoming Friday, November 11th, the Energy Central Community Team will be shining a light on the many outstanding utility professionals in our network who also spent time in the military. This week, we'll be featuring interviews with these veterans sharing how they found their way into the industry. We will also highlight their unique perspectives of the industry and how they are influencing the utility space.
All the interviews will be collected at this special Veterans Day 2022 topic tag.
To all the veterans in the Energy Central Community, we want to say thank you for your service and we wish you a Happy Veterans Day.
One period of duty was not enough for Bill Krieger. So, he joined the military twice.
The 57-year-old Veteran first joined the United States Navy in 1984 because he didn’t have the discipline for college. “I wanted to gain some maturity,” he says. He served 10 years in that stint.
He “bounced around” in various jobs – insurance agent and college recruiter – after the Navy, before joining Michigan-based utility Consumers Energy. While the new job offered many career advancement opportunities, Krieger still missed the camaraderie of his military days.
And so, Krieger joined the military once again in 1999, working this time around in the Michigan Army National Guard. He retired eleven years later, achieving the rank of Captain. The leadership skills and respect for diverse opinions he learned in the military have helped Krieger navigate his current assignment as the Veterans Affairs Program Manager at Consumers Energy. In this position, he oversees the administration of GI Bill benefits and assists Veterans in their transition from military to civilian life. Bill also hosts the company’s podcast, Me You Us, that allows co-workers to share their stories and challenges.
The Importance of Leadership
Krieger’s 28-year career at Consumers has spanned many positions. Before his current role in the human resources department, Krieger worked as an engineer, supervisor, and – at the beginning of his career – a dispatcher. Those positions have given him a unique perspective on the ingredients required for success in the industry.
He says veterans should emphasize their leadership experience in their job applications. “Technical skills can be taught; many times, veterans discount their leadership experience,” he says. He gives the example of his son – a military veteran – who told him: All I know is how to shoot a rifle and walk as many miles as you ask me to without complaining.
“But he has been a team leader and a sergeant in the military,” says Krieger. While every military job may not have a parallel in the utility sector, leadership skills are important wherever you go, says Krieger.
Those leadership skills need to be reconfigured to a civilian environment, however. During the time he combined military and civilian careers, Krieger noticed a difference in the leadership styles at both places. In the military, orders were short and direct. Execution was expected without questions. “In the civilian world, you need to explain [to your reports] why they are doing the thing they do whereas in the military people just go ahead and do it,” explains Krieger.
During the time that his professional life straddled the Army and Consumers, Krieger attempted to meld both worlds. As a result, he explained the rationale behind his orders to reports in the Army and ensured accountability in civilian settings. Thus, he encouraged reports to ask for the “why” behind his decisions. At his current job, he instills accountability and initiative – taught in the military – to his reports.
Making A Career in the Utility Industry
With its electric poles and gas pipes in deep trenches, the utility industry does not have the most glamorous of perceptions in popular imagination. But Krieger is a firm believer in its potential to provide a fulfilling career to Veterans. He says the breadth of the industry’s operations – information tech to critical infrastructure to company operations – means that Veterans from diverse backgrounds and interested in a particular field can pursue their passions.
Even if they are unsure, the industry offers plenty of opportunities to experiment. Krieger’s career in the industry is proof of that thesis. “I was military police and a computer technician and I do none of those things in my current role,” he says. Hard work, initiative, and a willingness to learn are necessary, though. “Where you end up is incumbent upon you.”
Krieger counsels researching the industry before committing to a career in it. You should understand how to write a resume and be prepared for interviews, he says. “Always have a story in your back pocket during interviews [to explain your life decisions],” he says.
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