Hear from Shanta, Senior Principal Human Resources Consultant, military veteran and member of the Black Organizational Leadership at Discover (BOLD) employee resource group. She shares how deploying to Iraq shaped her values, evolved her skills and pivoted her priorities.
When I think of my younger self, I picture a go-getter. I was very ambitious and wanted a lot out of life, quickly. I always had dreams of being part of something big that would affect change in a positive way. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her to be kind to herself. To know her worth. To be brave and bold—take risks outside her comfort zone. I’d tell her to stay true to herself and not to worry if she looks different, or feels she looks different, from other people. There is much more to her than what others see on the surface.
The moment I deployed to Iraq while serving in the military had the biggest impact on my life today. The effects of this moment extend far beyond the deployment. I went through a range of emotions and experiences— fear, worry, feeling overwhelmed, learning new skills, relying on family to take care of my finances and son.
The combat zone is an intense place, where things can move very quickly one moment and drag painfully slowly the next. “Hurry up and wait” is not just a phrase, but is a reality of life in a war zone. Service members move quickly to prepare for a mission and find themselves waiting for minutes or hours as plans change, intelligence is gathered, and leaders adjust decisions.
Adrenaline pumps as service members gear up, load their weapons, and mount their vehicles, and then, without warning, they’re told to stand down. This constant feeling of having one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake is exhausting and physically demanding, especially for troops who operate on minimum levels of sleep.
As I reflect on these moments, this is where I learned to remain calm, adapt and be flexible to change in any given situation. I learned loyalty, respect, honor and integrity. Personal courage and selfless service are some of the values that have had the greatest impact on me, both then and now.
Pushing myself to evolve is an on-going process for me. I challenge myself to explore new experiences by setting goals to meet my individual needs. I seek out networking to learn from others. And remind myself to be patient. Timing is everything.
Over the course of my career, I’ve particularly learned that protecting my time is critical. I can’t afford to be involved in everything or care about everything. I simply don’t have time. My experience in the military has also put things in perspective as it relates to my family, career, and life. So I try to live, love and laugh more.
Learn more about Discover’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Black Organizational Leadership at Discover (BOLD) employee resource group.