Shortly after Jessica Rodriguez began initial training in the Army Reserves in 2002, she was hired as a phlebotomist at a BioLife Plasma Services center in Appleton, Wisc.
"I was the first military employee at that location, so I explained to management that I would need to switch scheduled work weekends if I had drill, and they were very understanding," shares Rodriguez, who currently works as a BioLife quality associate.
She notes that eight of the 11 years she's worked at BioLife have coincided with her time in the Reserves, serving most recently as an E-6 Staff Sergeant, Healthcare Specialist. During this time, Rodriguez was required to serve an active duty tour for a year and a half at an immunization department of a Soldier Readiness Center at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, where she performed blood draws and provided immunizations for soldiers beginning or ending active duty tours.
"I wasn't provided much notice by the military before I had to leave," says Rodriguez. "But the BioLife center was very accommodating and allowed me take time off in order to get some things settled so that I could be away for that length of time."
Rodriguez notes that her time in the Army Reserves presented her with valuable leadership experience and provided her with the resources to complete two bachelor's degrees, which have helped advance her career with BioLife. In addition, she feels that some of her military experiences have prepared her for certain situations on the job.
"In the military I was able to implement various process improvements within a few of the units I worked. This translated well into my current role where I am constantly evaluating ways to make quality training and other center processes more effective and efficient. My participation in auditing of affiliated units in the military also helped me when I performed in a guest auditor role at BioLife for three years," she explains. "Also, having to call cadence for a troop of soldiers makes public speaking or facilitating classes seem like a walk in the park."
Support for military and veteran employees
Baxter actively recruits individuals like Rodriguez who have military experience, and provides resources and support to those who are transitioning from the military into new careers in the civilian world.
An example of this support is the company's business resource group, BaxVets. This group—which consists of Baxter employees who are veterans, those currently serving in the military, those without a military background, or those with family members who are serving or veterans—aims to address the unique experience of the veteran re-entering the workforce, focusing on the recruitment and retention of veterans at the company.
"We feel strongly that employees with military backgrounds bring a number of valuable skills and principles to the table," says Ron Hartley, Baxter director, global customer listening systems, who serves on BaxVets' leadership team, as well as a Major in the Army Reserves. "That's why BaxVets aims to foster an environment where veteran employees feel welcome and have the tools they need to successfully transition and thrive in their careers."
Reaching out to the community
BaxVets not only assists Baxter employees, but also gives back to the military community by supporting veteran career events and engaging in volunteer projects.
Earlier in the year, BaxVets took part in a career day at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they mentored veterans and their spouses and provided guidance on resume building, interviewing and networking. The local BaxVets team followed up with a "Day with Baxter" event, where participants in the career day had the opportunity to visit Baxter's offices in Englewood, Colo., for one-on-one mentoring sessions. Baxter also hosted a MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program (MVP) "re-careering" event for veterans at its headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., where Baxter employees provided attendees with personalized career guidance and tools for professional success.
"It was a rewarding experience to spend time with the re-careering event attendees, especially for those of us at Baxter who are veterans and understand from personal experience what it's like to go through that transition process," says Joseph Petty, Baxter senior marketing manager, U.S. hospital products, and former army air defense officer who is also part of BaxVets' leadership team and volunteered as a mentor at the MVP event.
The Business Resource Group has also been involved in efforts to give back to active duty military men and women. Recently, BaxVets organized an afternoon of putting together care packages for soldiers in Afghanistan through the local We Care Packs initiative. Employees and their children assembled more than one hundred packages filled with food items and toiletries. BaxVets members also organized a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots collection last year to gather toys for less fortunate children for the holidays.
Thanking veterans for their service
To commemorate Veterans Day this year, BaxVets organized an event for employees at Baxter's Deerfield headquarters featuring Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Allen Lynch, and a project involving writing letters of thanks to service members overseas.
"It's so important for us to acknowledge the service that these dedicated men and women have performed, and to say thank you," says Petty. "We value veterans' enormous past contributions within the military, as well as the diverse, meaningful paths they embark upon as civilians."