In step with military service: Associates share their stories
Service members, veterans and their spouses can find it challenging when transitioning to civilian life.
Sometimes employers have concerns about how well veterans or those in the reserves will adapt to a significantly different role or culture, a wariness which may be shared by the new hires themselves.
The expectations gap experienced on both sides can be difficult. Wipfli has resolved to prevent such issues and has made it a priority to make sure associates with military backgrounds feel welcome and supported at the firm.
The 2022 launch of the firm’s resource group Wipfli Valor is helping hundreds of associates with military ties and their allies feel part of a community that honors their service and acknowledges the strength and skills they bring to work each day.
Here are the experiences of four Wipfli associates:
Senior tax manager, Green Bay, Wis.
Joined Wipfli in 2015
Cassidy Hickman, then a staff sergeant in the Army, served at Camp Taji near Baghdad, until she returned home in January 2010.
Cassidy retired from the Army National Guard in January 2023 after 27 years, which followed several years of enlisted duty in the Army beginning in the early 1990s. Most recently as Wisconsin’s only chemical warrant officer, Cassidy provided technical knowledge in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense to all levels of command.
When I first graduated from college, there were a lot of obstacles when I was job hunting. I wouldn't even put my military reserve service on my resume because I learned that potential employers thought I would be gone from work too much. One firm actually told me that you're supposed to work 2,300 hours a year. How can you expect to do that and be in the National Guard?
My experience at Wipfli has been great, however. I've never dealt with that issue here. When I first got hired, it was just before I finished warrant officer candidate school. I had to go to a six-month training for my warrant officer job. I had to tell them I’d be gone all summer. They were like, “OK, no worries.”
It's never been a problem when I go to my National Guard training. I am able to work both jobs without a problem.
Cybersecurity consultant, Minneapolis, Minn.
Joined Wipfli as an intern in January 2022 and was hired in July 2022.
Michael Ayotte transitioned from the Army National Guard to active duty in Italy after the 9/11 attacks. He became a Green Beret serving in special operations. Over his long military career, his roles included combat, long-range reconnaissance and technology needs advancement.
After 21 years in the Army, including 10 years as a special forces operator, Michael became Wipfli’s first intern last year to come through the Warrior Care program, a military services’ initiative which assists wounded and disabled service members and veterans in meeting their needs and goals.
I have a lot of medical issues, and I really appreciate that Wipfli gets it. I have at least two appointments weekly with the V.A. and my boss just says, “Hey, try and make up the time if you can. If you can't, I understand. Just put it as FTO (flexible time-off).”
I really appreciate this. I haven’t had to take FTO yet, but it’s nice to know it’s there. The whole concept of flexible time off is new to me. I took my first sick day ever and I didn’t even need a doctor’s note.
I was working at a high level in special ops, planning large-scale operations, and I had a lot of subordinates. There were many moving parts. Now coming in to a job where I work with small-town banks, it’s a big adjustment. My thinking has gone from macro to micro. I’m not used to doing just one thing at a time instead of eight or nine. I always want to do more.
Tax manager, Radnor, Pa.
Joined Wipfli in 2020
Stacie Court and her husband Jason, a retired Navy pilot, celebrate his graduation from flight school in 1997 with their three-month old son Nicholas.
Married to a Naval officer for 29 years, Stacie and her husband Jason moved six times before he left active duty in 2015. At that point, he transitioned to the reserves based in Pensacola, Fla., and worked for a military contractor.
I was a military spouse for many years, lived in military friendly towns, most recently Pensacola, Fla. We moved to Philadelphia in 2018, and I found it's not so military friendly here. I had a hard time moving somewhere where we didn't have that built-in military family that was always there for support. People in Philadelphia didn’t understand our experience.
Before I came to Wipfli, I got a lot of “you sure moved around a lot” when employers looked at my resume. When we were based in Japan, I took a few years off from work because what public accounting firm would hire me there? When people at Wipfli asked about that time, they really listened and seemed to care about my husband serving in the military. They wanted to hear more about the experiences rather than it being a bad thing. It’s great to be at a firm that reaches out to military families.
Senior tax manager, Denver, Colorado
Joined Wipfli through a merger in 2020
During his deployment in Kuwait in 2009, Matt Thomas, then an Army specialist, worked in the finance office and was in charge of travel funds disbursements.
The son of a combat medic and Army nurse and grandson of World War II bombardier, Matt served in the Army for four years before starting college. He’s been out of the military since 2011, but his service helped shape his identity post-service.
Valor (Wipfli’s business resource group) is important. I appreciate that it brings attention to veterans. There is a lot of education we veterans can provide at the firm. One of the partners asked me to give a training on the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.
In the first couple of years of my career, it was sometimes hard to relate to people who did not have prior military experience. But now that I’m older, my view has shifted. My military experience has helped me relate to younger people, especially as their performance coach.
I love hearing how Wipfli has been so flexible and accommodating of associates like Cassidy and Michael. What we’re doing has an impact for the people who work here and for recruiting. I love seeing the support from the organization. We actually live the values that we advertise.