Being Of Service: Military Veteran Ronald Burke Shares Lessons For Career Success

Twenty-six years ago, this Desert Storm vet transitioned out of the military and into Abbott. Now, he helps other vets do the same.

BUILDING LIFE AND COMMUNITY     |    May. 19, 2019

Growing up in a military family, Ronald Burke knew from a young age that he wanted to serve his country. He joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers right out of college and spent the next three years overseas. When he was ready to transition back to civilian life — a daunting task for any military veteran — he wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to do, only that he felt the call to continue serving others. With the help of a junior officer recruiting firm, he found that opportunity at Abbott.

Burke had a business degree from Long Beach State, and his work experience included managing construction and demolition projects for the Army, as well as supporting Desert Storm combat units with training events. With that knowledge, the recruiting firm helped him create a résumé, translate his military experience into civilian job skills and connect with companies like Abbott that actively recruited veterans.

"They suggested I interview for a position in Abbott's diagnostic business," Burke says. "I didn't know much about diagnostics at the time, but I was already familiar with some of Abbott's products. When I started doing the research into what Abbott was working on, it immediately caught my attention. They were working on new diagnostics tools, and the technology was very cutting edge and exciting."

Twenty-six years later, Burke is now Senior Manager of U.S. Commercial Business Excellence for Abbott's diagnostic business. He is also National Chair of the Abbott Employee Veterans Network, which enables him to help the company recruit and support more vets.

From the Desert to Diagnostics

Burke's job is to closely monitor customer feedback and work with teams across the organization to improve their experience with Abbott.

"For example, I might talk to our technical phone support team in Dallas about feedback from customers," he explains. "Or, I might talk to the distribution team about customer feedback on how our products are packaged or shipped. Then, we look at ways we can improve those things."

Burke says his job requires passion, patience, multitasking, leadership, creativity (especially when operating on limited budgets) and the ability to interact with many different types of people. Most people learn these job skills over the course of their careers, but as a military veteran, Burke learned them quickly and at a young age.

"I had just graduated from college and I was responsible for 30 people," Burke recalls. "That is a huge benefit of being in the military — you are given responsibility very early on, and you're expected to lead and to deliver. I learned how to own a project, how to be proactive about reaching out and getting the information and resources I needed, and how to prioritize what I'm working on based on the timeline I've set for completing a project. All that experience has served me well at Abbott."

From Military Service to Serving Vets

After completing his active-duty service and while already working at Abbott, Burke spent five more years in the Army Reserves. His connections to the military still run deep. His son is currently serving in the Air Force, and as the national chair of Abbott's Employee Veterans Network, Burke helps the company understand how to best attract and support other vets.

"The mission of the Veterans Network is to recruit and retain veteran employees and to support local VAs and veterans organizations. Veterans transitioning into civilian life might not be familiar with the career development resources that Abbott offers, which could help them improve their skill sets and move up in the organization."

The group also organizes community service events, such as sponsoring vets to visit their war memorials in Washington, D.C., building a replica memorial in Arizona and raising funds for homeless veterans.

In addition to career development and community service, the Veterans Network holds regular recruiting events and works with military transition organizations, like HirePurpose, to bring more veterans into the organization.

"Recruiting vets is really a passion for me," says Burke. "I know the value that veterans bring to Abbott in terms of leadership and commitment.

At the same time, Burke believes Abbott has a great deal to offer vets. "There are so many opportunities for veterans within the healthcare industry and within Abbott. There's sales, operations, logistics, project management — positions where veterans might already have some experience. Much like the military, Abbott has a fantastic training program that can prepare folks to do things they don't have a background in."

From One Veteran to Another

Burke's best advice for anyone considering transitioning out of military service and into civilian life is to start the legwork as soon as possible. That includes reaching out to organizations that can help with the transition, joining professional networking groups and narrowing down possible career choices.

"Think about what you want to do, sooner rather than later," says Burke. "That will give you some time to network and get up to speed on what's going on in the industry way before you transition. Research what companies are out there and what they are doing that may spark your interest. Then, reach out to someone in those organizations just to have an informational conversation."

For veterans interested in healthcare, Burke highly recommends considering a career with Abbott: "Veterans and service members take pride in serving their country. Abbott is a great company that people can be proud to work for because of all the innovative products and things they're doing to help improve people's health and lives. For me and many other veterans, it's exciting and rewarding to be part of that mission."