Warrior-Scholar Project is excited to welcome John Perez to our Board of Directors! A U.S. Army veteran, John served on both active duty and the reserves, including two deployments to Iraq. Today, he is the head of Military and Veterans Affairs at Johnson & Johnson where he continues to support veterans and their families through professional development and program advocacy.
10 Questions With John Perez
1. How did your experience in the Army prepare you for future leadership roles?
The Army equipped me with more leadership training in an early stage of my career than probably any other “first job” I could have had. Having team leadership responsibility in a high stress environment is a really formative experience. It’s practical, hands-on, and real world. The military is also more than just a “job” — you get to see people’s life experiences, including the whole soldier and their family, and have the opportunity to enable and support people from all backgrounds to be their best selves. You don’t get that same experience in the private sector, especially so early in your career, and the military’s underlying organization and cultural structure makes it a great training ground.
2. What’s one thing you wish you had known before you separated?
The breadth of opportunities that are available. When I talk to transitioning service members now, I’ll often say that the time of separation is when their personal and professional aperture is the widest it may ever be. This is when you decide what industry to go into, what type of functional work you’ll pursue, what type of organization you’d like to be part of, and how you want to make an impact. You can choose a different career than what you did in the military. I didn’t realize how important this window of opportunity was – and how quickly it often narrows – until years later. I often hear transitioning service members share they feel they are expected to continue down the type of career path they were in during their military service, but the period of transition is a perfect one to explore new opportunities and there are many organizations, including WSP, that can enable that exploration and their next steps.
3. What drew you to Warrior-Scholar Project?
WSP is providing veterans with the opportunity to excel and advance themselves as a professional and a person — that’s tremendously powerful. I’m a first-generation college graduate, and I see how my family’s opportunities – economically, socially, culturally, and beyond – are greater because of higher education. I wanted to be part of an organization that is giving that opportunity to others.
4. What are you looking forward to as a WSP board member?
I’m looking forward to supporting the WSP program as it continues to scale what it delivers for the veteran community and deepening its breadth of impact.
5. What makes WSP unique?
There are thousands of nonprofit veterans service organizations, but WSP has a very unique focus area. Advancing the opportunity to attend and excel at great institutions is incredibly important, and WSP has carved itself a unique place within this very large ecosystem of support.
6. What value do you think veterans bring to the classroom and beyond?
There’s many! Because of the military culture and training, most veterans are inherently mission-focused and values-based, which are desirable traits that enhance any organization, and that holds true in the academic community.
The veteran community is also reflective of the diversity of the United States, and their diverse backgrounds and experiences lead to better discussions in academic settings. Additionally, the leadership experience that veterans have to offer, particularly servant leadership that focuses on enhancing and enabling the broader team, is especially useful on college campuses.
7. What advice would you give to veterans transitioning out of the military and pursuing higher education?
The university experience is an especially broadening life experience. Use this time to immerse yourself in a broad array of disciplines, communities, and activities – academically, culturally, socially. Engage with different communities and groups than you ordinarily would.
If being a veteran is an important part of your identity and you enjoy the camaraderie, then get involved with some of the great veteran focused organizations out there. But remember to seek out other experiences, too! Whatever you do, get outside your own echo chamber and seek new, different experiences – more often than not you’ll find yourself happier, healthier, and better for it.
8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
It’s OK to pursue areas of interest and passion, even if it doesn’t fulfill your exact next step or what you expect your next step should be. Sometimes people describe thinking of it as a “career lattice” not a “career ladder”. You don’t have to stay on the same path, there’s other opportunities you can take — and if they don’t appear, you can go and make them. Pursue opportunities that make you excited to go to work; we spend too many hours at work to not pursue enjoyable, fulfilling careers.
9. What’s the last book you read?
I was alternating between The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson and The Storm Before the Storm by Mike Duncan.
10. Just for fun, what’s your go-to coffee order?
Black coffee with just a little bit of 2% milk.
In addition to numerous professional certifications, John Perez earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Seton Hall University, Master of Business Administration from Yale School of Management, and Executive Master in Policy Leadership from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. Additionally, We Are The Mighty named him a top 25 influencer in the military community.