Celebrating Veterans, Service Members, and Allies at UKG

UKG Veterans Day

This Veterans Day, we’re proud to spotlight three U Krewers whose lives have been deeply influenced by the military, and who participate in UKG’s employee resource group, VETS (Veterans & Allies). 

With 36 years of dedicated service to the military, Renato E. offers his perspective on dual roles in military and civilian life; Joanna M. shares her journey as a military spouse; and Shannon D. reflects on a lifetime dedicated to serving others, inspired by her grandfather’s military legacy. 

These unique stories showcase the rich connections between our U Krew and the military, honoring the service members, veterans, military spouses, and allies who enrich our workforce and our world.

Renato E., Manager, Business Program Management, UKG 
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve

Military journey

I’ve served in the Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard for more than 36 years. I joined at 17, between my junior and senior years of high school, and was the youngest person in my basic training company. Through the years, I’ve completed many schools within the military and held many jobs, culminating in my current role as a lieutenant colonel teaching The Command and General Staff Officers’ Course for the U.S. Army Reserve.

A tradition of service

I spent my childhood as a military brat, primarily in Germany during the middle of the Cold War. I wouldn’t trade the opportunities to travel, meet new people, or start new schools for anything. My mother was a rock and embraced the challenges of raising children and building a career while balancing the unique challenges of being a military spouse. She was the one who sacrificed the most, but never let it show. She was the example of the power of optimism and resilience on which I’ve modeled my own life.

When I speak with transitioning military members, I tell them the same thing I tell non-military job seekers: network, build your brand, and interview people doing the jobs you seek. –Renato

Dual roles

My experience is unique as I was in the Army National Guard through college and held dual roles in military and civilian life, so through careful planning, most of my transitions were relatively smooth. When I speak with transitioning military members, I tell them the same thing I tell non-military job seekers: network, build your brand, and interview people doing the jobs you seek. For military members, use the tools at your disposal (e.g., SkillBridge), seek civilian credentials and resume writing assistance, attend job fairs, and do it long before your transition date. Most importantly, be humble and willing to accept that regardless of your previous experience, you must learn and prove yourself to a new group of people. 

Military to UKG

I can go on forever on the dualities of my military and UKG experience. However, they both emphasize:

  • The value of trust and teamwork. 
  • Everyone has a role and is trusted to fulfill it. When they don’t, we don’t blame them; we first look at ourselves and how the organization can better support them.
  • The importance of understanding not just the ‘what’ but also the ‘why.’ 
  • Leaders eat last. 

My advice to veterans or service members considering a career at UKG is to do it and not look back. Every company says they care about their employees, but UKG walks the walk.

Empowering others

I’ve reached the point where it is no longer about me and my career but more about what I can do for others. My role with the VETS employee resource group (ERG) allows me to mentor current and transitioning veterans and directly influence UKG veteran policies (e.g., leave policies) and activities in support of those who give so much to us and those who support them.

Joanna M.,Senior Business Project Manager

Military spouse journey

My husband Nicholas, CTI1 (e6), started his Navy career in 2011. We were married in 2015 and have been through five duty stations together: Dam Neck, Virginia; Yokosuka, Japan; Pearl Harbor, Oahu; Monterey, California; and Schofield, Oahu.

Adventures across the globe

We have lived in amazing locations throughout our military journey together. While living in Japan, Nicholas took part in deployments six consecutive months out of the year. This meant I spent a lot of time by myself, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I quickly made friends. During his deployments I was able to meet him on location, which gave us the opportunity to explore Australia, South Korea, and Guam together. 

Navigating change

Right before the pandemic outbreak in 2020, we moved to Monterey, California, where Nicholas attended the Defense Language Institute (DLI) to study foreign languages. A 9-month program turned into a two-year stay due to COVID-19. As offices closed and more remote job opportunities became available, I was excited to start work at UKG in the Customer Success division. I accepted my full-time position in Global Alliances later that year.

New beginnings

We returned to Oahu at the beginning of 2022, where we will continue to live for the foreseeable future. After 9 years together, we’ve decided to add another travel buddy to the pack: baby boy Machado will join us this fall. 

Flexibility and commitment

UKG has been an important part of my life ever since I joined and has supported me in various ways over the years. In 2020, Nicholas took on a special assignment where we had to drive from California to Texas, and the flexibility of a remote position allowed me to work from my hotspot in the passenger seat of our car. Other benefits: My team has aways been encouraging; I appreciated UKG’s unlimited PTO when I had to take care of the logistics for our move from California to Hawaii; and I love the flexibility of being able to take my role with me as we move to different duty stations. 

Finding community and support

ERGs at UKG are a Godsend! The ability to relate to a group of individuals who have gone through similar situations is so comforting. I can bring my questions to this group, especially at the times when my core friend group doesn’t know the answer. This is my first time ever having ERGs at an employer and I really see the difference it can make. I have found a lot of support through VETS and NEST during my time here.

The ability to relate to a group of individuals who have gone through similar situations is so comforting. –Joanna

Empowering military spouses

As a military spouse, UKG does an awesome job of work-life balance and makes a positive impact to show us that family comes first. With that said, the work culture will make you want to be the best employee you can be, even when military life can be demanding. If you are considering taking the leap, do it! A career at UKG will make you want to work hard: for your personal career development and for the people in your life. 

Where pride and purpose thrive 

I am proud to be a U Krewer for many reasons but one reason that comes to mind is the leadership. Leaders here are truly amazing. In the last two years, I have been able to see the positive impact that I have made through my day-to-day work. I have been part of success stories, and the leaders make sure that it does not go unrecognized. 

Shannon D., Product Support Manager

Commitment to service 

When I joined UKG in 2019, it was because of the ERGs and their commitment to serve others. A commitment to active military, veterans, and their families has always been a part of my DNA. The opportunity not only to participate, but to support and eventually even lead and inspire others to be involved, is all I needed to hear to make UKG my home. 

Giving back

As a child, almost every special memory I have involved either the American Legion, the USO, or supporting and celebrating active or retired military. I was lucky enough to be a part of the American Legion Auxiliary as a granddaughter of a veteran. I was selected and named Missouri State Chaplin while a member of the children’s auxiliary and was able to attend a National American Legion Convention. 

Later, I was chosen to attend Missouri Girls State as a delegate in high school and returned for several years as a counselor. There was a time when I wanted to join the military and become a JAG officer; however, after a few major surgeries, I learned that I was not physically able to do the task and found an alternate path upon graduation.  

I had the privilege of receiving college scholarship money from the American Legion Auxiliary for my community efforts and good grades. I studied political science and public management and worked for 10 years in local government growing my passion for the public sector. For much of my life, my passion has been around how I could serve and support veterans, their families, and my local community. 

Guided by veterans

Everything I am—how I understand human behavior, how I engage with people, how I communicate and network—I learned from veterans and their families. Joe Frank Jr., the American Legion National Commander once said, “Leaders are not born but made of the values and experiences they have lived.” This has stuck with me throughout my life and in my work. I do know that my passion around people pushes me to strive for change, growth, compassion, and understanding. 

You can change the world. You just have to try. –Shannon

A grandfather’s legacy

My why, my veteran, my hero, my person was my grandfather Robert C. Portell. My grandfather raised me to believe a few things: 

1. There is not a no. There is a maybe, there is you can do better, and there is yes.

2. Do not expect others to invest and support you if you do not show up yourself. You are only as good as you choose to be. 

3. Do not leave others behind. They are not you; they cannot be you, they may not have your experiences or talents, but you can be present by showing up to let them know they matter, and you believe in them. 

4. You can change the world. You just have to try.

A silent hero

Something interesting about my grandfather is that he believed in and supported the active military and veterans, but he never spoke about his service experiences, what he saw, or how he felt. He also never received any of his war medals, while alive or after he passed. He said he did not need the medal to know what he did mattered. My grandfather passed away in 2006, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not miss him. To all the veterans, active military, families, and allies—you bear a great responsibility that can weigh on you in ways that people may never fully understand, but your service and honor has changed the world. Thank you for your service.