Like many young girls growing up in the Midwest I dreamed of leaving my small hometown in Ohio and moving to a big city to be an artist. Originally, I planned to attend Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) to study Web Design after high school. Instead I took a different route and joined the U.S. Navy as a Photographer’s Mate. In the end it was the college money (and super cute Navy uniforms) that sold me. I figured I could later use the Montgomery GI Bill to attend SCAD. Little did I know how much life would change in the next 5 years.
I am still surprised I ever made it through boot camp. I hated running and working out, and especially hated being told what to do. I went to A-School in Fort Meade, MD, an Army base approximately 30 miles outside of Washington, D.C., and was there on 9/11/2001. That was the moment I realized what I had really signed up for. This was no longer a game I had to play to receive college money, our country was now at war. After A-School I was stationed in San Diego and worked on two ships and two shore commands. Being a female in the Navy was tough. I became a wife and mother during that time, and later a divorcee. There were a lot of things I wanted to do with my Navy career that I was held back from because of my gender and family status. I had hoped to stay in, but it was too hard while being a single mother. On December 30th, 2005 I sadly said goodbye.
Instead of going to SCAD I enrolled at San Diego City College and planned to transfer to the University of California – San Diego Visual Arts program. I took college courses while I was in the Navy and had a lot of my general education classes out of the way. I stayed in San Diego for another two years, going to school full time using the Montgomery GI Bill, working three part time jobs, and doing freelance photography, all while balancing being a single mother. Eventually that lifestyle became too hard and I moved home to be close to family. In August 2009 I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Bowling Green State University. After 3 ½ years of struggling I assumed being a female veteran with a Bachelor’s degree I would be highly valued and easily find employment.
I applied for dozens of jobs. Most of the time I never heard from anyone. In the meantime, I worked as a bartender, a waitress, and a web designer making barely over minimum wage. I was devastated and frustrated and felt like my dream would never be realized. I regretted joining the military. Those five years ended up being a huge black hole in my work history and now I had to start all over, as if none of it mattered. After two years of working several part-time jobs my brother referred me to the recruiting company he worked for. I started in August 2011 working as a part-time phone screener. Eventually I worked my way up and was able to obtain more hours per week, take on more responsibility, and work directly with clients and candidates. After nearly 6 years in talent acquisition I was approached by Amgen, the world’s largest biotech company, for a military recruiting role.
I had never heard of Amgen before, or biotech, so I had a lot to learn. When I first started in 2017 there was very little established for veteran recruiting. My manager was a Marine Corps veteran and had been the only recruiter screening veteran candidates, giving them advice on their resumes and guiding them in the right direction based on their skill sets, all in addition to his regular job responsibilities. He and I worked together to build on what was established and add other initiatives to the program in order to increase our veteran outreach. This included training managers on the value of hiring veterans, implementing a process for recruiters to follow when a veteran applied to a role, and gaining support from senior leaders at the company. The first few months were a lot of observation, tracking and trial and error. Since I was able to solely focus on veteran recruiting it allowed me to figure out what obstacles we were facing and how to overcome them. I also considered my own experiences transitioning from the military to develop a plan that would have met my needs during that time. Based on all of the information I gathered we were able to add other initiatives like hosting onsite veteran networking events which allows veterans to share their work experience with hiring managers in person, partnering with DoDSkillbridge and Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship Programs to give transitioning service members and military spouses a chance to prove their skills and adaptability as a temporary worker for our company, being guest speakers on the Beyond the Uniform podcast series where several veterans at our company shared stories of their own transition from the military, giving presentations to local universities’ veteran populations, sitting on panels discussing veteran recruiting with different organizations, and joining veteran committees. In three years, we were able to increase our veteran hiring by 387% and have received national recognition from Military Times as a Best for Vets Employer and Recruit Military as a Military Friendly Employer.
Amgen’s Veteran Employment Program has gained a lot of support and assistance from the Amgen Veteran Employee Network, senior leadership, hiring managers, recruiters and staff. Amgen truly sees the value in hiring veterans and I will be forever grateful to them for being given the opportunity to help fellow veterans overcome the same obstacles I did, but much more quickly. At Amgen, we truly believe in providing a service to those who have served our country.
Bre’ Cameron is a United States Navy veteran, serving as a Photographer’s Mate from 2001 – 2006. She began her career in Talent Acquisition in 2011 and joined Amgen as their Veteran Employment Program Manager in 2017. Bre’ has a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Bowling Green State University and a Master’s in Engaged Humanities from Pacifica Graduate Institute. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, yoga, traveling and spending time with her daughter, Jasmyne, and dog, Buster. Connect with Bre’ on LinkedIn.