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Intestinal Fortitude is What I Bring to the Table

February 18, 2012

My background is rather eclectic. So, I have a wide variety of experiences that has given me an even broader set of skills.  I see the big picture, but understand that details matter. I know how important building and maintaining client relations is. I have a broad set of technical skills that I have acquired in school and through personal efforts (e.g. Power Point, Google Analytics, excel, etc.) However, the running theme in my life can be summed up in two words, intestinal fortitude. It is common slang in the military. It combines both the guts to make things happen and the fortitude to follow through on the toughest of goals. Normally, I would shy away from using such a strong phrase for myself. But, I feel safe using it, because it was in the description for the Army Achievement Medal I received during my time at the Virginia Army National Guard, 1992.

I won the medal for changing communication procedures within the battalion. Specifically, the Army had officially updated procedures for what type of secure information (e.g., grid coordinates, times, names, ranks, etc.) can be transmitted on given devices. However, the new processes were not implemented in my battalion. As a lowly specialist (that is one step above private), I followed the new procedures. This meant disconnecting officers from phone calls in the middle of conversations. Further, I got the Battalion Commander to run exercises with the new procedures to include the encryption and decryption of messages. For those not in the military, this is akin to having the janitor confront the CEO about the way he/she handles waste management.

I have carried this trait of intestinal fortitude with me to all my careers including manager at the Home Depot. Before I address how this plays out as a manager at the Home Depot, I have to explain the job position. Managers here are problem solvers. At any given time they are juggling at least five things. That is, we (the managers) had to ensure that the 100+ employees in the store at that time were on task or with a customer, address issues at the checkout and receiving departments, solve vendor and installer problems, help clients on premises and by phone, and other miscellaneous things.  Most of these tasks were accomplished simultaneously. Given that information, that I called every single customer back that I said I would, is no small feat.

My personal trait of intestinal fortitude was also evident during my time as a student at Clemson University. I challenged the status quo  in terms of utility use by the colleges. Specifically, I focused on the way energy was consumed and billed. Coming from a world where managers are responsible for every aspect of their store/department. It was surprising to me that the actual users of energy did not have any responsibility or incentive to improve performance on this metric. Furthermore, they were completely unaware of the state and schools’ goals.  Therefore, I partnered with the facilities department to determine if the right measurements were available for change (Kilowatt-hour by building). I then attended meetings and was able to procure an official seat on the newly formed Clemson University’s President’s Commission on Sustainability (PCS; a change committee consisting predominantly of Clemson faculty and staff) to  push the agenda forward. I crafted the proposal and got unanimous support from the PCS. It was then approved by the Administrative Council.  Overall, this was seen as a very bold move by members of the PCS and set the stage for future endeavors.

I have no doubt that wherever I end up next, I will bring this trait with me.  For anything that needs to be accomplished, I will use all my resources to learn the skills I need, find the most appropriate channels, situate myself on the right committee or board, and bring in those vital to the process to make it happen. That is intestinal fortitude.


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