At Net Friends, we're honored to work with outstanding individuals who come from all walks of life. Our Net Friends bring in unique and valuable experiences that have shaped who they are.
Veterans Day is being observed this week, and we're honored to pay tribute to our veteran friends on a day that honors real people, genuine friendships, real stories, and real sacrifices. We spoke with Navy veteran Shawn Pate this year about his service experience, how it affected his career, and how it shapes his concept of leadership.
What inspired you to join the service?
My family has a history of military service that goes back to the time of the American Revolution. These stories, shared experiences, as well as my love of our country, called me to serve. My father served in the Army, Air Force, and National Security Agency. His call to serve our country inspired me to join the U.S. Navy. I ended up serving a total of 8 years, four active and four inactive.
What leadership qualities did you gain from the Navy?
From my years in the Navy, I believe inspiration, teamwork, and accountability are the most important qualities for leadership.
Living on a ship can be daunting and monotonous. This is especially true when you are at sea for up to 9 months at a time. Keeping the crew inspired can be difficult. A good leader finds ways to do this, seemingly, without effort. Inspiration is critical to giving purpose to the monotony. Military training tells us that when you are too comfortable in your day-to-day responsibilities, people get hurt.
Teamwork is another quality that is essential when living aboard a ship. Each sailor is a part of multiple teams. These teams include their primary duty, as well as at least one other secondary duty. These responsibilities keep the ship battle-ready. Being both a team leader and a follower is essential to make sure the ship serves its purpose during peacetime and wartime.
Accountability is extremely important. To be a leader in the military you must accept that you are accountable for your own actions, as well as the actions of your subordinates. A strong leader will demand accountability for their crew, as well as themselves. To shirk responsibility (at any level) results in an immediate loss of respect from your fellow sailors.
How was your experience adapting to military life?
The strict dress code, the unwavering need to be timely, and the self-discipline were easy to adapt to. These needs were natural for my personality and welcomed.
The difficult items were time zones and working hours. What the military does not advertise is the constant movements of ships from continent to continent. This requires quick movements, which requires constant time zone changes. Going from San Diego to the Persian Gulf can flip your days upside down in a few short weeks.
What powerful memories or stories did you gain?
The most powerful memories are cultural. I was lucky enough to experience all types of cultures around the globe. The commonality between all cultures is reassuring.
All cultures had love, hospitality, tradition, and pride. Each culture had its own method of representing these values, but the values were consistent throughout. We are all, honestly, the same. Once one has the privilege of experiencing this, borders and politics become the only dividing lines between us.
How did your military experience lead into your IT career?
My first job out of the military was for a software company. I was well prepared for the job, hard working due to my military background, and steadfast in my ability to perform the work. I later found out that the key factor for obtaining the job position was my military service. I had not taken that into consideration, but that was the springboard for a very intense submergence into programming and IT.
What did your Navy experience teach you about yourself?
The Navy experience taught me that I could do anything I put enough effort towards. It taught me not to fear making mistakes. It taught me that the world is wonderful and very small.
Where was your favorite place you lived?
This is a great question! It's very hard to select just one place. I would say Japan. Japan is a wonderful country. It’s part of the Japanese culture to be kind, fun-loving, curious, and fierce friends. It does take about a year to begin to understand why people do the things that they do in the Japanese culture. Compared to the culture I grew up with, some things are hard to understand in a short visit. After about a year, everything falls into place and Japan is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
Any encouragements for fellow veterans and service people this year?
To quote Joe Dirt, “Keep on keepin’ on.” Please seek out help if you need to talk to someone. These come in the form of support groups, support phone lines, your fellow veterans, and the VA. Please reach out if you are struggling… we care about all of you!