For veterans transitioning from the military to civilian life, culture shock is common. For those transitioning from a military-like position (such as government contracting) to life in a Fortune 500 company, that leap of faith can be just as momentous. Veterans BRG leads, Megan Kenjora and Matthew Bryson, both started their careers at Hershey a few years after leaving the military. They are now co-leaders of the Veterans BRG which has approximately 350 members from across Hershey, and continues to grow particularly among manufacturing employees.
A sense of camaraderie
Finding a group of people that spoke his common language was key for Bryson, who currently works as an associate project manager in U.S. supply chain operations. Since leaving the military, he had been looking for a culture that valued the perspective and approach that he and his fellow veterans bring to organizations after serving.
“The fact that we have a Veterans group -- and that they allow us to impact our community through our actions and programming -- shows how much this organization cares about us; that's why I’m at Hershey. It’s not just about making snacks and candy, it’s also about the people that work here,” Bryson explained.
The Veterans BRG is not limited to those employees who served in the military (U.S. or otherwise), but also includes family members and friends of military personnel, as well as general supporters. The group will sometimes sit down with colleagues and their children to help them understand what military life could look like and how it may impact their family.
The group also has a history of lending their expertise to Hershey's human resources to create policies that meet the needs of military personnel and their families. This includes helping to create competitive benefits for reservists who may be deployed.
Continuing a life of service at Hershey
It was the opportunity to impact the lives of others that called Kenjora, the senior manager of food safety culture team, to the armed services. The doing well by doing good ethos at Hershey is also what she loves about working here. When transitioning from a government contracting position to the corporate environment, she feared that she would no longer serve others as she did in the military.
"I was concerned about the transition from a life that was highly purpose-driven in the military to a corporate environment. I really grappled with that. The Hershey Company was a perfect fit because I can have a wider impact through the Veterans BRG and the Milton Hershey School," said Kenjora.
“It's inspiring to know that you are part of a company that’s not just about what you’re getting out the door or the money. But we’re looking outside of ourselves -- how we partner with our neighbors like Penn State Health Hershey Medical Center and who we impact through our supply chain," added Bryson.
Through the BRG, Kenjora and Bryson are able to connect with a wide range of people from active duty and reserves to veterans from wars past. On Veteran's Day 2018, the BRG created custom-wrapped Hershey bars so employees could write personalized notes of appreciation to a veteran. These bars were distributed at our local Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital. By hand-delivering these bars, the BRG members connected over shared moments of goodness with other veterans, including one gentleman who served in World War II. The experience recalled Kenjora's own time in an active war zone when a care package with Hershey's candy was a bright spot to which to look forward on dark days.
“Both Matt and I were in the war zone for a number of years and it was always so special to get a package with Hershey’s in it. You would hoard the chocolate away and put them in a freezer for a treat later when things were not going well. That brand connection with everyone across time is something you don’t buy through a marketing campaign, it is the fabric of who the company is," Kenjora said.