Operation Opportunity: How This Veteran and Military Spouse Went From the Navy to Hilton Headquarters
Originally Published by Hilton.
This month marks National Veteran and Military Families Month, including Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Armistice Day in many countries around the world. Supporting military veterans and their families has been an important part of Hilton’s history since Conrad Hilton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in World War I, started the company nearly a century ago. We’re proud to continue this support through our
Operation: Opportunity commitment to hire 20,000 additional veterans, spouses and caregivers by 2020. This month, we’ll feature some of Hilton’s military spouses.
We kick off the series this week with Ashley Zimmerman, a Military Programs Coordinator at Hilton.
Q: Ashley, you’re a veteran as well as a military spouse
A: That’s right, I joined the Navy right out of high school. Because I wasn’t eighteen yet, my mother had to sign a waiver. While serving, I met a fellow sailor and we decided that after four years of service, I would honorably discharge so we could get married and start a family. Today, we are happily married with two children.
Q: What made you want to work for Hilton
A: I literally typed ‘military friendly employers’ into an internet search! I wanted to work for a strong brand, where I had a long-term future and a company offering the flexibility that would allow me to move around. Hilton really stood out. We were based in Hawaii and I applied for a job in the human resources department at the
Hilton Hawaiian Village. I was lucky enough to get the position despite not having a background in human resources or hospitality experience.
Q: You must have impressed them! Why do you think you were hired without experience
A: I think many people assume what makes a company ‘military friendly’ is the flexibility or the ability to relocate, but it’s so much more. A company must recognize we bring immensely valuable skills although our experience may not translate specifically to a job description. We have resilient attitudes I like to say we ‘refuse to lose’. We’re mission orientated and will always figure out a way to get something done. We’ll do whatever it takes no excuses or shifting priorities to the ‘too hard pile.’ We will always look for a way to push through a challenge.
Q: You started in Hawaii, and now you’re based at Hilton’s global headquarters in McLean, Virginia
A: While in Hawaii, I had the opportunity to work with our Military Programs Team on a special project for the 75thAnniversary of Pearl Harbor. I decided that it was my goal to work at the corporate office one day. A role become available at the corporate office to coordinate Hilton’s military programs and recruit veterans, their spouses and families. My husband was about to be deployed so I decided to take the position in Virginia and move here with the kids. Hilton offered to let me be a full-time remote worker once my husband returns from deployment next year so our family will be together in San Diego.
Q: That must have been a big decision, what were your reasons for accepting the job
A: I often joke with my husband that he’s a military spouse too! I want to develop my career and he’s very supportive. I finished my MBA last year and this role was a fantastic opportunity to practice what I learned. My career at Hilton has provided opportunities I wouldn’t have imagined so I’m passionate about promoting the Operation: Opportunity program so other veterans, military spouses and care-givers can have the same chance to develop their careers.
Q: What’s your advice to employers looking to hire veterans or military spouses
A: Ask thought-provoking and detailed questions. Veterans don’t always know how to explain how their skills are transferable. Also consider military spouses who might not have formal job experience, but instead have done a wide variety of unpaid or volunteer positions. When companies take the time to understand these unique experiences, soft skills and resilience they will understand the value of this segment.
Learn more about Ashley’s journey in her I Am Hilton video.