Forté Fellows

Transitioning from Military Service to the Private Sector

Kima McCoyKima McCoy (Samuel Curtis Johnson School of Management at Cornell, Class of 2011) served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. “I was always in a very male-dominated environment,” she says. “I mentored all my troops, but I saw that it was extra important that women receive the feedback and reinforcement to proceed with their career.”

Kima led teams of analysts during her active service abroad. “We had young women, just out of high school, who were hesitant to articulate in front of a high-ranking military officer,” she recalls. “Sometimes when they were presenting their analysis, it was just them, a PowerPoint deck, and a room full of older men. I invested in them and helped to build their confidence.”

When she returned home, Kima saw many of her female friends and colleagues working in Washington in government jobs, but knew she wanted to enter the private sector.  She decided to pursue an MBA in order to gain entry into a broader business environment. “Before I went to business school, I had the perception that people who had worked in the business sector knew things that I didn’t. The MBA helped me round out my experiences. It was a good finishing school for me.”

Kima’s passion for mentorship carried over to graduate school.  She helped to mentor an undergraduate women’s group called Smart Woman Securities that focuses on investment education. Kima served as MBA advisor, helping some of the young women in the program execute their knowledge in a stock pitch exercise. She put together a session with Susan Cabrera, an educator and researcher at Cornell, to teach women how to speak up, be heard and exercise influence. They co-taught a class and Kima called on her experience in the service to describe the importance of understanding the expectations in any given environment and assessing what skills one might need to gain in order to meet those expectations.

“If you don’t have the skills that you need, get help,” she advises. “You can ask for help discretely, from people you trust.” She also advises getting feedback, and starting small. “Speak up in low-threat situations where you can build confidence. From there, you can grow your leadership skills and your ability to exercise influence in the workplace.”

Kima’s goal is to help private sector companies recruit and mentor military women. “I want women transitioning from military service to have the opportunity to explore their options and find the right path for them,” she says.

Kima has just moved to New York City, where she is starting out at Citigroup as an associate in global transaction services. “I was drawn to financial services for the fast-paced environment, which I’m suited to, because of my experience in the service.” She also felt the desire to be in a career field with a global perspective. When asked what’s next, Kima says, “I want to work hard, learn, enjoy my time. I want to be very immersed in my job. I just want to do it all!”


Related posts

Get newsletters and events relevant
to your career by joining Forté.

our partners