Think a career in retail is just running a cash register? James Irby would tell you otherwise. A career soldier before he hung up his boots for good, Irby took an entry-level job as associate in the appliance department at Lowe’s shortly after retiring from the Army. Today he’s a district manager leading 13 stores and 3,500 employees. Room for advancement in retail?
Interview with Retired Army Veteran, James Kirby
GI Jobs asked Irby about his rise through the ranks. We got into what his military transition was like, how the military prepared him for his career in retail, and more.
What did you do in the military?
I’m a retired Army Special Forces Green Beret. I’m highly trained in special warfare tactics and techniques.
What kept you up at night as you prepared to retire from the military?
After finishing high school, I spent most of my adult life serving in the military. The transition to civilian life wasn’t fearful, but I was cautious about learning and adapting to new environments—
it was a major culture shift.
What did your biggest challenge in your military transition turn out to be?
My greatest challenge was translating my professional experience and expertise into a formal resume format and pinpointing my career path into a concentrated industry.
How did you find this job after the military?
I began my search on Indeed.com. After finding job opportunities at the Lowe’s of Mooresville, I decided to walk in for an on-the-spot interview. I started my Lowe’s career as an hourly associate working in the appliance department.
What do you do now?
District manager responsible for the day-to-day business operations of 13 multi-unit stores and 3,500 associates on average.
How did your military training and experience help your career in retail?
My military career cross supports many key business functions at Lowe’s, to include leadership, strategic planning, conflict resolution management, change management, logistics management, operational planning/management, staffing/hiring, diversity and inclusion management and time management.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The current challenges are some that many retailers are experiencing during these uncertain times. Those include adapting to COVID-19 restrictions and a shortage of workers, while maintaining our commitment to delivering exceptional service for our customers.
What do you wish you knew when you transitioned from the military that you know now?
I would prepare my resume to align with a specific industry/career field, be more strategic about companies I send my resume to, start networking at least two years prior to transitioning from the military and take on internship(s) if available.
About James Irby
- District Manager
- Lowe’s Home Improvement
- LOCATION: Pensacola, Fla.
- AGE: 56
- MILITARY SERVICE:
First Sergeant (E-8), Army (1982–2004)
- BRANCH: US Army Special Forces
- MOS: Special Forces Operations Sergeant (18Z)
- Post-secondary education:
Executive MBA, Strayer University, 2015