Challenge Accepted. As a kid growing up between Chicago and Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, Ernie Reyes liked a challenge. So after high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was selected to become an officer through the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program.

Two Branches. A Navy commanding officer offered Reyes the opportunity to join the nuclear program because of his collegiate performance in mechanical engineering. The offer led to a lateral transfer from the Marine Corps to the Navy with no break in contract. One day he was a second lieutenant, and the next day was an ensign.

Life After the Military. After 21 years of service, Reyes prepared for retirement by reading, researching and taking advantage of military resources. Working with recruiters helped him find jobs. Submitting applications online to corporate websites did not.

Vision and Strategy. After two years in another role, he was recruited to the Caterpillar* team in 2016. As a strategy manager, “I develop and implement solutions to mitigate market volatility risk, and I identify and implement structured financial solutions that provide added value to supply chain and enterprise benefits. This role requires maximum flexibility because my work can be heavily influenced by outside events around the world.”

The Similarities. Reyes draws parallels between military and civilian careers. “Great teams drive great results, and teams that are not afraid to learn from their mistakes will outperform their competitors. Transparency and communications both are drivers to making teams succeed in stressful ‘fog of war’ environments.”

Advice For You.

  • “Be Prepared: Start now by setting a vision for yourself and identifying what it will take to get you there.
  • Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance: You know where you want to be, so start operationalizing your next stage in life.
  • Execute: Take your plan and execute it without hesitation.
  • Continue the Learning Cycle: Take every opportunity that presents itself as you will not know what doors it will open in the future. Don’t be afraid to modify yourself to become a better you.”

We Had to Ask!

Childhood Hero? My mother, who was both my father and mother.

What about you would surprise most people? I like to dance.

Favorite sandwich, plus fixings? Jibaritos. It is a Puerto Rican-style sandwich using fried plantains instead of bread and filled with different meats.

The world would be better without? Discrimination

Best concert ever? Summerfest

Dream car? Maserati

Most memorable fashion mistake? Kriss Kross fashion, where one would wear their clothes backwards.

Worst job? Cleaning golf balls

Ernie Reyes, Strategy Manager Caterpillar Inc.

Age: 40

Military Service: Lieutenant Commander (O-4), Marine Corps (1994-2003) Navy (2003-2014)

MOS: USMC, Engineer Equipment Operator (1345)/Security Guard (8151); USN, Submarine Officer (1120)