NDEAM 2019: Documenting the journey: From veteran to project manager
By Tatiana Peralta
As a Detroit, Michigan native, cars run through Mark Bridenstine's blood. Aside from running, weightlifting and being with his kids, Mark might be found driving one of his classic cars down Virginia roads. If he's not taking one of his cars for a test drive, you can catch him in the driver's seat as a project manager for the Naval Medical Center.
Every driver has a story. Mark's journey led him to Professional Contracting Services, Inc. and the Naval Medical Center. In his role he connects with, trains and makes a difference in the lives of employees with disabilities daily. As part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Mark will speak at our National office on October 17 to talk about his journey.
The road to PCSI
Mark joined the U.S. Navy shortly after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. During his 28 years in the service, he worked in and around the nuclear power program which gave him the opportunity to train and qualify as an engineer for a nuclear power submarine. His job included driving the submarines, helping with construction, and keeping up with maintenance. In 2015, Mark decided it was time to end his military career. He wanted to find a new road to travel, and he hasn't looked back in his rear-view mirror since.
After taking six months off, Mark found a PCSI program manager job through an online job posting. The job description was unlike anything he had ever done before. To a maintenance subject matter expert, there were superficial similarities in maintaining a hospital and a submarine. But in reality, Mark knew this would be entirely different from his previous work. Shortly after interviewing, he got the job. He knew his experience in the Navy would set him up for success and was determined to use his skills to the best of his abilities.
Mark has now been working as a project manager for four and a half years. He manages a team of 270 employees and 20 contractors who work in fields like environmental services, maintenance and more. After being in service for 28 years, he is grateful for the experience and knowledge the military gave him. It's played a role in growing and strengthening his PCSI team.
Intersection between professional and personal life
Mark is a natural problem solver. (He is an engineer, after all.) Time flies when he is thinking of strategic initiatives to improve the processes and practices at the Navy Medical Center. Drawing on his leadership experience from the Navy, Mark developed a string of training for supervisors and managers to strengthen both their soft and hard skills. It was a time-consuming process but rewarding because it will ultimately help people work better.
Aside from being motivated by strategy, Mark enjoys finding solutions to improve the work environment and productivity of employees. He acknowledges that part of being a manager for a workforce that might have different needs than others means supporting his teammates in their personal and professional lives. He never hesitates to help employees find good detours around barriers in their way.
One of the most gratifying parts of Mark's job is having employees share external circumstances that are affecting their work life. From personal experience, he recognizes that support from those around us impacts us in positive ways. Every day, Mark feels a unique bond to those he works for and with because of his experience with his 18-year old daughter who grew up with a disability. Working at the Naval Medical Center through PCSI gives him the opportunity to be an active participant in her health care because he gets to see her every time she comes in for an appointment. He also feels the support of those who work with him. His role as a dad helps him as a manager because he recognizes that it's not all about work; there are many bumps in the road that can impact people's lives.
Opening doors for veterans at PCSI
Although he doesn't miss being in the Navy, Mark appreciates the connections and friendships he made. Every other month he meets with a group of senior military members. Most of them are retired admirals and captains. Meeting with a group of individuals to talk about successes is extremely encouraging to him. Aside from feeling inspired, his connections with that group have helped Mark garner support for PCSI's mission and events.
As a veteran, Mark understands the benefits of employing veterans into his workforce. He believes those who have served have unique skills – including organization, dedication and commitment – that can improve any workplace, at any time. Whenever he hires someone with a military background, he has a high level of confidence in the person's independence and ability to deliver on any task at hand. If Mark hears of opportunities where PCSI can connect with veterans, he immediately loops in the people who can make the connection happen.
It warms Mark's heart to help create opportunities for those with a military background who are looking to improve themselves. He's confident in the leadership skills and talent they bring to the team, and he appreciates the chance to partner with them on a road to success.
To learn more about PCSI and how it helps people with disabilities and veterans visit https://www.pcsi.org/.