Through speaking with someone from “the other side,” I was able to find the common ground between us and use that to advocate for mutually-beneficial peace. It is something I still hold with me today. I’ve realized that there’s always a middle ground where we can agree— despite differences — and find the “win-win” solution. But you must have the patience and curiosity to find it.
As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned In The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Grothaus. Jesse served 8 years in the US Army Reserves as a Psychological Operations Specialist. After retiring from the military, Jesse suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. In order to help with his recovery, his doctor instructed him to learn new skills and a new language. Jesse chose Salesforce’s Vetforce program to help him stay mentally active, learn new skills and measure his progress. Jesse became the founder and CEO of Cloud Pathfinder Consulting (CPC). CPC is an elite group of Salesforce consultants that helps organizations more efficiently sell to customers using Salesforce. The company primarily hires military veterans and veteran spouses for its consulting positions and donates 1% of its time and profits to the Merivis Foundation, which shares CPC’s core mission of rewarding America’s military veterans and their families with valuable Salesforce skills training, certifications and job placement to prosperous civilian careers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I am a Silicon Valley native that grew up in San Jose, California. Growing up, my mother worked in the tech industry (before it was cool) and my father was a peace officer.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
I am the founder and CEO of Cloud Pathfinder Consulting, an elite group of Salesforce consultants on a mission to help businesses achieve their ultimate success. Every one of CPC’s clients receives a personalized plan for maximizing their use of Salesforce, and 1:1 support to reach their goals. Notably, Cloud Pathfinder is round to be run by a team of U.S. military veterans and is devoted to primarily hiring veterans and veteran spouses.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I was in the Army recruiter’s office on my 18th birthday. I was passionate about joining the military and that day signed up for a job called Psychological Operations (PSYOP). I spent 7 years with the 12th Psychological Operations Battalion, then spent a year as a PSYOP trainer & advisor. As a PSYOP Specialist, we were responsible for winning the hearts and minds of foreign populations.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
When I was in the Philippines, we aimed to subvert the influence that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was exerting over some small rural villages. One day, I found myself face-to-face with one of their advocates. In that moment I realized I had an opportunity to learn about what motivated them to join. After speaking with them it hit me, this person wasn’t a threat to us — in fact they were just trying to do the right thing. Like many of us, much of their reasoning came down to wanting to provide better lives for their family and village — even if the CPP was dishonest about what it could offer.
Through speaking with someone from “the other side,” I was able to find the common ground between us and use that to advocate for mutually-beneficial peace. It is something I still hold with me today. I’ve realized that there’s always a middle ground where we can people — despite differences — and find the “win-win” solution. But you must have the patience and curiosity to find it.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
Yes. A friend of mine, CPL Canh Ha, served as an Army medic in an enemy prisoner of war detention center. One day one of the detainees complained of deep pain. My friend empathized and went beyond his normal duties to provide emergency care for the detainee. After examining the detainee he realized it was a very serious acute emergency and was able to get him to the proper surgeon who successfully stabilized him. This was a detainee that had attempted to harm coalition forces, but my friend treated him as a fellow human, not an enemy. He saved a life, and I will always think of him as a hero.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
A hero is someone who does the right thing, even in adverse situations.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
No, these individuals can be heroic for many different reasons.I believe heroes are those that do the right thing, both in calm and life or death situations.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
● Know when you need perfection, and know when “good enough” is perfect in itself.
● Wake up every morning at 4:00 to start your day — No, just kidding. Although I’ve always wanted to be that former special ops business exec writing that. But in all honesty it is so important to listen to your body, eat healthy, and get good sleep. I believe a properly fueled A-game is far better than your burned out C-game.
● Be consistent and methodical. The best soldiers don’t finish a 12 mile march with 60 pounds of gear by sprinting. They pick a consistent pace and stay in perfect fundamental form, not getting into a sprint/crash cycle. The tech industry could learn a little from that.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
Absolutely. For my job in particular, I had to come alongside a unit that was in an area of operation and advise their commanders on the best psychological warfare campaigns and tactics we could do to help achieve their goals and mission. We would attach to a unit in an area and advise their commander on strategy and tactics we could use to help achieve their mission. We use those skills heavily now at my company as we come alongside new companies and advise them on how Salesforce strategy and tactics can help them achieve their mission.
After retiring from the military, I suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. In order to help with my recovery, my doctor instructed me to learn new skills and a new language. So, I chose Salesforce’s Vetforce job training and career accelerator program to help me stay mentally active, learn new skills and measure my progress. Going through Vetforce helped me feel confident and prepared for business.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
My deployments were a bit different as I was focused in the Pacific region. I did notice how genuinely happy people are in many of these countries despite having what we would see as nothing by our standards. I strive to be thankful for all that I have and where I am now.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes. I started my company on the idea of primarily hiring veterans and veteran spouses. From the beginning, we’ve pledged 1% of our time and profits to a non-profit that helps veterans and veteran spouses transition from the military into the very tech jobs that we hire for. We want to continue helping the veteran community get jobs in today’s economy.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Hire smart people, and let them shine.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Hire smart people, and let them shine. Large teams cannot be micromanaged.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
An early mentor of mine helped guide me into my particular job in the Army and in my civilian life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Yes, we’ve helped veterans transition out of the military and get their first tech job. We’re excited to continue doing that.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Take a step back and be thankful for everything around you. You may not have everything you want, but you have everything you need in order to make life the way you want it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
To Salesforce’s co-CEO, Marc Benioff: the last time we had lunch, amazing things happened for the veteran community. Thank you for all you do for Veterans. Let’s do lunch again soon!
Thank you for joining us!