Serving in Multiple Ways: MATRIX Owner Reflects on the Journey from a Military to Civilian Career
A candid discussion with MATRIX PMO Owner, Matthew Currid, PMP, LCDR USN Ret. and his experience with transitioning from the military. He reflects on the opportunities, challenges and the importance of translating leadership experience and military accomplishments.
Q: Could you please provide your name, branch of military, rank, and MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)?
A: LCDR Ret. Matthew Currid, US Navy - Naval Aviator MOS: 1310
Q: What does the MOS 1310 stand for?
A:1310 MOS means I was an unrestricted line officer that was qualified to pilot an aircraft.
Q: What were some of the reasons that you joined the military? How did you choose your branch of service?
A: I wanted to travel, see places around the world and I wanted to fly an aircraft. I was less concerned with the branch and more concerned with the likelihood of getting my wings.
Q: How did you receive your military commissioning?
A: I completed my 4-year undergraduate degree in engineering at WPI Worcester Polytech Institute and was an ROTC Scholarship student at Holy Cross. I graduated with my commission from Holy Cross. I selected aviation out of college and immediately went to Pensacola, Florida, the birthplace of Naval Aviation to start my Navy flight school training.
Q: What are some of the things you remember about adapting to military life?
A: I would say the first thing was understanding that I was in complete control of the management of my professional and personal time. I was the master of my own destiny. Going to flight school in Florida right out of college was an environment that required a ton of focus, especially on curriculum that was as difficult as learning how to fly. Making new friends, becoming part of an entirely new peer group, and understanding over time the significance of what I was going to be doing professionally provided ample opportunity to grow.
Q: What are some skills you developed in the service that you like? What did you dislike about the military?
A: My ability to address, assess and produce solutions to problems as opposed to becoming overwhelmed by the problems themselves. Time management is a big one and understanding how to relate to and motivate people. Much of my career as a young officer was focused on strategic, forward thinking that involved the deployment of people and assets. Being able to effectively communicate was a skill I enjoyed working on. Although I loved traveling and seeing the world; being in the military, you get used to moving around a lot and it almost becomes a habit or an expectation. When you settle into civilian life there is a lot less of that; so, the first couple of years out of the military you get a little restless before you figure out how to change that habit or life pattern.
Q: Were you deployed overseas? What are some things you remember most about your deployment?
A: I was deployed twice – both to the Middle East through the Pacific out of San Diego, California. The things that I remember most were being forward deployed off the ship, setting up our logistic beachheads for the C2-Greyhound detachment to the aircraft carrier. We would fly to the nearest island chain or country to setup so we could receive and distribute goods and personnel to the carrier. That mission would require us to develop diplomatic relations with the country to utilize their airfields and facilities. I got the opportunity as a young officer to interact at a high diplomatic level to facilitate those types of missions. Often, it was just me, another pilot and a small crew deployed to setup those beachheads to support an aircraft carrier that has thousands on board.
Q: When did you leave the military? What was that process like?
A: I left the military in 2017 after a year of a separation process for medical retirement. It was long and at times difficult, but the separation process was clearly defined. It was more so emotionally taxing. I never planned to leave the military prior to 20 years so it took a lot to get my mind wrapped around that fact that my long-term plans were being drastically changed. A lot of question marks were replacing known expectations. The Navy does a great job laying everything out in front of you and providing pathways forward. Once the story changes and you figure out you're no longer on the path you laid out, it can become overwhelming attempting to figure out what's next, let alone what the future looks like.
Q: During your transition from military to civilian did you do anything professionally to prepare you for a career in the civilian sector?
A: Once I figured out that I wanted to focus my career on Project Management, I earned my Project Management Professional (PMP) education and certification through Hire Heroes USA and The Institute for Veterans and Families (IVMF) through The Project Management Institute (PMI). Hire Heroes offers a program for Veterans and their spouses to earn many different professional certifications. I understood that my skills and experience would translate, but I needed the technical understanding to ensure that I could use that experience, education, and skill to effectively lead and direct projects.
Q: How has your military career prepared you for your position at MATRIX?
A: My position at MATRIX, although involved in project management, is much more heavily involved in the management of people; which I got a lot of experience with as a junior officer. Although designated a pilot, I and all junior officer pilots spend far more time involved and invested with the personnel that report to them than they are with the flying of an aircraft. My 13 years of working with my peers, managing enlisted personnel, and helping them succeed translated well to interacting with the individuals I work with at MATRIX.
Q: When you first started your Project Management career, you jumped right into the nuclear energy sector? Do you find a lot of similarities between the military and nuclear industry?
A: I found a lot of similarities between the US Navy and the civilian nuclear sector. Many of the processes and procedures, specifically safety and operational procedures are derived from the way the Navy handles nuclear propulsion for their own purposes. Furthermore, historically, the transition from the Navy nuclear community to the civilian nuclear community has been a popular one for many Navy nuclear officers and enlisted personnel. So naturally, you get a lot of cultural carry-over. For example, a series of nuclear facilities owned and operated by the same principle is referred to as a ‘fleet.’ Although they are stationary buildings, they are culturally familiar in the way the Navy names a group of ships. So, you carry from a high-level all the way down to the procedures and practices. Any Naval nuclear trained professional would find a lot of translatable experience into the civilian nuclear sector.
Q: Do you have advice for others transitioning out of the military?
A: I would say that as soon as you realize you will be transitioning out, utilize the time that they give you (while the admin process carries out) to prepare yourself for the civilian sector. Do your research on where to capitalize on programs that will allow active or recently separated military personnel to acquire the education required to allow you to succeed. Getting your PMP, if you are going to go into project management, is a critical aspect to ensure success. It also provides you further opportunity to understand how to translate the experience you have had in the military to project management. You have the skills and the experience to not only succeed but to excel. Start early and focus on plotting your own course. This is your story now, and you can write it however you wish.