Veteran-friendly Company Case Study: DreamWorks Animation


When an employer shows their appreciation for veterans, we take notice. We no longer look at your company and think that you’re simply a nice hardware chain, trucking company, or animation studio. If you take the right steps on your part, you become the company that is there for veterans, and demonstrates loyalty to the men and women who served their country. You’ll be known as a company that veterans want to work for, want to stay at once they are in the door, and will be sure to talk about in a positive way at their next veteran networking event.

One such company that I’ve heard about through the veteran grapevine is DreamWorks Animation. The first I heard of DreamWorks’ veteran outreach came about through my contacts with an organization titled Veterans in Film and Television. I met one of their members at an event at the Writers Guild Foundation in Los Angeles. When I mentioned my passion for writing, this veteran shared what he knew about the DreamWorks program and said I could find out more about it through the VFT website.

Naturally, I pulled out my smart phone and started researching the company as soon as our conversation was over. I was impressed!

DreamWorks' Veterans Shadowing Day

DreamWorks has, on more than one occasion, invited groups of military veterans to visit the Los Angeles campus and participate in a “Veterans Shadowing Day.” The program was created by DreamWorks employee Tim Norman, whose title is Director of Human Resources and served as an Airborne infantry scout. In this program, veterans aspiring to work in film are able to shadow DreamWorks employees and see what the job is actually like on a daily basis. Employees from DreamWorks that have shown veterans around have included an animation modeler, a CGI Supervisor, a motion capture director, and people in the story department.

How This Helps the Company

When asked what the company gets from programs such as this, Tim said that it helps bring in veterans who may not have initially considered DreamWorks as an employer. He added, "We need veterans to tell their stories in different ways and in different mediums.  Hopefully, their experience with Dreamworks Animation will inspire and motivate the right vets to get their story out there." 

What Else Are They Doing?

The company has other programs and events that show their appreciation for veterans. For example, another DreamWorks employee put together an event for Vets in Tech. They host more informal veteran meet-and-greets, and I've been told they provide a nice catered lunch for their veteran employees on Veteran's Day. When President Obama visited the campus, veterans had the opportunity to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. To add more fun to the work that DreamWorks is doing for the veteran community, they recently partnered with Got Your 6 to create the PSA "Operation Got Your 6 with the Penguins of Madagascar," which included Michelle Obama, to highlight Veterans Day and educate its viewers on what makes veterans great.

Tim was very pleased to see the way DreamWorks got behind the Got Your 6 PSA from the start:

There was an opportunity to use the Penguins of Madagascar characters to create a wonderful piece to speak to kids and families about who veterans really are, how they contribute after their service, and how they help make this country better. And being able to put together partner with Got Your 6 and The First Lady to accomplish this, reminded me, and it still does, of the veteran spirit. 

This type of veteran engagement is an inspiration for us all, and certainly earns DreamWorks extra veteran-friendly points.

I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Melo, a veteran who had participated in Veterans Shadowing Day, and he agreed to share his experience with us below.

Interview with a Veteran Participant

Q: Where did you first hear about the DreamWorks veteran programs, and how did you get involved?

I was first notified and got involved through my school's military and veteran liaison. He knew I was interested in working within animation, so when the opportunity arose, he contacted me about it.

Q: What was the experience like when you were shadowing a DreamWorks employee? What can you tell us about the reality of being there, living the dream?

Shadowing a DreamWorks Animation Employee was an amazing experience. I had the pleasure of spending time in the Motion Capture Department where I was able to see how things work, and even lend a little hand.

Overall my time there gave me a glimpse as to how some of the best animation out there is made. Their campus not only reinforced my want to work within animation, but to work in the smart and creative environment that they foster as well.

The people and atmosphere were kind, calm, and polite. I had previously read about the creative atmosphere promoted within the campus, but it was really something to experience it firsthand.

Q: When you were leaving the military, did you have any idea that companies offered programs such as this? 

When I got out, I assumed there would be programs at some of the industrial and tech companies that had direct correlated fields in the military. Those are the ones normally brought up when people talk about relatable work experience. For some of the other jobs, I just assumed there was security or you just have an employer bank your responsibility as a prior service member. It was truly exciting to see a large company in a creative field, and in animation no less, to have a program where they help veterans get hands on experience and exposure to the real world industry.

Q: How did the experience change how you, as a veteran, view the company?

Receiving the invitation to go there based on my prior service already made me think this was a company that was doing something really great. This isn't necessarily a widespread practice, and to be lucky enough to have the opportunity to go, I showed up ecstatic and ready to absorb all that I could. However, my time there left the greatest impression. All the people I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with were really awesome. It certainly put a face to the company, or quite a few rather. I was really appreciative of the time they took from their work to answer my questions and show me around. 

Q: Now that you had the opportunity to see inside o DreamWorks, what has DreamWorks done right that you think other companies can learn from to be more veteran friendly?

I think the greatest thing that DreamWorks Animation is doing is giving veterans a chance. Not every veteran served with a job that may directly transition to the civilian job market. However we are all adaptive, and have the disciple and drive to learn quickly. Although creativity is not always highlighted, it's necessary to truly excel at one's job, which many veterans did while they were serving. For many, our lives may have depended on all of these traits at one time or another. So I think DreamWorks Animation has realized this and wants these characteristics in the individuals that are part of their team. I think other companies could do well to realize this too, and that there is a giant pool of capable individuals ready to continue their service to society. Now they just want to do it in a way that better expresses their individual interests. 

There are plenty of other companies taking action to be veteran-friendly, and we will highlight their actions in further case studies. In the meantime, ask yourself what you can do as a company to help veterans as they make their transition, once they are in the door, or in a more general sense (such as donations and fund-raising). We veterans look forward to hearing about your company at the next veteran networking event.

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