Breaking the Mold: How One Navy Spouse Found Career Success

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erica beal breaking the mold
Navy spouse Erica Beal is the founder and chief executive officer of AVIVV, a professional services engineering firm in San Diego. (Courtesy Photo)

Military spouses know the cumulative impact of military life all too well. The side effects of deployments, frequent PCSes and uncertain schedules impact every aspect of life for a military family, especially the career trajectory of the military spouse. For Navy SEAL spouse Erica Beal, this reality hits close to home.

For over 19 years, Beal has juggled the demanding schedule and multiple combat deployments of her husband, the needs of her two young sons and a thriving career in the engineering industry. Though it wasn't easy, Beal used this time to advance her education, serve the military spouse community and retain as much experience in the utility sector as possible -- all while raising a family. Over a 15-year tenure in the utility sector, Beal held nearly half a dozen positions in various departments, providing her a unique perspective on the industry as a whole.

Now Beal, the founder and chief executive officer of AVIVV, a professional services engineering firm in San Diego, said she constantly has "pinch me" moments when she thinks back to the challenges and tough times that she has endured as a mother, wife and professional.

"This path can never be described as easy, and it certainly didn't happen by accident," she said. "I'm very fortunate to have made it to where I am today, which serves as a huge driver in our firm's deep commitment to hiring military spouses and veterans."

Since launching in late 2019, Beal’s company has become the first certified military spouse-owned engineering firm in the United States by the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce, reached the $1 million mark in revenue and expanded the business throughout California, New Jersey and Texas. To be certified as a military spouse-owned enterprise, there are a number of factors, including a majority ownership by a military spouse, or a joint venture between a spouse and veteran.

Of the firm's many achievements and milestones, Beal is most proud of AVIVV's Impact Now program. Its mission is to train, mentor and hire transitioning veterans, spouses and extended family members by preparing them with extensive culture assimilation into the workforce. To date, about half of the firm's 35 employees are military spouses or veterans.

"Military spouses and veterans truly bring a unique skill set to the workforce, but they need employers who understand the lifestyle, culture of service and the value of their experience," Beal said. "Personally, I'm infinitely more fulfilled in my leadership role knowing that our work is led by America's finest."

Whether you're building a business of your own or you're looking for ways to grow professionally in a traditional role, five principles have guided Beal:

1. Be nimble

The importance of flexibility and the ability to pivot apply in our personal and professional lives. Oftentimes, we're not dictating outcome. Therefore, it is critical to receive change gracefully and with the commitment always to find a way forward.

2. Prioritize servant leadership

AVIVV was built on the foundation of servant leadership with a commitment to giving back to our military community through employment and mentorship. You don't have to be the CEO of a company to give back to causes that matter to you or to deem yourself a leader. Lead from wherever you are and empower yourself to make an impact.

3. Build your bench

Due to the nature of military life, we surround ourselves with a reliable support system, which will play a key role in your success as a professional. There will come a time when you need to lean on others for mentorship, emotional support or scheduling issues. This support system of champions and cheerleaders takes the form of your fellow military spouses, family, colleagues and caregivers.

4. Begin NOW

Whether you make big commitments or small ones that will support your overall goals, there will never be a perfect time to start. Take actionable steps toward your goal NOW.

5. Define your purpose

What motivates or inspires you? Is it financial freedom? Or perhaps you're improving a social cause near and dear to you? When you identify your purpose, the hard days become manageable and give you the motivation to push forward.

Beal wants career-minded military spouses to remember: "We were made for this."

"It is through our collective experience living military life that we become highly adaptable, nimble, well-rounded individuals with the ability to tackle challenges head-on,’’ Beal said. “These qualities are sought after in the business community, and military spouses are well-equipped to become meaningful contributors to an organization's success. Market your talent and strengths with confidence, knowing that you should be valued from day one."

-- Lyndsey Akers is an Air Force spouse, corporate communications professional and a passionate military spouse employment advocate. In addition to making memories with her family, her latest passion project includes leading the marketing efforts for Spouse-ly, the one-stop shop to support military/veteran spouse- and service member-owned businesses.

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