30 years. More than 20 countries. Nine duty stations. Six deployments.
U.S. Army veteran Kathy Cage summarized her career in the Signal Corps with this brief message on her LinkedIn profile.
“I’ve had so many missions and adventures with the Army. Now, officially retired — I will start my new chapter.”
Cage is a Chief Operating Officer for Operational Risk in the Cyber and Information Security team at Morgan Stanley, a global financial services firm providing investment banking, securities, wealth management and investment management services. The COO role wasn’t on Cage’s radar when she began planning her transition out of the military. In fact, Cage wasn’t sure if corporate America would be a fit for her and her post-military professional goals.
Thanks to her invaluable experience as a fellow with Morgan Stanley through the Hiring Our Heroes’ Corporate Fellowship Program, Cage confirmed that Morgan Stanley was exactly where she wanted to land.
“I Was Always Curious About Corporate America”
Cage began her Army career as a cryptologist at the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1992. She joined the military to “push” herself, be challenged, and make a difference.
“I’m a perpetual optimist who thrives on a good challenge and new problems to solve,” she said.
With a focus on information technology and cybersecurity, Cage worked for various demanding, high-profile organizations throughout her 30-year career. Her last military position was serving as the Army Cyber Command’s Chief Information Officer.
Her lifelong desire to be challenged led Cage to the Corporate Fellowship Program (CFP) with Hiring Our Heroes.
“I was always curious about corporate America and wondered if I could be successful outside the military and outside the DoD,” she said.
The CFP provides 12 weeks of hands-on experience in the civilian workforce for transitioning service members during their last 180 days of active duty. Fellowship candidates are carefully matched with participating companies based on the specific skills of the candidate and the preferences of both parties.
Cage was matched with Morgan Stanley for a strategic advisory role on the Data, Innovation, and Analytics team in New York City. She said her fellowship was an awesome experience.
“I was able to not only learn, meet a great deal of people, and join organizations within Morgan Stanley; I was able to put my technical and leadership skills to use advising and planning for the team,” she said.
During her fellowship, Cage realized her skills and experience from her time in the Army are quite valuable in corporate America.
“Through this program I learned there are great companies with similar values to the U.S. Army. I had to push myself outside my comfort zone, but by doing so discovered many similarities which helped my confidence,” Cage said.
“Through the Corporate Fellowship Program I learned there are great companies with similar values to the U.S. Army.”Kathy Cage, Chief Operating Officer for Operational Risk in the Cyber and Information Security team at Morgan Stanley
Women Veterans Face Employment Challenges
Cage is one of nearly 1.9 million women veterans in the United States. While 84% of post-9/11 women veterans have a college degree or higher, this population faces many challenges during their transition to the civilian sector.
A survey of more than 5,000 current or former service members conducted in collaboration with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) found the need to address the specific needs of women veterans. Survey results showed:
- 62% of women veterans described their overall transition from active duty to veteran status as difficult
- 27% had a job secured before they left the military
- 23% received support or training for transitioning to the civilian workforce before leaving the military
- 31% consider themselves to be underemployed
The median income for women veterans was $47,000 in 2019, which is lower than their male veteran counterparts, who earn about $61,100.
CFP Helps Women Veterans Land Meaningful Employment
The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, a DoD-authorized SkillBridge program, is working to supply additional employment opportunities for women veterans interested in working in corporate America.
In 2022, women made up 17% of CFP fellows. The veterans, both enlisted and officers, had an 80% job offer rate and the average starting salary was $101,000.
In Cage’s experience, the CFP provided the guidance and support for her successful transition. Today, she recommends the program to transitioning service members who are willing to try something new.
“I recommend they try the Corporate Fellowship Program to see what it’s like before jumping in,” Cage said. “Keep an open mind – you never know what industry or company you may enjoy working in.”
Her openness paid off. Cage is in a leadership role with a company she enjoys and a corporate culture that appreciates veterans and values their experiences.
“During the beginning of the program, I never imagined myself in the financial sector – but I kept an open mind when Morgan Stanley called me. They turned out to be a great company,” she said.
Advice for Women Veterans Interested in Corporate America
Along with extensive planning prior to separating from the military, Cage recommended women veterans find a mentor for guidance during their fellowship. She is grateful to the individuals “who took the time to mentor and advise me” at Morgan Stanley. One individual, Jeff Preston, became her “North Star” at the firm.
“Jeff found my resume and made the initial contact with me. He also advocated on my behalf with senior leadership at the firm about bringing me on board,” she said. Those two senior leaders were Jeff McMillan – Senior Sponsor of Hiring our Heroes at Morgan Stanley, Co-Chair of the Veterans Employee Network, and Chief Analytics, Data & Innovation Officer, as well as David Rosen, Head of Innovation for Wealth Management. “Without [them] advocating for me, I would not have known about the opportunities with the firm.”
Finally, Cage is grateful to her program managers at Hiring Our Heroes. Their knowledge gave her the courage to smoothly sail into her new career.
“This program helped me test the waters without taking more risks,” Cage said. “I had the chance to discover and decide.”