Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

Wells Fargo’s Veterans Program Helped This Army Reservist Launch a Career

Lawton Regan, a project manager at Wells Fargo.
Lawton Regan, a project manager at Wells Fargo.
| Courtesy of Wells Fargo

When Lawton Regan joined the United States Army Reserve, he knew he’d have to make sacrifices when it came to his schedule and personal safety. What he didn’t expect is that being a reservist would hinder his career in the civilian world.

“Serving my country as a reservist comes at a price and some employers just don’t understand that,” he says. “It cost me civilian jobs in the past, which has been a big obstacle that I’ve had to battle with throughout my career.”

As a result, Regan spent several years working as a civil servant within the Army and later in the U.S. Air Force. Each time he tried to pivot back into civilian life, it wouldn’t stick.

Then he heard about Wells Fargo’s Veteran Employment Transition (VET) Program, an eight-week immersive internship for veterans that can lead to a full-time mid- or senior-level position at the company. This program not only allowed Regan to find belonging in a civilian setting, but it also helped him achieve his long-time goal of launching a new career in project management.

“For the first time in a long time I believe I found the right position and team,” says Regan, who is now a project manager on Wells Fargo’s risk and control portfolio. “I have the flexibility to still serve my country in a reserve capacity while being able to balance the work life at Wells Fargo.”

Here, Regan shares how the VET Program helped him achieve his dream civilian role, why Wells Fargo is the perfect fit for him, and advice for overcoming rejection.

Tell us about your career journey, and what led to your first job at Wells Fargo?

My career journey is far from linear. I have job experiences that range from working in fast food and retail to data analysis and civil service. My first job at Wells Fargo was as a mortgage processor. Even though I performed very well within the position, I was having a hard time transitioning out of my military mindset. I left Wells Fargo when an opportunity for a civil service position came up in the Air Force.

What inspired you to pivot and pursue a career as a project manager?

During my time with the Air Force, I worked alongside project managers who inspired me and gave me the right tools and training I needed to prepare for the position that I wanted. When my civil service term position was coming to end, I thought really hard about what I wanted to do with my career and decided to begin applying for project management roles.

What made you return to Wells Fargo?

Even though I left Wells Fargo, I remembered how balanced and flexible my team was when I had to serve my country as a reservist and that resonated well with me. About a year after I left, the Wells Fargo recruiter who had interviewed me for the mortgage processor position reached out and asked me what happened. I explained that I had been struggling to adapt to civilian life, and that’s when the VET Program was recommended to me. After speaking with the recruiter about the program, I decided to apply and was selected for the project manager track that I wanted.

Tell us more about the VET program. Why did you decide to apply for it?

The program provides an avenue for transitioning veterans to better acquaint themselves with corporate culture while developing skills necessary for a role in the financial services industry.

I decided to apply for this program because I wanted to pursue my next career goal to become a project manager. I had probably applied to more than 100 jobs between 2017 and 2020 before this opportunity came about.

At the time, the VET Program was a risk because I was in the middle of buying a home for my family, and switching from a full-time position to an internship was less than ideal for processing a mortgage. However, it all worked out and I was able to successfully close on my new home and get through the internship and earn my new position.

I am super pleased that Wells Fargo has been there for me through the different times of my life and career, and that is something that I value about this company.

After going through the VET Program, how did you know Wells Fargo would be the right place to work full time?

After finishing the program, I realized I felt the same camaraderie that I had while in the military. This program was so unique because I was surrounded by other veterans who experienced similar hardships, and I believe that is the reason it led me to successfully transition into project management. I am so thankful for the VET Program and for the recruiter who recognized the transition issues I was having and pointed me in the right direction. The best thing I can say about the program is how well they coordinated to align me with the right team and position, and my success speaks volumes to how helpful the program is for veterans. Now my goal is to support the program and any veteran I come across to continue to pay it forward.

What is the biggest challenge you faced when pursuing a new career in project management and how did you overcome it?

I didn’t know that the process of applying and getting rejections would be as taxing as it was. However, I never gave up on the dream and kept pursuing what I wanted. I took different jobs to gain the experiences I needed until this right position and opportunity became available.

I learned to never look at rejection as an obstacle, but rather as a learning pathway for the right opportunity. I was eventually in the right place at the right time, and with the right people. My advice for all veterans or transitioning veterans is that your right career alignment will occur—it just takes patience, persistence, and continued development.

How has your time in the military helped you succeed as a project manager?

My time in the military allowed me to gain the skills sets needed to oversee projects. The requirements outlined in a mission or tasks have a similar structure to project scope and milestones. As in the military, the projects I’m assigned at Wells Fargo are not cookie cutter and the problem sets are unique. This motivates me to think outside of the box and deliver projects in a way that allows me to share my expertise and recommendations, which provides value to the team.

What’s something most people would be surprised to know about you?

I missed my high school graduation because I was inside a gas chamber at basic training. I remember sitting on my rucksack at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and realizing that I was going to get gassed while my class was walking the stage. I found out later that I was selected salutatorian, which was incredibly rewarding.

I am also the highest-ranking service member in my family, and I plan to set a record for future family generations before my Army Reserve career comes to an end.

Now that you have balance in your life, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to spend time with my family playing board games or video games, walking on trails, sightseeing, and watching movies together. My focus is more about the time I spend with others to help me recharge.