Meet a U.S. Army National Guard Captain Whose Day Job Is Helping Orgs Respond to Natural Disasters, Cyber Assaults, and More
As a member of the U.S. Army National Guard, Ben Potter wanted his civilian job in the business world to be just as fulfilling as when he’s in uniform. That’s what led him to Everbridge, a software company that helps organizations and governments handle their operational responses to critical events, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters to cyber assaults.
“The software industry is very broad, so you could do anything—from selling accounting software to building management software, but this is software that actually keeps people safe,” says Potter, who is the Senior Director of Customer Enablement and Adoption at Everbridge. “Software with an impact that you can see in news stories, whether it’s finding a lost child or evacuating a city that was being ravaged by wildfires—that’s pretty different.”
On top of working on a rewarding mission, Potter appreciates the growth opportunities he’s had at Everbridge. He’s been promoted five times in seven years—all while accommodating time for his military service, where he currently serves as a Captain in a towed artillery battalion. “Several years ago, I took a leave of absence for about eight months of military training, and when I came back, I still had my job waiting for me and it felt super easy just to fall right back into step,” he says.
Here, Potter talks about his unique career journey as a service member and civilian, what led him to pivot from sales to customer service, and how Everbridge has supported his career development.
Tell us about your career journey, and what inspired you to work in sales and customer service in tandem to your role in the U.S. Army National Guard.
I kind of entered the workforce with two distinct career paths: I joined Everbridge right after graduating college in 2014, joining as a business development representative focusing mostly on prospecting in the state and local government space. Around that time, I was also commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard, because I was in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) during college. I’m very fortunate to still have the opportunity to live and operate in these two different worlds that I’ve been in.
My military occupational specialty (MOS) is field artillery, so I always joke that when I’m not solving problems at Everbridge, I get to blow things up in my spare time.
What initially attracted you to work at Everbridge?
I was looking for an opportunity to make a tangible difference in whatever field I was working in, and Everbridge very clearly presented that opportunity. The impact that Everbridge’s platform has—as dramatic as that sounds—is extremely vast. The results and the outcomes that our platform can drive for everybody, from a child in a small county in Texas to a Fortune 500 company, are pretty clear. As somebody who’s served in the military and continues to serve in the military for over a decade, I can’t imagine myself working in an organization that doesn’t provide the type of impact that Everbridge does at both a micro and a macro level.
When I interviewed for Everbridge almost eight years ago, my hiring manager at the time told me, “we’re a fast-moving train, jump on while you can because it’s going to be crazy the next couple of years.” And he was right.
What are you and your team responsible for?
My team is the first touch point for our customers after the sale is closed. We meet with a variety of customers, from public information officers at small cities and towns to global security managers at large retailers, pharmaceutical companies, and other organizations. We lead these customers through a series of in-depth consultative training calls, working to technically onboard those customers and help them adopt our platform.
We aim to understand their goals, who the key players within their organization are, and most importantly, how they define success. Then we build a project plan that’ll help them weave the Everbridge system into the fabric of how they operate on a daily basis to help ensure that they have the tools that they need to keep people safe and keep their business running.
It’s an in-depth onboarding process: We’ll also take their use cases, whether those are specific to safety, like an active shooter type event or physical security type of need, or something that is more public facing; for example, a county may have a public alerting use case that’s specific to natural disasters, evacuations, road closures, critical infrastructure, or outages—things like that. It’s really cool to be able to interact with different folks from different areas. It’s an interesting kind of line of work that we’re in, and it’s super rewarding.
Why does the work you’re doing at Everbridge excite and inspire you?
There are two things that keep me motivated and inspired. One of the things that gets me up in the morning and makes my work so fulfilling is that Everbridge is a company that has a mission that’s very unique. The software industry is very broad, so you could do anything—from selling or implementing accounting software to building management software, but this is software that actually keeps people safe. Software with an impact that you can see in news stories, whether it’s finding a lost child or evacuating a city that was being ravaged by wildfires—that’s pretty different.
The other thing that inspires me at work are the people. I think a mission like ours really attracts really amazing people that care about their communities and making a difference in the world, and not just making a buck. Seeing that same level of passion in the people that you work with makes work so much easier, because you're working with a group of like-minded people with one really important common goal.
As someone who’s been promoted many times, how is your experience indicative of Everbridge’s commitment to learning, development, and career growth?
When I first joined Everbridge, I was focused on sales and that’s the field I wanted to grow in. But the organization never closes a door to anybody who wants to learn, so I was able to gain knowledge on so much more than just prospecting and building sales pipeline, including how our technology helps support different customers and what they care about. That helped fuel my interest in moving into that post-sales type of role to focus on implementing our platform and driving solutions for our customers, as opposed to selling them.
Even though I didn’t have a lot of technical experience, everybody was so supportive of my endeavor to get into a more technical role, including people who were going to be my peers on this new team that I was interested in joining. Managers, directors across different departments, and individual colleagues all took the time to help me to understand what I was looking to do and the skills that I would need.
Long story short, I think we have a culture that both feeds and supports growth. My own journey aside, of the six or seven open roles that I had on my team last year, I filled 100% of them with internal hires from various departments across the company. That just goes to show you that at Everbridge, we’re not just invested in our mission and our customers, but also in our people as well.
What makes Everbridge a great place for long-term growth?
If there are folks looking to join a different role at Everbridge, you could throw a rock and hit 50 people who are willing to help take time out of their day to help get you into that role. There’s no culture of selfishness where it’s like “we can’t promote them right now.” It’s always: “Let’s do whatever we can do to get that person educated on the role that they want to take and then coordinate at the management level to ensure that the transition is smooth and that we do everything we can to benefit the employee.”
It’s what our Co-CEO, Vernon, talks about all the time: Career mapping and growth are pivotal to a high-performing organization, and if you don't have those things, people are gonna continue to job shop. Everbridge is definitely the type of place that not only invests in you as both an individual and a team player, but also really encourages you to look across different avenues of the business and carve out your career path and build a plan with your manager and other mentors within the organization to help get there.
What are some of the skills and values you have learned in the military that you have carried over into your work at Everbridge?
There are a lot, and that’s a message that I would echo extremely loudly for any veteran out there who’s looking to get into any type of organization—members of the military who have served any period of time bring such strong skill sets that 100% translate to success in the business world. Here are a few that come to mind where I can draw clear parallels to my military service and my civilian service:
Teamwork: As corny as it sounds, every member of any military unit, regardless of their rank, is operating as part of a team. For the most part, you’re gonna look to your left and your right, and you’re gonna see someone that would go above and beyond not just for themselves, but also for you and also for a higher cause. That mindset has absolutely translated into my work and Everbridge, and it’s helped me understand that in times of high stress and uncertainty, it’s the team that’s going to persevere, not just the individual.
Servant Leadership: I believe that leadership is privilege, and not a right, regardless of how tenured you are at an organization. Anybody can be a manager, but only the right person can be a leader. And from my perspective, the military has taught me really what it means to empower and grow and grant autonomy to the people that you work with. Nobody ever works for you, everybody works with you. I’m sure you’ve heard the term: “leaders eat last,” and that is as true in the military as it is in business when it comes to understanding what strong servant leadership is at its essence. Those folks who have learned from the greatest leadership academy in the world, which I would argue is the United States military, bring those principles back to their place of work when they transition into civilian life.
Ownership: You’re taught from your very first day that you’re never going to point the finger and blame something on somebody else. Service members are the type of people who are going to not only strive for success with a different type of grit and mentality, but they’re also going to own their failures and want to get better. And then they’re going to use that as fuel to make better choices to grow personally and professionally.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a customer experience-related role?
I think curiosity and initiative are two things that people definitely need to harness when they’re looking to get into a customer facing role. And those two things will then translate into tangible outcomes for your customers.
Another thing I would recommend is to use your colleagues around you as resources. You don’t have to shoulder that burden alone. At a company like Everbridge, there’s no shortage of people who will give you their time, energy, and experience to help you achieve whatever you want to achieve—you just have to learn how to ask for help.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
I’m lucky because, for most of my journey at Everbridge, I’ve been able to work with the guy who is currently my boss, and he’s been an amazing mentor throughout my entire journey. One of the things that he’s always told me is to never shy away from asking hard questions, whether it has to do with the direction of the company, pursuing a promotion or a raise, or asking to get a seat on a project that may not have a lot to do with your “day job,” but that will help grow you professionally. Say “yes” to the challenges that are presented to you and figure it out as you go. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.