After serving in the U.S. Army for five years, Brodie Trout successfully transitioned to a civilian job in the tech industry—only to realize it wasn’t the right move. But rather than stick with a position that didn’t make him happy, Trout decided to rethink his career path and found his way to a global logistics company, which hired him through an internal program to help veterans. After two years, he was ready for another change—this time because he wanted to join an organization whose work has a connection with former military colleagues. Enter Northrop Grumman.
Today, Trout is a project manager at the Virginia-based global security company, working on the Triton aircraft program. “My role requires me to work with the teams to support the statement of work and deliverables, meet timelines, and remove roadblocks,” he says. “Being able to see the direct impact my work provides to the warfighter is incredibly rewarding. Plus, sharing a similar background with my counterparts in the service makes Northrop Grumman a fulfilling place to be.”
Here, Trout shares what he loves about Northrop Grumman’s company culture, how he uses certain military skills in his current role, and advice for other veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.
Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at Northrop Grumman.
My journey has had a number of twists and turns. I originally began working in the tech industry upon leaving the Army. I was incredibly proud of the work I did, but felt misunderstood by my management team and colleagues, which left me feeling unfulfilled. I knew I wanted to return to a “mission set environment” by supporting the warfighter. I was fortunate to have some great mentors that helped guide me toward the defense industry. From those conversations, I was able to connect with some senior leaders at Northrop Grumman who made it clear that this is where I belong. I could not be happier with the decision.
What attracted you to work at Northrop Grumman, specifically as a veteran?
While having conversations with people about Northrop Grumman, it became obvious that the company has an incredibly strong reputation in the defense industry. The culture, growth, and focus around integrity were areas that stood out to me. It seems like a no-brainer that companies would focus on these attributes, but it really is a rarity. And the veteran community has a strong presence in the company, which gave me comfort in knowing I shared a similar background with my colleagues. A large effort has been made to support transitioning veterans through hiring initiatives such as Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) and VERITAS (Veterans, Employees and Reservists Inspired to Act and Serve), an internal employee resource group that helps give back to the community and those leaving the service. The effort to make an inclusive environment was the main reason why I joined Northrop Grumman.
How did you benefit from Northrop Grumman’s veteran-focused programs?
Executive leadership has made hiring veterans one of the company’s key pillars. Through Operation IMPACT, being able to work with Northrop Grumman employees who are also veterans was incredibly beneficial as they could help translate my resume and act as a second pair of eyes for the hiring manager. The veteran hiring initiative in Northrop is not a handout, but rather a hand up. Generalist recruiters sometimes have a one-track mindset and may not understand how veterans’ skills translate. Working with veterans who understood my skill set gave me the opportunity I needed to demonstrate my value.
What do you like best about the company culture at Northrop Grumman?
I was drawn to Northrop Grumman because of its commitment to the warfighter and the value that the organization places on veterans and their skills. From the onset, I was welcomed and received extensive transition support, which made my integration into the organization smooth and seamless. The management teams have been incredibly accommodating and have provided every opportunity for success. Additionally, leadership remains transparent and receptive to employee feedback, which creates an open and honest work environment. I feel valued and appreciated by my colleagues, who show an interest in learning about and leveraging my background and unique perspective to support the overall mission.
What does a normal day as a project manager look like?
There is no normal day in my role, and that’s what I love about it. We have our typical meeting cadence, but each day presents a new challenge. I routinely work with the teams to understand their challenges and help take a portion of the workload off their shoulders. I am constantly faced with new challenges as each day has its own problem. Working with the teams to problem solve is challenging and rewarding at the same time. If you like walking into work not knowing what the day will hold, then I would recommend a project manager role.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
The Triton program is rapidly growing and becoming one of the main systems moving forward. It’s exciting to be part of a program that will have such an impact on our national security and be able to help build it from the ground up. My life has previously been in the hands of these products and I personally understand how important it is that they deliver when it matters most. It inspires me to know that I now have the ability to return the favor to the men and women who continue to wear the cloth of this nation.
What was the biggest challenge you faced transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce?
When I left the military, I had a number of assumptions that my military experience would clearly translate. This assumption could not be further from the truth. What I learned over time was that I was speaking another language—one that civilians had trouble understanding. At first, it was incredibly frustrating, but I eventually realized that I needed to adapt. I learned that in order to gain traction, I had to quantify my military experience as business accomplishments.
What are some skills you learned in the military that have been transferable in your civilian career?
The responsibility and dedication to duty learned through military service is what makes veterans valuable assets to any organization. In the military, we commonly lacked resources, funding, and personnel while routinely pulling extensive overtime hours. The challenges I faced in the military taught me to focus my efforts on finding a solution rather than simply pointing out obstacles. As an Integrator on the Triton program, I encounter daily challenges but am able to leverage my ability to find a solution and establish clear lines of communication to generate value-added solutions.
What advice do you have for veterans who want to join the civilian workforce?
Be true to yourself and realize that you constantly change and develop over time. It’s OK to try something and pivot in another direction as every scenario changes over time. When I left the military, I was incredibly burned out from the tempo and saw an excellent opportunity to join the tech community. On paper, it looked like a no-brainer, but once I was in, I knew I had made the wrong decision. As time marched on, I fought the feeling I felt and continued to look at it from a numbers perspective. I increasingly found it difficult to justify staying, which forced some soul-searching. Being honest with myself, I realized I missed supporting the warfighter and the overall mission. I missed the camaraderie and the ability to make a real impact.
In addition, leverage your military network and keep asking questions, keep growing, and keep trying. Pay it forward any chance you get. I’m only in this position because of other veterans willing to do the same.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
While I was in Afghanistan, my colonel shared with me that “people will tell you no because they can’t tell you yes. Find the yes-person and you’ll know if you can accomplish the goal.” These words have always stuck with me. It’s a great reminder to be resilient in the face of adversity and provides me the opportunity to remain optimistic when those around me are pessimistic.