Nov 11, 2016 • By

Veterans find purpose at General Mills

General Mills is a proud employer of U.S. veterans. Nearly 600 working for us were actively recruited by our U.S. Recruiting team.

“We’ve found that our values, purpose and pursuits really resonate well with veterans – serving the world, winning as a team, playing to win, earning people’s trust,” says Taylor Leeper, a technical recruiter with U.S. Recruiting. “It’s been a joy to be able to serve our veterans as they embark on the next chapter of their careers while also being able to serve our company by finding top talent.”

In fiscal 2016, 8 percent of the new hires at General Mills were veterans – more than double the 3.5 percent of veteran new hires in fiscal 2014. That was the year Laurissa Webster, Taylor Leeper, Scott Swayne and the U.S. Recruiting team began building its strategy to attract more veterans by attending veteran job fairs, targeting veteran-specific job sites, and working with our Veterans Network.

For several years, General Mills has been honored by a variety of organizations for being a company that welcomes veterans.

And today we were named a 2017 Military Friendly Employer by the Military Friendly organization.


Erik Gursky readily admits that the transition from being a troop commander in the U.S. Army to a brand planner with our Snacks business unit took some getting used to.


Erik Gursky at his morning troop formation at Fort Drum in upstate New York.

But Erik, like many veterans at General Mills, quickly adjusted and said a purpose-driven company like ours has more in common with the military than you might think.

“It certainly took some time to adjust my mind to the importance of my new mission here at General Mills, but my team here depends on passion and caring about our brand’s success and that didn’t take long to become clear to me,” he says.

Karly White, a marketing manager, spent time as a battalion operations officer, human resources commander and finance commander and reached the rank of captain before she left the U.S. Army in 2012 with 10 years of service.

After returning from deployment in 2008,  she enrolled in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management to earn her MBA. Karly talks about her experience as a veteran working at General Mills, in this video.

“Although I had zero experience or skills in marketing, I took a leap of faith and applied for a summer marketing internship position at General Mills. I’m still in awe that the company took a chance on me and extended an offer,” Karly says. “Fortunately, the soft skills that the military instilled in me – strong leadership, drive and determination, navigating ambiguity, problem solving, persistence – combined with the amazingly collaborative culture here, I was set up for success and was extended an offer to join the ranks full time.”


Karly White before embarking on a 10-mile ruck march at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2005.

Transitioning to civilian life was a whole new world for Karly. She said in a lot of ways it was like learning a new language.

The military has such specific customs and courtesies for addressing people in person and on the phone, email norms, document writing and filing, etc. that she spent a lot of time throughout her education and the first days of General Mills trying to blend in by removing ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’ when addressing people.

Karly, now the chairperson of our Veterans Network, found that it was not hard to apply her skills in a business environment.

“Going from extreme military experiences to selling cereal puts things in perspective in a way that allows you to think clearly and focus on the problem at hand without the stress getting in the way.”


Karly White in the gunner’s seat of a Humvee at Camp Ripley in Minnesota in 2011.

Karly was nervous that she’d miss the sense of duty and service that the military provided. She was pleasantly surprised to find a deep level of purpose and impact at General Mills.

“Serving people with amazing food is really meaningful work and all you have to do is chat with consumers to hear that,” she says.

Phil Thompson was an armored cavalry officer in the U.S. Army for seven years, serving as a scout platoon leader on the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between South and North Korea, tank platoon leader in Fort Hood, Texas, and a tank company executive officer in Iraq.

After exiting the Army, Phil attended a hiring conference put on by a recruiting firm specializing with leaders exiting the military. He interviewed with a number of companies at the conference and was later hired for a position at our Milwaukee plant.

“Leading the third shift team in Milwaukee was obviously very different than combat operations in Saddam Hussein’s hometown in Iraq. But there were some common themes that made my transition easy,” says Phil.


Phil Thompson served as a scout platoon leader when this photo was taken in the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea.

Now a manufacturing manager for our plant in Hannibal, Missouri, Phil appreciates the unique background in leadership that the military offered.

“I learned how to lead from some of the best in the Army in some very tough situations,” he says. “The journey of leadership development I took around the world taught me strategic thinking, communication effectiveness, talent development and bias for action.”


Phil Thompson crosses the Tigris River in Iraq in an M1A1 tank.

Taking care of soldiers, risk management, and technical leadership of an armored cavalry unit prepared Phil to lead his team.

“General Mills has provided me with the life for my family that I hoped for when I left the Army, the challenges for personal development that I needed, and a future for my career that I am excited to see,” he says.

Learn more about the General Mills Veterans Network, on

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