Senior Master Sgt. George Valencia was only supposed to be deployed stateside as an Air Force reservist for six months, but it eventually turned into 18 months. While some of his fellow troops were concerned about what an extended deployment might do to their full-time jobs and pay, Valencia knew as a Wells Fargo team member, his job was secure.
“My experience was tremendous,” Valencia said. “I am a senior leader in the military and manage 25 to 50 folks. The constant feedback I get from various reserve members is that their company doesn’t support them or it’s only for a limited amount of time, so their stress levels go up. Wells Fargo has such a great program for those that serve. It’s seamless.”
More than 200 Wells Fargo team members like Valencia are on active duty at any given time. On Aug. 29, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan signed the Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve, a commitment the company has been making for at least 15 years. The Statement of Support Program is part of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program established to develop and promote supportive work environments for service members and ensure their jobs are protected while serving.
“We are committed to working with ESGR to ensure that our team members are not worried when they are called to active duty,” Sloan said.
By signing the statement of support again, Wells Fargo pledges to recognize and comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which protects civilian job rights and benefits for veterans and Reserve members; to provide managers and supervisors with tools to manage employees who serve in the Guard or Reserve; to appreciate the values, leadership, and unique skills service members bring to the workforce; and to recognize and support U.S. service members and their families.
The statement is just one of the ways Wells Fargo supports military personnel and veterans. The company has made a commitment to employ military veterans, veterans with disabilities, and active military personnel, and since 2012 has donated more than $100 million to support sustainable housing, career transition, and financial education initiatives for military service members, veterans, and their families.
“It’s a pleasure to work for a company that advocates for its military members,” Valencia said. “Wells Fargo makes sure it’s an intentional act by connecting veterans and creating synergies to develop people. By doing that, the company is demonstrating one of our core values of people as a competitive advantage,” Valencia said.
Valencia joined the U.S. Air Force at 17 after graduating from high school. He spent eight years on active duty, has been a part-time reservist for about 12 years, and is currently a cyberintelligence analyst with the military.
Valencia has been with Wells Fargo since 2004 and is currently a systems architect for the company’s Enterprise Information Technology Group in Elk Grove, California. His recent deployment was his first with Wells Fargo — and his first since starting a family. “That was a tremendous benefit because the team I’m on sent packages to me and my family as if I was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan,” Valencia said. “All the letters and outpouring of support were tremendously helpful.”
His manager at the time, Allen Smith, a managing systems architect for Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina, and also a Navy veteran, said he knows how important support during deployment can be. “This is an exciting time for the team member but also a very stressful time, leaving their family and job,” he said. “The first thing you need to do as a leader is assess where their head is. It’s up to you as a leader to support them. It’s our responsibility to the bank and the country.”
While he was deployed, Valencia’s team at Wells Fargo underwent multiple changes as part of a reorganization. Lee Rogers, a managing systems architect in Tempe, Arizona, whom Valencia had worked with previously, became his manager, and upper management changed. Valencia’s job had also previously focused on international work, but it had been reallocated, so when he returned from deployment, Valencia worked with other teams. No matter what, though, his team made sure Valencia knew how excited they were for his return and that his transition back to work was smooth.
“I’ve been a manager with Wells Fargo on and off for a while, so I’m aware we wholeheartedly support deployed service men and women,” Rogers said. “I was familiar with it and in support of it because I believe that’s the way the company grows, through experiences our military has and their supporting our national interests.”
Valencia said he felt reassured by both of his managers during his deployment. “To be able to call my former and current managers friends at work was instrumental when it comes to being called up for a longer period of time,” Valencia said. “When you come back, you have self-talk, like, ‘Do I fit in this work environment or more so in the military?’ The reassurance and the relationships you create at Wells Fargo help in that transition. It helps you to build back your confidence levels when you come back to work.”