Veterans in Business

Andrew Anderlonis, President, Rediker Software

His Time in the Navy Provided an Education on Many Levels

Andrew Anderlonis says his time in the Navy helped him become an effective, people-oriented leader.

Andrew Anderlonis laughed as he noted that one of the Navy’s better selling points is that, no matter where you’re stationed, you’re certain to be close to be a beach.

And that was certainly the case when he was assigned to the destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69), which was based in San Diego; there are lots of fine beaches there.

But Anderlonis said he didn’t join the Navy to sit in the sun. No, he did so to get an education — in every sense of that term.

Indeed, through the Navy, he was awarded a full scholarship to attend George Washington University, earning degrees in international business and management information systems. But that’s just one aspect of the education he received. Later, serving on the Milius and then the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, he was put in situations where he could lead people, develop management skills, test himself, and grow as an individual.

And he credits those experiences — everything from work on nuclear reactors to missions to thwart pirates in the Middle East — with helping him become an effective, people-oriented leader at Rediker Software, which he now serves as president.

“I call my time in the Navy the ultimate leadership experience,” he told BusinessWest. “The experience that the Navy gave me, from an early stage, right out of college, put me into some really tough, really challenging situations that helped build my confidence, helped build my humility, and helped make me the kind of manager I am today.

“There’s different styles of leader out there,” he went on. “Through the Navy, I found out I was a people-first person. Taking care of people, taking care of the sailors under me really became how I was successful. I knew that if I took care of them, they would do their jobs and take care of me, and thus we would accomplish the mission — and I carry a lot of that same methodology to how I lead and manage today.”

“I call my time in the Navy the ultimate leadership experience.”

Before elaborating, Anderlonis flashed back a few decades to his decision to commit to the Navy.

As he noted earlier, this was, as they say in the military, a tactical decision. He knew that beyond a beach — somewhere — the Navy would help provide him with both a college education and invaluable work and life experience.

And it delivered all that and more.

“The Navy was really appealing to me, and I liked the opportunities that it offered — you’re given a lot of responsibility as soon as you graduate, especially as an officer,” he recalled, adding that, after graduating from the ROTC program as a midshipman, he started his career on the Milius, a guided-missile destroyer.

There, he wore a large number of hats, as he put it; he served as a gunnery officer, a legal officer, and was the ‘vessel-boarding, search-and-seizure officer.’

After two years in San Diego, he moved on to Charleston, S.C. for a year and switched gears, becoming a nuclear engineering officer. He earned his qualification to work onboard an aircraft carrier, and was later assigned to one of the reactors on the George H.W. Bush.

All told, he served more than five years of active duty that included those two ship tours and several deployments, including (while on the Milius) some anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the central and southern Arabian Gulf, previously known as the Persian Gulf.

“I was the vessel-boarding, search-and-seizure officer … I had an 18-person crew that was under me,” he recalled. “We would board ships and look for pirates; I was out there in my desert camos climbing up the side of tankers.”

Those were among the myriad experiences that, in total, helped prepare Anderlonis for his transition to the business world, specifically Rediker Software, a venture started by his wife’s father that specializes in integrated school-management systems.

And that preparation involved everything from technology and how to make the most of it, to management and how to handle just about anything that can be thrown at the leader of a small business.

Elaborating, he returned to that mindset, or philosophy, of being a people-oriented leader, a methodology that has worked at Rediker in the same way it did on the George H.W. Bush.

“I make sure that I take care of them,” he said, referring to his team of 95 employees. “I make sure their needs are met and that they’re happy. And I know that, in the end, they’ll take care of me and work as a team to accomplish the business objectives that we’ve laid as we move forward.”

Another tangible benefit from his years in the Navy, he said, is how it has helped him with the broad realm of crisis management and what falls into that category of ‘crisis.’

“It puts everything into perspective when you’re in a war zone and there are actual casualties or something happens and your training kicks in,” he explained. “That’s helped me decide here what’s a true emergency and what’s not. It’s also helping me to maintain a level head and manage stress. And while others are panicking or might be having a really difficult day, I’m able to help them keep a level platform and get through what they might be going through from a leadership perspective.

“At a young age, I was put in a lot of stressful situations, and there were a lot of challenging moments early in my career,” he went on. “And I think those really helped define who I am as a manager and a leader today.”

Meanwhile, there was certainly some beach time in the Navy as well, especially in San Diego. But that’s another story.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]