Sep 13, 2018

Medtronic Employee Sets Out on a New Mission

U.S. Army veteran joins Medtronic through a program focused on matching military skills with positions at the company.

Steve Thielen has always appreciated a good workout.

“Fitness has been a core of my life for as long as I can remember,” he said.

A football player in high school and college, fitness became a required way of life when Steve followed in his father’s footsteps and enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“I volunteered for Army Ranger school, which I will tell you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.

Steve originally intended to spend just two years in the military, then get into business. Instead, the military became a career. He served 21 years as an Army officer. He was a tank commander and reconnaissance officer, and eventually joined the Minnesota National Guard, where he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Along the way, he turned a passion for football into a part-time job as a referee. He started in youth football but today referees Big Ten football games and sometimes officiates practices for the Minnesota Vikings.

“Officiating makes you very resilient,” he laughed. “You develop a very thick skin. You’ve got to be able to take constructive criticism.”

When it came time to think about a new full-time career after the military, he attended a job fair specifically for veterans, held at Medtronic. He applied for a position, but didn’t get it.

“Other organizations say ‘thanks, we’ll call you if we have another opportunity’ and then you never hear from them,” Steve said. “But this was a great change. Medtronic not only kept my name, they also found a role for me where I could excel.”

Today, Steve is an IT technologist for security in the company’s Restorative Therapies Group. He serves as a liaison to the corporate security team. “My role is to help bridge initiatives between the business unit and our global security office, to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible,” he said.

When Medtronic connects with veterans like Steve, talent acquisition experts look beyond specific job titles on the resume. Heather Folkestad, whose husband is a veteran, specializes in matching military veterans with open positions at Medtronic.

“Veteran recruiting is part of our diversity recruiting strategy,” said Folkestad, a talent acquisition specialist at Medtronic. “That means we go out and recruit for veterans just as we would go out and recruit for any other diverse talent that’s out there.”

Steve is one of more than 1,100 military veterans who work at Medtronic in the United States. They serve in a variety of roles, everything from engineering to product safety to sales. Many came to the company with no previous experience in the medical device industry.

“We know veterans don't have that experience,” said Jason Feipel, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps who is now a director of global quality strategy at Medtronic and co-chair of the company’s Veteran Employees Resource Group (VERG). “But we value the other intangible skills and specific technical skills that veterans get while they're in the military. That's leadership, strong communication skills and the ability to influence across organizational boundaries, among other things.”

Steve says he’s grateful Medtronic was willing to look beyond his job titles and consider how to put his personal skill set to work. “I’m used to working in a team environment,” he said. “In the military it’s about your unit. In officiating, it’s about working with the rest of your crew. And at Medtronic, it’s about the Mission, helping others and doing something for a cause greater than yourself. It’s all very exciting and humbling and I’m proud to be a part of it.”