This summer, I have the pleasure of being involved in the Dog Tag, Inc Fellowship Program in Georgetown, Washington DC. Dog Tag Inc. seeks to provide a transformative opportunity for veterans with disabilities, spouses, and caregivers by offering an education at Georgetown University and experiential learning in our small business venture, Dog Tag Bakery. Upon completion of the Dog Tag Inc. (DTI) program, transitioning veterans earn a Certificate of Business Administration from Georgetown University and are business ready, competitive, and employable.
Although the program has just begun, I have learned so much already. As I navigate through this journey, I want to share with you the highlights of the process and the bits of knowledge and understand that I have learned. I’m going to try to write a weekly recap and summary of my time in the program and what I’ve learned.
The first few days were super exciting and were filled with a whirlwind of knowledge, introductions, and overviews of the program.
We met with Alumni of the program and were able to pick their brains about their experiences, good times and bad, attempt to get a sense of what we had gotten ourselves in to.
We were also fortunate to meet with the President of the Board of Directors of Dog Tag, Inc., Phil Cassidy. Phil has had a long career in business including working for Jack Welch, CEO of GE as his Chief of Staff.
There were a few things that Phil said that have resonated with me.Control your own destiny or somebody else will. -Phil Cassidy Click To Tweet
“Control your own destiny or somebody else will.” When Phil said this, I instantly knew what he meant and why I was in this program. I was here to seize my life and make it into what I want it to be. This is now MY TURN to control my destiny and not leave it to the Army or outside influences to decide for me.
Phil also advised us to “…make sure you surround yourself with smart people. You will always be successful.” As I heard him say this, I looked around the room at the other fellows in the cohort and wondered what their strengths were. I have begun to see them in these first few days, but I know by the end of the experience I will have gained so much understanding, insight and knowledge into myself and my life’s goals. Phil also advised us that when we own our own businesses and start to hire employees, that we should always hire people who are smarter than us. Surround ourselves with people who are good at things you lack in. Creating a team is better for the business than creating competition. Smart man, Phil is....make sure you surround yourself with smart people. You will always be successful. - Phil Cassidy Click To Tweet
After the orientation was complete, we moved into the meat of the program… lectures, classes with Georgetown, and guest speakers. My favorites included a talk about Intellectual Property Rights from Gail Lione (a professor of Law at Georgetown University) and the first day of our Principles of Management class with Dr. McCabe, a professor at Georgetown School of Business.
Gail provided so much insight into what it means to trademark and patent things as well as what “fair use” means and how it applies to my role as a food photographer and blogger. I plan to write-up a short synopsis of what I learned for my blogging community in the near future.
Dr. McCabe’s class will teach me what it means to be a good leader and manager of a business. I’m really excited to learn his theories and techniques and apply them to my life as a parent and in the future as an employer!
Along with book learning and guest speakers, as Fellows we will take part in four rotations at the bakery with different executive members of the company. We’ll be in rotation with the Executive Pastry Chef, the General Manager of the bakery, the Director of Development and the Director of Business Operations where we will learn their role in the company from the bottom to the top and getting hands on experience in their role. This fellowship program is a comprehensive look what it means to be an entrepreneur and business person in a real-world way.
My first rotation will be five weeks with Executive Pastry Chef, Rebecca Clerget. At the bakery, Rebecca is responsible for the management of bakery operations, execution and implementation of menu items for our retail bakery and overseeing the baking and pastry training for our veterans and their spouses. So not only will she be teaching me how to bake like a professional, but she’ll be teaching me how to run a bakery kitchen.
During our first two days in the kitchen with Rebecca, she has given us a tour of the bakery and talked about why things were placed where they were and how basic operations work as well as have us get right into making some of the products that are sold at the bakery!
So far, we’ve made gingersnaps, snickerdoodles, sugar cookies and summer berry tarts! If you’re in the Georgetown area this weekend, swing by the bakery and try some of yummies my team made!
The summer berry tarts are seasonal and won’t be around much longer, so I highly suggest to get in and try one!! They are incredibly flavorful and so darn delicious!
As I look back on my first days as a Fellow, our program director, Kyle asked us to think about what our first impressions of the program and experience were. Besides the specific content of the program that we learned, I also learned a lot about myself.
The transition from being the primary caregiver to my entire family to the one who leaves everyday for work has been a difficult one. My ability to trust that my husband was adequately taking care of the kids and life at home really tested my faith in my husbands abilities. I needed to learn to let go and trust that my husband is capable of taking care of things. And you know what… he has been.This is the time to be selfish, to work on my goals & strengthen my life. Not tomorrow. Today. Click To Tweet
Finally, I came to realize that these 5 months are for me… and only me. I am allowed to take these months to focus on what I want, what I need and let my family, friends and community support me like I have supported them. It is finally time for me to be selfish.
I have ideas of what I want my life to look like, but I know this program will help shape what that will be. I am so excited to see how I transform over the next five months!