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In recognition of Veteran’s Day, we’re sharing decision making, team building, and discipline lessons from women with a military background in the Anywhere network.

It’s not surprising—or a coincidence—that many of the world’s best leaders have a background in the military or are part of a military family. Women in particular often develop high-level leadership skills that can naturally translate to the world of business. Right now, 16% of the U.S. armed forces are comprised of women, with many serving in prestigious leadership roles, as well as in combat. And, going forward, that 16% is expected to grow considerably.

To honor Veteran’s Day, the Anywhere Service ERG in partnership with the Anywhere Women’s ERG and What Moves Her®, recently hosted a special event, Leadership Lessons Learned as a Woman in Military Life. The panel discussion featured three women from the Anywhere network who either served themselves or have been part of a military family.

Today, we are going to take a look back at the event—which you can see here —and explore core leadership competencies that military experience helped shape, including decision making, team building, and discipline.

Leadership Lessons Learned as a Woman in Military Life

Sue Yannaccone, President & CEO, Anywhere Brands moderated the event, which featured three senior Anywhere employees

Carriann Sillman: Military mom and Vice President of Legal at Anywhere
Mary Tennison: Marine Veteran, military mom, and now Application Support Supervisor at Anywhere Integrated Services
Jenny Wallace: Marine Veteran, Coldwell Banker Realty Agent in Texas

Carriann Sillman has been with Anywhere since 2012 and serves as brand counsel for Coldwell Banker, Coldwell Banker Commercial and Corcoran. She is also responsible for all domestic and international franchise regulatory matters across all brands.

Carriann came from a military family. Her grandfather and father both served, and as a result Carriann moved around quite a bit growing up. Her son Andrew joined the army after high school and left for basic training at Fort Benning right after graduation. He served nearly four years as an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Mary Tennison started with Anywhere as a Temporary Help Desk Associate in April of 2003. In just a few short years she was promoted to Help Desk Team Lead. From there she rose through the ranks to her current position as the Supervisor of Application Support with ownership of account and application provisioning.

Mary’s military career began after completing two years at Penn State. She enlisted in the Marines, where she served almost eight years as a computer professional. Her son enlisted in the Marines in October of 2021.

Jenny Wallace is an agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in Texas. Upon graduation from high school, she joined the Marine Corps, and served from 2000-2009. The highlight of her career was being promoted to Lance Corporal in Iwo Jima on top of Mount Suribachi.

Although she no longer wears the uniform, Jenny continues to serve the community at large, by helping veterans buy homes in the country they have fought to serve and protect. Jenny lives by the Marine Corps motto, “We do not leave each other behind.”

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Sue kicked off the discussion with a question about adversity and obstacles. “Being a woman in military life, you faced many challenges. How do you think those have shaped you as a leader today?

Mary talked about how, “The military is very good at pulling out the best of every personality and empowering them to step up, push forward and complete the mission.”

This was a common theme throughout the discussion: how the military is so adept at bringing out the best in the people who serve. Mary elaborated by discussing how, “Allowing people to pursue their interests and develop their strengths promotes more work and more growth.”

But it’s not just about developing in the areas you’re already good at. A big part of growth is the need to “step out of your comfort zone.” Mary said this was another area where the military excels, encouraging people to take on the work they don’t necessarily enjoy helps them grow by “pushing into discomfort.”

Coming from a military family, Carriann moved around all the time as a child, including overseas to Germany when she was in 2nd grade. She talked about how those experiences helped shape her as a person, and a leader.

“Moving around the globe and being put in these different parts of the world, you were forced to bring yourself out and help people that are new, because you’ve been there…when I see people that are struggling, I tap into that and say I’ve done this before, I have the courage to do it, I can help people do the same.”

 Sue also moved around a lot as a kid, and she shared how that helped her get comfortable being uncomfortable. “(Moving around) did allow me to create an inner sense of having to get comfortable being uncomfortable, walking into rooms where I didn’t know anybody. Pushing people outside their comfort zone is where growth happens. I like to do that with my teams…you have to do things you’re uncomfortable with.”

Know Yourself and Seek Self-Improvement

Sue then asked the panel how the military shaped them to be the leaders they are today. Jenny elaborated on how her experiences taught her the value of standing firm, and the importance of teamwork. “In real estate, you don’t say ‘I’. It’s always teamwork. I always look at it as we all have to work as a team. The Marine Corps leadership principle is know yourself and seek self-improvement. Sometimes I come across agents that are newer. They may not have the experience. I step in as a mentor. Anything you need, let me know so we can all make it as a team.”

Everybody knows how the military fosters a strong sense of community. When asked how that communal spirit carried on through their personal lives and careers, Jenny talked about the importance of being present for her community, and helping her fellow servicewomen and men take advantage of all the programs and services out there for them.

“I partner with different services in our community. I have wonderful clients, and I always find out what they’re interested in, especially small business owners. I have a client who just opened a motorcycle shop. I highlight him on my social media channels and do things to help us all work together as a community. Even if it doesn’t pertain to me directly, I try to find someone who can benefit. If these services don’t get used, the funding goes away.”

Mary favorably contrasted the range of services and programs available now to the military to when she first served. “One of the biggest things that is finally being realized is that need for connection. If you have someone you know that’s struggling, let them know about available programs, groups, and services. We try to publicize that and connect people through veterans’ service organizations.”

When Carriann’s son left home to serve, she found that getting involved with a service organization—in her case Blue Star Moms—was more than a chance to give back. It also provided her with a support group who empathized with what she was feeling and going through. “The most important thing is to just stop and listen. I couldn’t express what I was going through. People wanted to give me advice but it wasn’t very helpful. I needed somebody to listen, empathize and just be a shoulder.”

Finding Your Voice and Building Your Confidence

For the final question, Sue asked the panel about their hopes for the next generation of women entering military life, as well as one piece of advice for those coming out of service.

Jenny wants people to know there is continued success after service, and that “civilian life will be positively impacted by what you learn in the military.” She encourages the next generation to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them, and to have a plan for when they leave—and above all, keep in touch with the network of women you served with.

“Have an exit strategy and stay connected to the women you’ve been stationed with. They may have connections to jobs. You may not need something but they may need something from you. It means the world to follow up, keep that camaraderie with the women you served with.”

Mary wants to see the next generation assert their autonomy and “work within the system to ensure they are safe.” She also stressed the importance of taking advantage of every program that is out there. “They do some amazing education. Every college has a veteran’s service office. The government has offices. There are opportunities for allyship and connecting. Make sure you’re taking advantage of everything.”

Carriann stressed the importance of finding a mentor, someone to help you on your career path. “One of the best things about Anywhere is we have so many great women in our organization. When you think about how women can move up in life, just find people around you that are supportive and can help build you up. Stay away from the negativity. Be comfortable in your own skin. Find that voice and tap into those around you who can be great mentors who can help you.”

Notable Quotes

  • No one reaches great heights all alone.” -Sue Yannaccone
  • “Lean on strong mentors, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. That sense of team and community is very important.” -Sue Yannaccone
  • “One of the best things about Anywhere is we have a lot of great women in our organization. Find people around you who are supportive and can help build you up.” -Carriann Sillman
  • “For me the military helps to empower all people to step up and become a leader in their own way and complete the mission.” -Mary Tennison
  • “I have done this before, I can have the courage to step up and help others to succeed.” -Carriann Sillman
  • “We don’t say ‘I’, it’s always teamwork both in the military and in real estate.” -Jenny Wallace
  • “Learn how to be your own advocate, watch powerful women in your organization and life, find those that will help you grow.” -Carriann Sillman
  • In the military, if a resource or service doesn’t get used, it goes away. So even if you don’t need the service yourself, make others aware that it’s available to them.’ -Jenny Wallace

Want to see the entire discussion? You can view it here.

Now It’s Your Turn

Did you serve in the military, or have a family member who served? Have you worked with a veteran, or someone who served in the military? What lessons did you learn from them? If you didn’t serve, but have volunteered with a local organization for veterans, let us know your experience. We want to hear from you.

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