Veterans & Vehicles: Kevin Filan (Navy)
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2021 Honoree

Kevin Filan (Navy)

Vice President, Marketing
Cox Automotive

How has your military experience influenced your career in the automotive industry?

My time in the military, from when I was 18 until I was 32, shaped just about every part of who I am as a person and the most important components of what I learned about leadership and teamwork. From my first days at the U.S. Naval Academy to my time flying combat support missions in the Middle East and Bosnia, I was fortunate to learn much about leadership and teamwork from those around me at every level of the Navy and Marine Corps.

I learned that people and mindset are the critical difference in every single endeavor. As a young officer on my first operational detachment, I was lucky to have a boss who was adamant that if a mission was successful, it was because of every member of the detachment down to the most junior enlisted man on the team. If we failed, it was his to own as the senior officer of the detachment. Valuing your people as the reason why we win and looking in the mirror when we don’t has stayed with me.

One other important lesson learned was to always have a back-up plan and mentally be ready to adapt. It was a common saying during mission briefings that “Murphy was going to show up.” At some point, no matter how much you think you know from the intel briefing, no matter how well planned the mission — the unexpected will happen. Weather will turn. Intel can be bad. Equipment will break. Be ready for it. Trust your people, but prepare them for these changes with training, communication, encouragement and an understanding of the priorities and the reasons for them — and overall a commitment to completing the mission. Much like our industry today, those days were days filled with uncertainty about what lay ahead. We will never exactly know what the next challenge will be. But from our industry and my company I’ve seen the investment we have put into our people, the emphasis on thinking and a commitment to delivering successful outcomes for our customers and consumers — for those reasons I feel certain that our industry is ready to successfully take on any challenges coming our way.

 

What are some of the ways you have seen the industry support veterans?

Post 9/11, I think the industry and my own company, Cox Automotive, have been strong proponents of supporting not only veterans, but the active-duty community and their families. As a part of our community outreach programs at Cox, we have partnered with Blue Star Families to support the children of deployed military with the donation of children’s books and back-to-school packages. We have developed programs to hire military members transitioning to the civilian workforce and offering resume writing advice as the responsibilities in a warfare community or MOS aren’t always easy to understand for those in the civilian community. It certainly made my own transition from the Navy to Ford Motor Company easier when I found other veterans in leadership who were quick to reach out when I arrived in Dearborn, extend a hand, answer questions and make me feel welcome. Within Cox we have formed an Employee Resource Group titled SALUTE that seeks to provide support and advocacy for the veteran community and service back to both veterans and active-duty military in our communities.

Give one piece of advice for veterans entering the industry.

If you are just now coming into the civilian workforce, expect to feel a little lost at first. But you should know there is a community of veterans who have been in the exact same position you are in and are ready to help you find your way. On top of investing in your education, fine-tuning your resume, studying our overall industry — retain all you have learned about being a leader and a teammate, be ready to grow and, most of all, be sure to connect with your fellow veterans.

 

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