Tell us about yourself – your name, company, title, and responsibilities?
My name is Dom Fortino. I am a transitioning Army veteran who served as a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. Throughout my transition from the Army, I was given the fortunate opportunity to participate in a Career Skills Program (CSP) which enables transitioning service members to receive formal training in a field they are interested in pursuing. I did my CSP with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) as a strategic planning intern where I was able to apply the knowledge acquired from my graduate studies in a concrete setting. I am a service-oriented individual who finds both extrinsic and intrinsic value in helping others during times of need. During my time in service, I served in various capacities. Most notably, I was a program manager where I was responsible for deploying more than $300 million worth of equipment and 600 personnel to the European Theater and throughout Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. While in theater, I was given the opportunity to engage with multinational partners through extensive collaboration in order to manage equipment and personnel movement operations throughout the continent.
How did you get into the business continuity industry?
During childhood, I always had an interest in the concept of resilience. In the years which followed 9/11, my hometown hosted an event where first responders stood in formation to honor those affected by the 9/11 attacks. I was just old enough at the time to understand the scope of what had happened that day. Seeing first responders stand in front of the American flag in unity, acting as the safeguard to my livelihood, is an expression of resilience which I had always found to be admirable. Throughout high school, I began taking online courses in emergency management to understand what first responders are trained to do in order to “safeguard” local communities. Being the individual responsible for performing such functions was something I had believed to be an honorable way to live, which is what led me to serve my country in the Army and involve myself in the emergency management field.
Tell us about some of the challenges you have encountered in your career?
Throughout my career, I have always found it frustrating to receive conflicting guidance from external organizations involved in the same project. Being able to delineate what needs to be done while ensuring it meets the intent of other organizations involved is a challenge. Next, when something goes awry during a project, it is important to take a step back and reassess the scope of the situation now that something has changed. Acting impulsively in an attempt to resolve a conflict is done with good intentions but can lead to less than desirable results due to a lack of consideration. As a leader, it is imperative to remain calm when approaching a “speed bump.”
Have you had any mentors? Describe the effect they have had on your career.
During my transition from the Army, I participated in the American Corporate Partners (ACP) program where I am paired with a mentor who is a leader in a field which is similar to a field I am interested in pursuing. ACP connected me with Cary Jasgur, the first vice president in enterprise resilience for Amalgamated Bank, who is well experienced in business continuity. Cary helped create a roadmap for me throughout my transition, teaching me how to properly network with employers and how to prepare for civilian life. As a fellow veteran, it was easy making the connection with him because he continues to serve as my mentor through the ACP program.
What are some lessons learned you still leverage today?
It is imperative to be proactive when engaging in any project or mission-set. The military has taught me to plan backward from the end result of a project, as this enables an individual to create a timeline which is both feasible and obtainable. One of my old sergeants told me to “be proactive, not reactive.” This is a phrase which I attempt to abide by daily. Reacting impulsively to something which was not carefully planned or accounted for will, more often than not, lead to less than desirable results. Likewise, having multiple courses of action when engaging in any project enables stakeholders to remain flexible and stay on track for providing deliverables as scheduled. The military has taught me that no project will ever go according to plan, but methodical planning for various scenarios which may occur throughout the project will enhance organizational readiness. Third, giving clear intent to junior employees is essential toward producing deliverables effectively. If there is a shared understanding throughout all levels of an organization for what needs to be done, there will be less ambiguity involved and throughput will be enhanced. Having a shared understanding of successive tasks and the “why” for such tasks will enable junior employees to exercise disciplined initiative and complete implied tasks within the scope of a project, thereby enhancing organizational throughput.
What aspects of working in this industry would you like to see change or evolve?
I’d like to ensure the right people are attending meetings, conferences, and symposiums. The notion of “trimming fat” comes to mind. Stakeholders who do not have a role in an event should not attend, enabling them to have more time to complete tasks which support the mission of the organization. Having representation is important, but limiting representation to those who can disseminate information to less integral stakeholders is an effective method of “trimming fat” with regard to the facilitation of events relevant to organizational objectives.
What types of formal training and certifications have you pursued, and what kinds of learning and networking opportunities are you seeking to continue your professional development?
I have acquired a master’s degree in disaster management and a bachelor’s degree in political science. I have recently obtained my Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification and am currently pursuing my Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate. As I continue working in the emergency management field, I intend on pursuing my Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) and Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) certificates. While interning at VDEM, I had the opportunity to attend multiple symposiums, ranging from cybersecurity to critical infrastructure.
What gets you excited about your career?
As I enter into the emergency management field, I am looking forward to seeing how my planning efforts have a direct impact on local communities. I recently moved to Virginia from Kansas and see how my efforts may help safeguard my neighborhood. This gives me a sense of fulfillment, and I am obliged to act as a liaison to public safety.
What advice would you give to those embarking on a career in this industry?
Always remain a student to the profession. There is always something new to be learned, and it is a unique opportunity to be in a room with those who know more than you. Networking is an integral technique which needs to be exercised on a daily basis. In both business continuity and emergency management, there are people who know people who perform certain functions. In order to be either an effective public servant or continuity professional, you need to put your name out there and let people know you are an asset who can provide services if needed. It is important to consider the functions you perform, wherever that may be, are done to help provide a safeguard to an organization or surrounding communities.