Jenna Dolan may seem like a typical GE Aviation manager but the pictures in her office point to a bigger story.
Dolan is a former fighter jet pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, where she spent a dozen year and was the first woman to fly AV-8B Harrier in combat. That was in Iraq, where Dolan, or “Dookie” to her fellow Devil Dogs, served two six-month tours.
Dolan, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1996, is one of 10,000 U.S. military veterans employed by GE. This high number is no accident. “We actively recruit from the military because we have learned that the values you bring to our company are essential to our success,” Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO, said in a speech at West Point in 2009. Immelt wants to make GE the “employer of choice” for veterans.
Dolan joined GE directly from the Marine Corps through the Junior Officer Leadership Program (JOLP). The program offers veterans three eight-month rotations within different divisions of the company. She says that even though “the Marine Corps is a very special place, so I might be a little biased,” she found GE “very friendly to veterans.”
She says that JOLP is a great way to transition. Dolan was able to approach senior executives to discuss job options and career paths. “The program gives you great visibility,” says Dolan. “It encourages you to set up meetings and seek mentorship. Everybody has kept their doors open.”
Dolan comes from a family of military pilots. Her father served in Vietnam and her brother flew during the first Iraq war.
Dolan says that her career as military pilot taught her the “ability to think logically and not to be afraid to step up and make a decision.” During her flights over Iraq, Dolan made decisions with severe consequences. “People’s lives were at stake,” says Dolan. She finds her experience applicable at GE. “Our products are responsible for keeping people alive.”
Dolan still flies in her spare time, Cessnas, Pipers, even a Czech Aero L39 trainer jet, developed to train Warsaw Pact pilots. “I’m convinced that nothing will ever compare to flying the Harrier,” she says.