Greg Gilbert has been with Waypoint, an Advantage Solutions company, for more than a year and a half as an operator specialist dedicated to Sysco, Virginia. Representing more than 60 food manufacturers, he provides samples and consults with foodservice operators to sell them products from Advantage clients. When this Navy Veteran isn’t indulging his new hobby — he’s currently filling a 75-gallon fish tank with aquatic life — he enjoys sporting clays, fishing, kayaking, riding ATVs and cooking for his girlfriend. As part of our celebration for National Veterans and Military Families Month and our Warrior Support Crew (WSC) employee resource group, we spoke with Greg about his military background and how it has impacted his career. He told Advantage there are many connections for his Navy career in civilian life, and the things that he learned while in service are almost universally applicable.
Please share a little bit about your military career.
I joined the Navy in 1985 as a Mess Specialist. In 2002 they changed it to Culinary Specialist, which is more fitting. I did 26 years in the Navy and retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer (E8), which is second to the highest you can go. I’ve done a lot of different things. My first ship I cooked for the Captain. Then I did a Joint Staff duty at Headquarters Defense Logistics Agency in Virginia, cooking for three-star Admirals and Generals from all branches. I did two deployments on an ammunition ship, I went recruiting and was stationed on a Patrol Coastal ship with Naval Special Warfare supporting Navy Seals, I have been in charge of foodservice on an amphibious landing ship and I ended my 26 years in recruiting again. I’ve had quite a bit of sales experience and formal training and I visited more than 26 different countries. It was the best thing I could have ever done in my life.
How did you segue from the Navy into Waypoint?
I retired in 2011 from the Navy and knew I wanted to go into food sales. While I was in, you would have vendors come on ship and show you food products, and a lot of them were retired Navy guys. I had a lot of sales experience from being a recruiter. Whether you’re selling a product to a person, or to the Navy, it’s about building relationships, and sales is a very busy job. I never thought about doing a job where I go to work from 9:00 in the morning to 5:00 and be done. I’ve always been busy.
You have the opportunity to do different things in the Navy and recruiting individuals is a big priority even today. I thought I would try and I ended up being good at it. I enjoyed helping young people do something with their lives. Make a difference for them, give them a career opportunity, you know? In 2011, when I retired, I worked for a few food companies, a farm, then when COVID hit, I went back to military sales.
What skills did you learn in the Navy that have served you well as a civilian? You talked a bit about the value in building relationships. Is there anything else?
The discipline you get from the military is valuable. Also, the integrity, doing the right things when nobody’s looking, things like that, being on time, the leadership skills. At one time, I had 45 people working for me and I ran a successful operation on a ship. I’ve been in charge of five or six recruiting stations and produced the results they look for. It’s hard work. It’s not a 9-to-5 job for sure. It’s early until sometimes late at night, sometimes 18-hour days. People coming from the military normally have a very good work ethic. So, your work ethic is important.
If you had to give some professional advice from your experiences, either from the military or from Waypoint, what would it be?
Knowledge is power. The more you know about things and learn about them, the better you are. Understand your workplace. Know what’s expected of you and drive yourself to make sure you’re always doing the best you can.
What’s your favorite type of food to cook?
I don’t really have a favorite. I just like cooking steaks and stuff on the grill, pork chops or whatever. I don’t really care to go out and buy a steak because I know I can make it better.
I used to like making different soups from scratch and things like that. I’ve baked before, too.
Greg, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you for your service and your continued involvement with Veterans.