Rory Thompson, a Scotsman who carries with him a distinguished 11-year British Army career, is now serving as CP’s Military Relations Manager. Rory is proof veterans often find a fulfilling second career at CP, but the reasons for this run deeper than veterans’ quick acclimation to night work and unusual schedules. Canadian Pacific Magazine caught up with Rory at the second annual Spin for a Veteran charity event to discuss his new role recruiting veteran talent for CP.
1. What initially drew you to a career in the military?
Ever since a young age, I really enjoyed being outdoors and I grew up in a competitive environment playing rugby. I had two older brothers who were in the military, so following that path was natural; as a 15-year-old, I saw what fun and exciting opportunities they were getting and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.
2. Tell me about your time in the British Army.
I went to military boarding school at 15-years old, and joined the military afterwards. After earning a degree in Information Systems Management, I went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst [U.K.]. I left Sandhurst as a Lieutenant and chose a career in military communications. Throughout my military career, I have commanded a platoon in Iraq, trained potential Special Operators for the British Secret Intelligence Agency and joined the British Army’s prestigious Parachute Regiment. I finished my British Military career at a posting in Suffield, Alberta as the Operations Officer.
3. How did you come to join CP?
My wife is Canadian, so we always wanted to move to Canada. I started looking for opportunities around Calgary and submitted my resume to a company called Forces@WORK. By pure chance, they were meeting with Scott MacDonald, Senior Vice-President Operations (System) and they handed him my resume. I got a call a few days later.
4. Talk a bit about your new role as manager of military relations.
My role has three segments: Recruit, Assist and Retain. For Recruit, I travel around Canada and the U.S. visiting military bases and delivering presentations to transiting military personnel on what CP has to offer, and why we are a great company for veterans. For Assist, I work one-on-one with potential candidates to relate their experiences to suitable roles at CP, provide interview coaching, and interpret their military experience and resumes for our hiring managers. For Retain, I manage several initiatives that not only assist the veterans in their first few months but also ensure they stay around for the long haul.
5. Do veterans tend to fare better in craft or management roles?
They’re a great fit in any role. The beauty of CP is we can employ any rank, any background, because of our diverse opportunities. Veterans come to our organization with many transferable skills; to operate in stressful environments, to always turn up on time, to take orders and execute, and most have leadership experience in operational environments. If you take someone with those skills and make them a railroader, they are going to perform.
6. You also oversee the Veteran’s Club program at CP – tell us about it.
The club’s veteran members can find out about other opportunities in the company and the program helps them feel like part of the CP family. In the military, you have this esprit de corps, where you’re part of a larger whole; like a family, you all have a common goal. So just to get back in that environment is familiar for them, it builds camaraderie, and is always good fun.
7. You mentioned you had brothers in the military. What do they do now?
My oldest brother lives in Washington, D.C.; he works for Amazon. My other brother lives in Abu Dhabi; he’s a schoolteacher and vice-principal at the British school there. My third brother is the CEO of an energy resources and environmental company in Australia. And I work in Calgary. My poor parents wonder what they did for us to scatter all over the world!
8. Tell us about where you grew up.
I grew up just south of Edinburgh, Scotland. I come from a small town of about 15,000 people, where rugby is a religion. If you don’t play rugby there, no one really speaks to you. I still love rugby to this day but due to the Canadian climate, I can only play in the summer.
9. What unique challenges do veterans face compared to non-vets when applying for jobs at CP?
The military offers great job security and all of a sudden, that security is no longer there. Also, many veterans have never had a job interview in their life. I coach them in that area, so they understand the types of questions they might be asked and how to give a relatable answer. I was extremely lucky with my transition into civilian life at CP so I try to emulate that for every veteran I come into contact with.
10. What’s the main takeaway you’d like veterans to understand about working at CP?
It’s the opportunity to build a career. A new-hire veteran conductor can take the experiences learned in their role and possibly make an impact somewhere else – not only in operations. It’s usually what I recommend: The best way to learn the industry is to practice the fundamentals from the ground up. I’m able to do my job effectively and credibly due to my time spent as a field manager.