By Alli Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
Jon Zagami’s story is one that serves as a model for employers. As a Veteran living with physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a traumatic brain injury (TBI), he can recall a time when he laid in a hospital bed and wondered if he would ever walk again.
Today, Zagami is a leader on his team at Caterpillar Financial, working on the company’s most difficult portfolio. He motivates his peers, demonstrates hard work, and gets results. But in looking back to a time when he was searching for a job, Zagami says he worried about how to convey to employers that he could add value to the workplace despite his injuries.
“One of the biggest questions in my mind was, how am I going to explain to people that I left the Army because of injuries?” he said. “And you know, looking at it from an employer’s perspective, I understand that it sounds scary, and a lot of questions arise.”
Although he lives with PTSD, TBI, and physical injuries, Zagami felt that he should give no reason for his employer to feel that he was different from others, so he turned down accommodation offers and opted to not use crutches at work.
“I don’t want any reason to prove to other people that I’m different,” he said. “I just want to come in here, and I want a chance to excel.”
And he does. David Michael, Zagami’s supervisor, says that Zagami comes to work every day and performs at an exceptionally high level, acting as a model employee to his fellow colleagues.
“People look to Jon for direction, and he has a way of motivating those around him toward accomplishing difficult tasks,” he said. “A lot of our customers are having challenging or difficult financial times, and he’s able to calmly work with them and make them feel good about the solutions we are offering.”
Zagami says that his ability to work on the most stressful projects while keeping calm and focused is due to his perspective on life.
“I’m lucky that I have an opportunity to work with the most difficult portfolio that we have. I enjoy it every single day,” he said. “While it stresses some people out, I can keep a smile on my face and say this is not that bad, because I know how bad it really can be.”
Zagami demonstrates leadership and motivation in the workplace, and his actions are telling of his appreciation for his job. He thinks that employers should take the opportunity to hire Veterans for their unique skill set and experience.
“If I had the ability to hire someone who had worn the uniform over a peer with the same education level, or the same experience, it’s a no-brainer to me. I know that this person’s been tried.”