Veteran Voices Episode 12
“I just love the fact that there’s a lot of correlations in the special operations community to entrepreneurship. As in an entrepreneurial mentality, you have to think multiple steps ahead of maybe where you are going towards your desired outcome and how to get there using the tools that you currently have available. I’ve only kind of had the bug, the entrepreneurial bug, but that’s where it really began to take it off .”
-Grady Brain, Implementation Manager at Equifax and 82nd Airborn Division Veteran
In this episode of the newly re-launched Veteran Voices series, Scott welcomes Grady Brain to the Veteran Voices podcast.
Scott Luton (00:05):
Welcome to veteran voices, a podcast dedicated to giving a voice to those that have served in our country’s armed forces on this series, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming, we sit down with a wide variety of veterans and veteran advocates to gain their insights, perspective, and experiences. We’ll talk with many individuals about their challenging transition from active duty to the private sector, and we’ll discuss some of the most vital issues facing veterans today. Join us for this episode of veteran voices. All right. Hey, good afternoon, Scott Luton with veteran voices. Great to have you on today’s episode. So on today’s show, we have the opportunity to talk with a veteran that not only has made a very sexy, a successful transition to the private sector, but he’s also made a big splash from an entrepreneurial standpoint. So stay tuned as we learn a lot more, uh, quick programming before we get started here.
Scott Luton (01:10):
This program is part of the supply chain. Now family programming, um, fond since and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from, all you gotta do is search for veteran voices and it’ll pop up and you can subscribe. So you don’t miss a single thing. Alright, so with no further ado, I want to welcome in our featured distinguished guest here today. I’m really excited about this Grady brain banking and lending technology implementation manager with Equifax, but equally as exciting he’s founder and partner at J dog Athens, which we learned more about. So great. A good afternoon. How you doing Scott? I’m doing well. I really appreciate you having me. It’s a, I think this be a lot of fun. I do too, you know, um, we, I enjoy collaborating with you earlier, really over the past couple of years, uh, as we’re going in and talking supply chain with elementary students, and you’ve got such a, a knack with kids and instructing and, and kinda, uh, coaching.
Scott Luton (02:07):
So it was neat to see that side of you. And now we’re going to learn a lot more about the, your military background and then of course, all of your business exploits, which we’re really all excited about. I’m looking forward to it. Uh, definitely, uh, here to have a good time. So, uh, let’s do it. Alright. Alright. So let’s get to know you a little bit personally first. So tell us, you know, Grady, uh, where did you grow up and give us, you know, give us a story or two about your upbringing.
Grady Brain (02:33):
I grew up not too far, uh, up the road here in Jackson County, just North of Athens. Um, that area has always been kind of my stomping grounds, so to speak from, you know, the teenage years to the early twenties and, uh, pretty much left Athens to join the military. And, um, did the military thing for a while, as you had mentioned, six years active duty in the 82nd airborne division and, um, six years in the national guard, uh, the 20th special forces group as a direct enabler for the
Grady Brain (03:00):
ODH the team guys, the green Berets. And so through those travels, um, really just able, was able to see, um, you know, it’s kind of, it sounds like a cliche, but it really is true. You, you get to see a part of the world that maybe you just didn’t think of. And, and I think that is especially true for, uh, my friends back home, you know, they, um, nothing wrong with that, but they certainly decided to stay home and stay in their little area and, and, uh, certainly have had their successes on their own, but it was neat to be, um, a part of maybe making history, you know, uh, the, the, the overseas campaigns I rack up Kenneth Stan, uh, once a contractor, um, in, uh, in Nigeria for the department of state, um, contractor for the intelligence community, um, for a little more than three and a half years in various parts of the middle East for, um, some pretty incredible opportunities and programs. Alright,
Scott Luton (03:48):
I got to dive into this stuff, man, you you’re sharing. I mean, this is, this is, this is exactly what I was looking forward to this. So for starters, let’s back up because I want to go through your, uh, your military roles in just a second. So we can really kind of unpack that a little bit more, but let’s start. What made you join the military? So you grew up in the, in the Athens area, um, the greater Athens area, you said Jackson County, but what made you join the military?
Grady Brain (04:14):
Let’s see. So I joined, alright. Let’s, let’s do some dates here. I joined a about April, 2003. And before that, um, you know, you had the, uh, Iraq and Afghanistan initial kickoff campaign. Now my cousin, um, uh, she married a, an army guy, um, adjusting. And so he was welcome to the family and open arms. And I think he did a campaign in Haiti if I remember correctly and just booked up to Justin and he was a great guy from Oregon. So he really the Backwoods, if you go the Oregon really kind of, um, uh, meshed well with a family. And so when the Iraq and Afghanistan campaign kicked off, it was kind of, um, a drive, maybe a little bit of patriotism there. Like, I didn’t want him to be the only person in the family to put the name on the dotted line. Again, it sounds like a cliche, but it really is who I am. Like I wanted to raise my hand. So is young enough, uh, was at a point in my time that wasn’t married at that moment of time and said, it’s time to do something. So that was really my main motivator and driver to join was to go off and do my little part.
Scott Luton (05:12):
Sounds like you’ve got a strong bias for action, which I’m sure as we talk more later in the interview about your entrepreneurial venture, you got to have it right.
Grady Brain (05:20):
Just a little bit, but not enough, just a little bit.
Scott Luton (05:24):
So admire that. So you joined the army in April, 2003, right. So you spent six years on active duty all with the 82nd airborne, is that right?
Grady Brain (05:35):
That’s right. Yep. Um, it was a, I was kind of fortunate to spend, uh, my active duty years in 80 seconds in this, uh,
Scott Luton (05:41):
And as we both know a legendary unit. Um, so before we talk about your role there for the six years, what, what is it about the 82nd airborne that, um, that just makes it the big, bad, uh, but kick in unit that that’s got, um, such a legendary, uh, reputation. So what, what is it what’s, what’s, what’s the mystique there?
Grady Brain (06:06):
Yeah. Um, so you know, it, um, the 82nd airborne division, and so the patch, um, the unit patches, the AA, all American, and from a historical perspective, it literally was a conglomeration of all Americans from all over the country. Right. And so forgive me, uh, hopefully, uh, brother and 82nd numbers, aren’t going to roast me for this. I don’t know the exact founding time of, of, of the 82nd, but the point, the reason I even mentioned that is to say back, if I remember correctly, it was kind of a contentious point of time in America, right. So, um, you know, when they started bringing together people from all backgrounds, socioeconomic groups, um, to represent the true essence of what America was, it was kind of a, a pillar or a foundational point at that moment of time and certainly has been continuing on into the modern times.
Grady Brain (06:51):
So, um, you know, you couple that, with the idea that, um, there’s a little bit of cockiness, right? Uh, the AR six 70 dash one is the Army’s manual for how to wear the uniform. Um, even the 82nd guys that can conventional army, um, would have a little bit of attitude in terms of how they represented their race. So you can always tell a paratrooper, particularly from the 82nd is just by the end spoken of how they wore their uniform of their brain. All that being said that, um, where they’re, America’s quick reactionary force, um, we, uh, were able to, to basically, um, respond, uh, depending on the, uh, the DRF, um, level that we were on at the time for somewhere as little up leave at 16 hours. I think I have that correct. So the fact that we could answer Americans calling anywhere in the world, uh, from the conventional forces at a battalion or even brigade level really made the 82nd, uh, in a Bible asset for the department of defense and the army.
Scott Luton (07:43):
Absolutely. And I love I’m going to dive more, um, in the weeks ahead into the, I’ve never thought about the history, the history from a, um, um, an integration standpoint. I think that that’s probably a fascinating chapter, but the other thing that your mom me have, and, you know, I’m, I’m a little bit of a supply chain nerd, but to be able to re react anywhere in the world, I think you said 16 hours.
Grady Brain (08:03):
I think it is, yes. Now Will’s up 16 hours.
Scott Luton (08:06):
I can’t imagine the, the readiness, the logistics, the supply chain behind the 82nd airborne, especially after you land and in the days to come as you reinforce position and, and, and, and more of the supply chains brought to bear. So we’ll save that for another episode. Um, all right. So within, uh, the first six years you started 12 for six active second six, I think you said with the guard, right. National guard.
Grady Brain (08:30):
That’s right. Yup. 20th special forces group in Alabama.
Scott Luton (08:34):
So with the 82nd airborne, uh, what was your official MOS?
Grady Brain (08:39):
Don’t know if I told you this, but I was a food service guy, so I was a cook. Yes. Yep. Uh, so I spent six years and that’s actually the reason I love the 82nd was because, um, you know, no matter your, your background. And so the Marines kind of have their infantry men first, you know, that’s their mentality, right. That, no, your job, um, any second kind of a, had that same mentality in sense of, um, you were, you had to, and you had to have from a technical perspective, you had to have the ability to understand, and to be able to, um, especially attached to an infantry battalion, which is, which is what I was, um, you ready for really anything. So, um, it was, it was a really cool opportunity.
Scott Luton (09:18):
Alright. So you cut out just a smidge there and Hey, it’s no big deal. I bet you’re getting, uh, you’re getting some business,
Grady Brain (09:26):
Right. I’ll drive to that. Yes. Sorry.
Scott Luton (09:29):
I’ll get all right. But really that, belabors the point even more because when, when, you know, you send, um, the 82nd airborne into theater, it’s got a role with, with food and supplies and, and transportation and everything you need. So, um, you know, that’s, that was a, that’s a vital part, right? Uh, what’s the Napoleon, um, this is a famous Napoleon quote. I can’t remember it, but basically, uh, you gotta keep your army fed and, and, and, you know, uh, you don’t get too far on empty stomachs and I’m butchering the quote, but anyway. Alright. So let’s talk about, um, let’s go ahead and talk about your, your second six years, and then I’m going to circle back around with a couple of questions kind of about your entire career in the army. So, uh, the first, first six active 82nd airborne, next six. Tell us about, uh, you, you mentioned Nigeria, you mentioned some, um, uh, some, some other roles. Tell us more about those second six years.
Grady Brain (10:32):
Yep. So you’re correct. The second six years was with 20th special forces group. So the U S army has, um, um, it seems like it’s around. Um, what was it, five special forces? Um, um, I guess groups, if you will, and then there’s two national guards, uh, special forces group. So the 19th group, the 20th group. And so 20th group is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. Um, and so I, um, was able to, uh, find a fantastic opportunity. First came in as a food service guy and squad leader, uh, and, uh, uh, then went into more of a intelligence supporting role for the ODS from a, um, a, um, tactical battlefield questioning, uh, SSC sensitive site, exploitation opportunities. So really enjoyed that, uh, second half of my career. And just again, to, from the coast schooling point of view, and just really, as you’ve said, a few moments ago, understanding kind of the logistics chain associated with the various positions and responsibilities. And sometimes you’re thinking outside of the role, uh, introduced me to so many opportunities that you’ve maybe wouldn’t find in the conventional army Scott. I loved every minute of it. That was really my, uh, Michael in there.
Scott Luton (11:37):
Can you point to one thing that was so gratifying about that role
Grady Brain (11:42):
Scott, without a doubt, it is you get a disproportionate, uh, significant, um, plethora of opportunity to make a gigantic, um, impact you’re giving, um, a if you will, the, the, the responsibility and the choices you have to make with maybe limited information has a multiplying effect in terms of the outcome. Uh, I just love the fact that they from, again, there’s a lot of correlations in the special operations community to entrepreneurial as an entrepreneurial mentality was that you got to think multiple steps ahead of maybe where you are towards your desired outcome and how to get there using the tools that you currently have available. And that’s just really, I’ve only kind of had the bug, the entrepreneurial bug, but that’s where it really began to take it off
Scott Luton (12:30):
Of how that you make that connection. Um, but I haven’t really thought, you know, having to improvise, which is one of the things I’m hearing, a lot of what you speak to getting creative about solving problems based on what you, what you’re facing. Wow. Once you solve those problems, the ability to make a huge impact. I mean, there’s a lot of parallels there. Um, alright, so let’s, so looking back at this 12 years, but it’s active and, uh, in, in the guard, you know, what’s one or two accomplishments that you look that come to mind that, that, you know, you’re most proud of, you might have shared with your family, you know, what, what are those couple of things that really come to mind?
Grady Brain (13:10):
So I think it would probably have to be, um, uh, again, so, uh, in, um, total experience as a, as a, in the department of defense, uh, wearing the uniform as a contractor ever 12 year period, I had about, um, uh, 75 months away from the family. And it was just, it was gratifying to know that each trip that I came back and I was very thankful, um, that, um, I was able to, you know, make an impact in my mind, you know, the, the operations were be able to be a part of. Um, so I don’t know if it was one particular moment, as much as this just massively, um, I guess, gratifying knowing that I was able to come back and the positive we did and through some of the scrimishes and the fights and, and what have you, uh, even through all that, I’m just totally thankful, Scott, you know, that you’ll be a part of shaping history, and I’m sure it’ll be written about, um, you know, 40, 50, 60, a hundred years from now, whatever. Um, so I don’t know that again, there’s any one moment, but, um, um, with that grit, you know, the gratitude certainly comes the, um, the respect of people who’ve paid the ultimate price of us as sisters that we knew of. So, um, but yeah, it’s, um, I guess that would be an initial.
Scott Luton (14:16):
All right. So let’s talk more about, um, some of the folks that you served with when you think back, and, and I bet there was no, if your, if your career and, and yours is a lot longer than mine, you know, there’s no shortage of folks that I miss that, that they’re with us. And a couple of folks that aren’t with this, that I, that I miss dearly rubbing on buds with day in and day out, that just had a huge impact, not just on my career, but in general, as, as a, as you know, a young man growing up. So what are some folks tell us about some folks that you served with either side by, or maybe some leaders that you, that you serve for that really stick out and you miss here today?
Grady Brain (14:57):
I just, I, I guess, uh, one guy in particular, uh, he’s, he’s still with us, um, had a gigantic impact on my career. Uh, his name is Zeke Vanderpool. Um, we call them secrets on a real first name. Uh, he was my team Sergeant when I was for the 20th special forces group, um, Zeke was able to, he was the guy that I really looked up to in the sense of, um, he was, he knew when to be stern. He knew when to give you that rope. And he knew when to let you take that rope. And then, you know, you’d be come up from under you because you took that rope too far. And that was the, in my opinion, they put them, you have a leader. Like he was the guy that knew that, okay, this was a good comp of Grady to learn, you know, the collateral damage or the collateral kind of, um, fallout, so to speak.
Grady Brain (15:37):
It’s not going to be able to significant enough to where he can pick up the pieces enough to where he can sit there and look around and realize that, Oh, maybe I took this too far, or this is what I can learn from it, or what have you, uh, I’m that guy that has to kind of, um, understand what the parameters are, the left, the right limits, and maybe bounce, bounce off them to know that this is how I move forward and Zeke was that guy. And, um, I still, his, his, um, his passion today is helping, um, uh, really read, uh, the veterans suicide and the stigma associated with reaching out to the mental health professionals, um, to, um, you know, to, to say guys and gals, it’s okay to reach out. So yeah, Zeke Zeke is that guy that I certainly still look up to to this days. And he’s an awesome guy, Zeke Vanderpool, is that right? Yes. Yes. Vendor pool, great guy out of the Tennessee area. Just drop everything in my life right now. If he called and go up there and help him out
Scott Luton (16:29):
Outstanding. Who else comes to mind? Uh, Grady,
Grady Brain (16:33):
You know, another guy, um, that, uh, was impacted significantly by, by the, or, um, uh, out of respect for his position in the special operations community. I’ll just use his first name. Uh, James, uh, James is, um, uh, a dear brother. Um, he was one of those guys that, um, was, was kind of the same way. He, uh, volunteered multiple times, um, for deployments. Um, and I’m just that guy that as a, as a medic, as an 18 Delta, um, knew so many things. He was a, I think it was a battalion chief. If I remember correctly, uh, volunteered for the national guard. I think at the late thirties, early forties went through the Q course and the special ed or the special forces, the Greenbrae pipeline. And, um, he, uh, you know, he obviously made it and earned a screenplay, uh, but he never let kind of his position with the, uh, with the ODS, the teams.
Grady Brain (17:25):
Um, he never, he never let it, um, kind of drive who it was. And so he, when he realized that there was lives like myself, that was not afraid to go out there and work and push and, and earn their kind of spot in the support role, um, you know, he began to really welcome you in. And so James did that for me. And he, um, was in Afghanistan, uh, you know, several years ago, um, worked in, uh, some, some very, um, sensitive locations and emissions stepped on a pressure plate and it took, it took us, it was this right leg. And so I went to Walter Reed to visit him. And, um, you know, that was a foundationally shaping and, and like structurally takes your morals and ethics and shakes them to the court to make you rethink what is important. And so seeing James up there and our other federal brothers and sisters of uniform and the uniform, and now veterans and go through the trials and tribulations was just eyeopening. So James is definitely another one of those guys that they’re really from a leader and then friendship,
Scott Luton (18:23):
When you met with James and I’m assuming he is, uh, he is finished his service, and then you don’t have to share, but w w was there a singular message that you want to share with him based on, you know, the impact he had on him
Grady Brain (18:36):
Style, gosh, uh, that, uh, that, that I want to, I’ll still to this day to the end of my life, one of my last breath, last breath, uh, always be there for him. Um, and, and without a doubt, he’s the, I think he feels the same way. Um, you know, he’s, he’s, he’s had a huge impact on my, um, honestly, where I think success is his mentality of just not never quitting, even when he was in Walter Reed, just a few months post, you know, post blast, so to speak. He, um, he didn’t have that defeated mentality. He didn’t have that mentality of what the heck am I going to do now? It was like, I’m not the whole person I am anymore. It was, well, these are the cards I’m dealt, and this is how I move forward. So yeah, he still is. And he just, he doesn’t quit. And so I think that’s part of the special operations and really that’s as an American, that’s kind of the cloth he’s cut from. And just knowing that, that letting James know that I’m always there. And I think without a doubt, he would probably feel the same way. And so that’s the strong brotherhood that, that you just, it’s pretty rare to get these days. And so I’m thankful for it.
Scott Luton (19:37):
We’re going to talk about your transition in a minute, cause I love the pick your brain there and get you to share some of your experiences. Uh, but you mentioned a real serious, um, issue. That’s, that’s unfortunately an issue for far too long, and we’re still trying to get up, get, wrap our head around and figure out why and do something about it. And that’s of course, a veteran suicide. And, and for that matter, uh, it’s, it’s permeated into the act of ranks, which I know you’re not, probably both have had our finger on the pulse about, I don’t want to put you on the spot, but what’s why do you, I mean, so let me I’ll share, maybe, maybe it’ll help me ask this question. Uh, you know, a lot of what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen is, especially in Scott A. Little bit better, but as veterans have been underemployed and, and, and, and not nearly as gainfully employed, that that really, um, did not help with the transition.
Scott Luton (20:29):
And certainly didn’t help to feel like, like what you described earlier in your career where you’re, you’re making such an impact. And, and, um, you’re, you’re, you’re, uh, sharing all of your, your knowledge and your skill sets and, you know, and when you’re not being utilized, especially to, to the tune or to the degree that you are in, in active duty in your leadership role, you know, it can create a depression. And, you know, I think that’s one of the things I’ve observed, especially as I’ve seen a lot of, of my fellow veterans really struggle with their transition and, and it persists. And so while we’ve made, we’ve made some strides from, uh, con more and more companies get it. And they’ve, they’ve seemingly gotten better at their outreach and recruiting and hiring and, and good, um, gainfully employed roles. That’s just part of the equation. What do you think that, that we’re missing out there that is preventing us from really effectively addressing this, this sad problem?
Grady Brain (21:38):
I’m probably in the same boat as you, that I’m at read some, some, some data, um, trying to read a bit of literature, but by no means, do I pretend to have a conclusive understanding of the problem, but I, I think that fundamentally it’s the idea of, of belonging, right? Um, I think that you find commonality of, um, maybe transition or difficulty of transition from groups that require a strong bond, whether it’s, you know, in the, in the ranks of, uh, the law enforcement community or firefighters, or really, um, um, other public sector roles to where you have to be a cohesive unit, no matter your background, no matter your, your differences to accomplish a mission. Right. And I think that when you begin to not necessarily know, and, and, and being made to be prepared for your transition, you don’t maybe think that, okay, that’s not going to be there when I transition.
Grady Brain (22:27):
So it’s, maybe it’s a little bit of the re gearing initially to say that when I transitioned, yes, my brothers and sisters will always be there. Um, but maybe the civilian world a little different. So maybe it’s the, the first step is understanding that there’s a little bit of a retooling there, an expectation, but also, I think you touched on it. It’s the, it’s the, it’s the labor perspective? Um, how do you translate, um, being a bit tongue in cheek from the next next part, um, as an 11 Bravo and impeachment that you go out and, um, you know, face the enemy, right. So how do you put that on a resume? And so it’s, it’s really working with the nonprofits out there and there’s been some great national organizations, um, you know, um, uh, Equifacts, we’re trying to, uh, uh, stand up a Equifax business resource group there for veterans.
Grady Brain (23:13):
So it’s, it’s really just plugging into holistically across the board nonprofits, uh, organizations that are trying to understand, you know, the veteran unemployment aspect of it, to say that if you see an infantry man or woman that says, uh, okay, this is what I’ve done. And this is what my experiences are that, um, maybe you can kind of help them as a, as a hiring manager say, okay, well, if they’re trying to say this, what are they trying to say? Are they, are they really getting the message across? Right? And so that I think the hiring managers, and that may be a bit of a going out on a, the land here can certainly work other nonprofits as well, to make sure that if they’re speaking a language, maybe there’s a little more commonality there than what they thought initially. So from the hiring point of view, there’s maybe a little bit of a work that we need to do there.
Grady Brain (23:56):
And really, I guess maybe a third piece is the veteran to just to know that things are going to be different. Right. Um, and that’s okay. Different is great. They were different when we left civilian world and joined the military, they were different than maybe what our friends have seen and we’re fans, we’re living while we were in the military and they’re going to be different after we leave the military posting of one. So maybe just a few thoughts there that I think I’ve seen and maybe experienced myself that, that, um, that have, uh, uh, been identified and, you know, I try to relate to him
Scott Luton (24:22):
Well, put, and going back to what you shared, uh, that, uh, Zeke was, um, was working on, which is, you know, it sounds like, uh, is really, uh, encouraging veterans embrace the fact that things may not be okay and it’s okay to share that so you can get the help and assistance and the mentoring or whatever it is, um, that you need so that, you know, hopefully you don’t choose some of the choices that are being made. So kudos. And I, I really appreciate you taking the time to kind of walk through those three things, um, and sharing that with folks that may either be new, or maybe they just did, like so many folks, they don’t know what’s taking place. So your perspective is very helpful, a big kudos to Zeke for, you know, doing something about it, uh, in his, uh, post army career. All right. So let’s talk about transition. We both already have touched on that. I’d love to know more, you know, tell, tell me about, so, so now you’re, you’re with Equifax. Well-known everybody knows Equifax. You’ve got a great role there. I’d love to learn more about that, but let’s talk about your transition. Tell us, tell us a little bit of that story.
Grady Brain (25:31):
So, um, left, uh, the MasterCard, um, and right before I left the national guard, I realized, um, you know, it’s time to go back to, uh, the formal education route and, and really finish up the education. So, um, and, and maybe that’s another interesting part just because you’ve tried extra, it took me three times to get my, um, my bachelor’s. And so when I finally did, um, I didn’t, I didn’t let off the accelerator. Um, so I got my undergrad, um, bachelor’s of science from Norwich university. It’s the oldest preeminent military college in the country
Scott Luton (26:00):
While you were in national guard. Okay.
Grady Brain (26:03):
Gotcha. And so, um, it took about a two to three month break and did my first master’s program and masters of arts diplomacy and national trade and commerce from Norwich, and then rolled up. Um, literally I was graduating from my master’s of arts at Norwich and got my acceptance call into my MBA program. So, uh, literally no break in between, uh, did my, um, my, um, uh, executive MBA at Cornell really enjoyed that opportunity. Well, you know, it’s, uh, not too bad from a, from a country guy here in, uh, in, uh, just North of Athens. So nice. Uh, I, I enjoyed a tremendous opportunity and that’s one thing is a bit of a, an aside here that I think the veterans, um, particularly the enlisted, but certainly the, the officer ranks as well, the IVs are, are really want to talk to the veteran community.
Grady Brain (26:50):
People have gotten this mentality, and I understand that the IVs, there’s no way that I could be competitive in the IB ranks. You know, it’s, it’s the Chrome Della crime of, of, of, um, you know, the, the personnel and the people who are trying to get in. And I guess there’s probably a lot of truth at that, but the reality is, um, the IVs and maybe really all, um, public education groups, public, or private really want to talk to the veteran community. Right. Um, there’s great opportunities to the VA, um, for the post nine 11 GI bill. Um, and so I guess I went off on a bit of a rip there, but, you know, from that, from that perspective, brethren should really veterans should really be looking for those because, um, there’s opportunities for formal education because they’re there in the end. People want to help. So, um, yeah, I’m sorry. I think I went off on an exit ramp there
Scott Luton (27:37):
You did. And, uh, so the first thing you established is, uh, is, uh, how you were able to earn and build this educational pedigree, especially, I mean, undergrad masters, and then the executive MBA at an Ivy league institution. So that’s, you, you obviously felt that was a really important component of your transition, correct?
Grady Brain (27:58):
It was. And so, um, I finished the, um, the, um, the executive MBA and, um, was working for Google at the time. Um, the Atlanta office really enjoyed that opportunity. And then, um,
Scott Luton (28:10):
Hang on, let me ask you about that. Cause how did you was Google your first official job post military service?
Grady Brain (28:19):
You could say that, I think that’s probably a fair assessment. I was a contractor, as I’d mentioned a bit ago and the intelligence community in, in, uh, in Nigeria for the department of state. So while that was private sector, my first regular job, I guess, would probably be the Google role.
Scott Luton (28:32):
Okay. Kind of untied untethered to your, your military credentials was a Google. Okay. All right. Well we’ll um, okay. We’re gonna circle back to your, your contractor roles. Um, alright, so Google, how did you make that connection? Uh, cause I think all of that was can benefit from, from how you found your way into working for a company it’s on the tip of everybody’s tongue
Grady Brain (28:55):
Scott, just, I guess a little bit of, um, um, stubbornness just never gave up, you know, I mean, and I know that again, it sounds like a cliche, but, um, um, I’ve always been that guy that is up for a challenge, um, a little bit of the underdog growing up and I just never, never gave up mom and dad always told me that, um, you know, again, it sounds like a cliche, you can do what you want, but the reality is it’s absolutely true. And I think I’m kind of living that now. So just, um, just networking, I networked with the veteran groups. Um, I use LinkedIn, I went to LinkedIn and found those, uh, those hiring managers. And oftentimes, sometimes they wouldn’t write back. Um, sometimes they would write back and say that, uh, I’ll keep your resume. And sometimes they would write back and engage. I try to look for other veterans who are maybe in that role hiring manager and just kind of pick their brain. And sometimes they were busy. Sometimes they weren’t, sometimes they said, let me let you talk to my friend X, Y, Z. And so introduction was made and just over time I kept that role and I kept that approach and, and found the role eventually a Google.
Scott Luton (29:52):
I think one of the challenges is a lot of, a lot of veterans, at least, that I’ve experienced and heard about is that as they leave the military service, you know, many of them don’t have a business network. They may not even have a LinkedIn account, you know, much less, you know, thousands of connections. Um, and in some cases I’ve heard where, um, even in the last year of service, when folks that are retiring, their commanding officer has not allowed them to get out and network and, and, you know, spend some of their time with the industry associations or whatever it is. Um, how, um, can you talk to speak to how important it is when you don’t have that network, uh, already, whether digital or just the Rolodex, um, you know, how important is networking in that? Um, you know, when you, when, when you, when you’ve got that gap, how important is networking speak to that a bit? So
Grady Brain (30:42):
I was that guy. I didn’t have the network, a little bit of foolishness on my behalf, and I think that the department of army and really department of defense when I transitioned from active duty in Oh nine was beginning to understand that, okay, we need to give guys and gals time to transition and more particular. Um, we need to help them understand what the transition is. So I really didn’t have a network. I didn’t have a defined group. And so, um, I went to LinkedIn, uh, made a thousand mistakes and, and just kept going a thousand at one time since. So that really honestly stubbornness, you know, is as my, uh, my key there. And so I worked to plug into some local, um, you know, veteran organizations in the Atlanta area of Atlanta bunker labs, uh, four block and just do sheer tenacity and focus.
Grady Brain (31:28):
The networking was able to find, um, find the groups and find people that said, you need to talk to this person. And so that person introduced me to here and I saw this person three networking events later. They introduced me to this person, this person said, I really need you to talk to the vice president of this company. This person had a veteran friend or family, and literally the network grew from there. So that would be one thing that I would absolutely unequivocally say that the veteran community must go further than they think from the networking perspective of what they think is good enough. And it just never hurts to have that positive representation of Lincoln, you know, understand your, your, your 10, what is it, ten second elevator pitch. Um, because like once you, once the veteran or anybody begins to figure out, know that where their place is and that they’re rocking along with they’re busy, um, they certainly probably want to help other people themselves as well, but they’re probably going to be busy.
Grady Brain (32:20):
So the person that’s approaching them is probably going to need to make sure that they’re on point. So it’s kind of that, um, you know, put yourself in their shoes to understand maybe why folks are looking for that quick, uh, you know, that why that, that 10, second elevator pitch is important. And, uh, when, when you really begin to kind of think of that direction, you begin to contextualize and know that, okay, these are the steps that need to be taken. So that network is gigantically important, best thing. And probably the only thing that I could recommend that they must do going forward
Scott Luton (32:47):
Well, and follow up what I’m hearing you talk about. And, and of course, I’ve known you before tonight in our interview here. And I got, I’ve got a, um, one of the things I’ve observed is that, you know, you, you follow up, uh, and, and when you’re getting, um, all these connections and, and, and these offers of connections and, uh, these, these, these opportunities, maybe they’re vetted, and maybe they’re not vetted. Uh, what I’m hearing you say is you’re, you’re, you’re going to take that shot and it may not go anywhere. You may not hear back, but, you know, you’re gonna, you’re gonna take all of these, um, uh, uh, these openings and you’re gonna put an iron in the fire, uh, and that’s a ton of work, but that’s sounds like it’s critical to your, your transition.
Grady Brain (33:34):
I think that’s right. It is a ton of work, right. Um, you know, most days, and I kind of heard this before, again, oftentimes I say this once, and I’ll say it a thousand times a night, it sounds like a cliche, but the reality is, is it works the whole adage of, you know, start early in the morning and finish late at night. That’s literally, my day I’ll start, you know, wake up early. Well, to me, it’s early at six, seven o’clock in the morning and go to, you know, 1130, 12, 12, 30 at night. And so I’m one of those guys that really has to get my at least six hours of sleep to function well. So yeah, I mean, it’s just a grind to get down that, uh, pushing it forward and, and, um, you know, but I’m respectable, obviously there’s that fine line, right. Being respectful. Um, but, uh, I’ll follow up with them. I’ll make sure that they understand that, um, I’m respectful of their time. And I think once again, like I was talking a bit ago when people realize that you’re going to be respectful of the ass, that you’re going to make this, you’re just not going to sit there and say, ah, well, you know, this isn’t for me, it’s, you’ve done your homework to at least know what you’re getting into. People are willing to help you.
Scott Luton (34:31):
All right. So last question about your transition, and then we’ll talk about what you’re up to now. Um, did you, was your transition, uh, easier or harder than you had anticipated? Um, you know, let’s say a year or so out
Grady Brain (34:45):
Thousand percent harder. I mean, I, when I transitioned off active duty, I didn’t, I had a, maybe a couple of years of formal education from, uh, from, um, undergrad about us as a state university there in Valdosta, Georgia, and, um, and made the determination at that point in time. I don’t need formal education to get where I want to get. And there’s people that have just been massively successful in whatever frame or context of that word that means to that person. Um, but I also realized that it was now a challenge, you know, as family, uh, I had my first daughter at that moment of time, my wife and I, um, and I began to realize that, you know what, um, there’s more things that I want to show my family, you know, uh, particularly my children, right? So they’re dead persevered, they’re dead pushed through, got their undergrad and a little bit of education along the way, uh, through thick and thin. Um, you know, I started the business that we were just talking about, uh, Jade electric removal in Holland of Athens, uh, you know, and, uh, plugged into a few more startups in the area and Atlanta area. So a lot of pokers in the fire, but you’re out, you’ve got to have that tenacity and I think that’s been the kind of pale for them.
Scott Luton (35:49):
So now let’s talk about Equifax and what you do there in your proverbial nine to five, that that’s cliche is dead or than a door. Now, these days, it seems. And then I to talk about what I’m really excited about as a fellow entrepreneur, what you’re doing with J dog Athens. So first off with Equifax and goodness gracious of banking and lending technology implementation manager, that is like five levels above my pay grade. I can’t imagine what you, what you need to know to implement, you know, tech projects. So tell us more about what, what you do in that role.
Grady Brain (36:25):
So, um, you know, uh, the, uh, the incident, uh, the breach that happened in 2017 and certainly, um, um, not lost on people who have been impacted, right. It was like 145, I think, plus million individuals. Um, since then we’ve got a fantastic leadership team from literally the top down, uh, Mark to go, or the new CEO of Bryson Kaler as chief technology officer. Um, is he on Nelson, the SVP of, uh, banking and lending and enablement, uh, Chris Kramer, uh, all of these individuals, um, have been re uh, either new in the rules or just massively down and dedicated to, uh, riding the ship, so to speak. And so it’s been a phenomenal, um, change the tapping and to be a part of that change has been interesting, right? It’s been a very rewarding experience, tons and tons of work. Um, you know, um, the, the transformation to the, to the cloud is, has been the biggest push.
Grady Brain (37:17):
Um, and it’s been really interesting, rewarding to be a part of that change. And so, um, letting our customers know that fundamentally, you know, it’s customer first, it’s ensuring that, um, we’ve, uh, re re re righted the ship, so to speak, and I’m short up the, um, um, uh, the structure and then you continue selling and moving forward for our clients that currently count on us and really the, the, the, the consumers. So, um, you know, it it’s been, uh, been interesting as far as what I’d necessarily do. It’s, um, uh, we have our banking and Linden customers, so anybody that does banking, um, we, they come in and, uh, look for the various products, um, from risk decisioning to, um, really understanding their customers better, um, and, uh, how to better offer a better product to the customer. Right. So, uh, it’s been, it’s been a rewarding experience there, and, and I’m never the same thing every single day.
Scott Luton (38:08):
That is, um, that’s the complete comp well, you know, there’s so much technology being implemented across big global business these days, you know, certainly in supply chain, which is, is my background. And those projects certainly are not, um, easy, or most of them are complicated. And, and there’s, there’s plenty of, uh, cyber concerns and, and, and some rules and regulations, including some that, that, that are right around the, but in that industry and in the banking and lending and the financial industry, I can only imagine, um, you know, how long the checklist has gotta be and all of the rules and regulations, uh, given the nature of the sector. So, uh, good stuff there. Alright, so now let’s talk about my favorite part and, uh, let’s let’s so J dog, Athens, give me the full name again, that folks will recognize.
Grady Brain (39:00):
Yeah. So J dog junk removal and hauling, um, is, uh, is the franchise system we brought into, we bought the Athens area.
Scott Luton (39:07):
All right. So Athens, Georgia home and the Bulldogs, uh, and home of surprisingly, uh, the business community and, and even the industrial community in the greater Athens area might surprise a lot of folks. Um, alright. So how, uh, so it sounds like from earlier in your story, you got kind of the entrepreneurial bug while you’re still in service. So how did you come across this one and what said, you know what, this is the one,
Grady Brain (39:34):
Gosh. So, uh, when I was in the intelligence community, um, I really enjoyed my opportunity there. So this was in, uh, I think I joined in, in, uh, uh, August of 2012, um, and, um, really enjoy the opportunity there. It was a, it was a global travel. Um, but every time I left, I was leaving my wife and we had our fourth kid, uh, at the time. And it just, we came to get harder and harder, Scott. It, it, um, you know, that, uh, the, the kind of running joke was, um, at the dragon she’ll bite you. And then she bites you one too many times, then you’re done, right? Because you truly exotic travel, you get to do some amazing things. Um, but I was looking for my exit. And so I first found J dog brands around late 2015, if I remember correctly.
Grady Brain (40:17):
And I followed him for three years, um, Jerry and Tracey Flanagan were the proprietors of the brand. Um, Jerry story’s incredible. I literally a lot of parallels between, you know, my background and his background in that respect in terms of entrepreneurial, uh, approach. And so, um, 2019 came along and we just, it was literally just kind of the perfect, the perfect storm, if you will. Um, from the funding perspective from a, a right point of time, I’m a father and I are in business together. We’ve just actually recently hired a third or, uh, brought on a third business partner. Um, and so I, we took the leap in, um, March of 2019, went to, um, just know what the Philadelphia signed the paperwork and, and haven’t looked back since,
Scott Luton (40:57):
So you’re, you’re poised for this next big growth phase, which I’m really excited for you. And of course, I’ve been tracking you on, on social media and kind of seeing you continue to grow, which is, uh, you know, just a big old high five or digital hug. Cause I love it. Um, but just, um, I want to paint a picture for folks. Um, you know, again, I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know you a little bit before the pandemic times and kind of seeing your approach and, and kind of who you are, your core values, but you’ve got a big, heavy hitting job with Equifax that keeps you really busy. You’ve got how many children at home for four kids I’ve got. And I think when we first met, yes, and I can’t even complain cause you’ve got one more than I do. And then you’ve got a thriving entrepreneurial venture, which of course is, is another countless number of hours each week. I mean, Grady, you know, you got a couple of clones walking around. I mean, I mean, it’s amazing, you know, just all that you, um, all that you’re leading and, and, and contributing and giving parts of yourself to on any given day. I mean, how do you get all that done?
Grady Brain (42:07):
So, you know, Scott, I mentioned, um, uh, what was it a few minutes ago, a few minutes ago, when, when, when guys and gals, um, particularly kind of the alphas eight type personalities of the special operations community, um, are part of the intelligence community, there’s this kind of sexy idea that you’re, you’re literally doing things that most people don’t know about. You’re doing things that, um, history will be written about, you know, some 20, 30, 40, well, how many ever years. And so, um, it was that kind of a lower that, um, I see and, and find connections in the entrepreneurial kind of mentality and approach. And so, um, at first I just did it, you know, because I thought it was needed. And then I realized that, okay, this is kind of neat and it’s fun and exciting. It’s different. Um, it’s a little straining on the family at times, even when I’m home because of the pandemic and looking from the basement.
Grady Brain (42:55):
Um, but my wife is just absolutely thankful that she’s massively supportive of, uh, of the ventures and realizes and sees that there’s some, some pretty good potential on the, on the, on the backside here. Um, and I just, again, um, a little bit of stubbornness, a little bit of just not going to quit a little bit of just continually in forward and, and, uh, and so far the wheels slowly starting to turn and we’re seeing some significant progress. And, um, it’s just, um, it’s exciting. I got to tell you, Scott, it’s amazing and exciting and, um, you know, I’m really looking forward to what the future may hold here.
Scott Luton (43:29):
Well, I am for you. I mean, it is exciting. All right. So let’s, let’s just, I want to make sure everyone understands because you, as your business has grown, you’re kind of getting some new areas as well. So, so just lay out, how can, how are you helping individuals and organizations at J dog Athens right now
Grady Brain (43:47):
From the hiring point of view, from the labor perspective? Um, we do everything we can to plug into the, to the veteran community as they transition out of uniform. Again, I lived at, I understand it. I know what it’s about. I know how difficult it can be. Um, you know, even taking all the right steps in terms of networking and trends of education in terms of, um, grooming, you know, the network, uh, it was difficult. So, um, my, my vision here really the J dog brand vision, um, is how do we help veterans find a place that they can kind of plug into, maybe if they want to start a career with us. Um, if they want to just use us as a transitional step while they go to school, what have you, that’s what the brand is, is, is kind of holistically and fundamentally about from a labor perspective, from a work point of view, we, uh, junk hauling.
Grady Brain (44:30):
Um, so if, uh, got the old couch, you got that old refrigerator, um, that’s laying around, or if you literally have a barn that’s a 5,000 square foot barn, you need it cleaned out. That’s, um, that’s something that we certainly can handle. And on the other side of the spectrum to the right, if you have a modular home, that’s in your backyard, that was there for a hundred years, so to speak, when you bought the property, you needed it torn down. We certainly do that as well. So kind of the full array and opportunity of, um, just clean up and to make, um, you know, it was kind of, this is an exciting part about the idea that you can look up after the work has been done and get back yard or stuff, stinked, cleaned up to know that that’s no longer bothering you, right. We’re always busy where we’re full of, uh, of, of, of the day that we’ve kind of planned about us. And when Jay dawg Athens can come in there and help you clean up the garage, clean up the closet, clean out the basement. Um, it’s kind of a neat thing to know that people can sit back and just take a breath and say, destined longer on the back of my mind, bother me. Um, I can continue enjoy my life. That that’s a cool, rewarding thing.
Scott Luton (45:28):
Congrats on all of your growth thus far with the, the organization, uh, best of luck as you move into this next expansion business expansion phase, and that we’re gonna have to have you back on and kind of give us an update, uh, but it is really exciting. All right. So let’s make sure folks know how to get into or connect with you and how they can learn more about, uh, Equifax and Jay dawg acids.
Grady Brain (45:53):
So can always find me on LinkedIn, uh, Grady brain. Um, you can find us from the JTL perspective, um, J dog.com, uh, J dog, athens.com, um, and, uh, you know, between each of those, those three kind of platforms, if you will happy to help the veteran community from the Equifax perspective on finding their, their gig, if there’s an opportunity there. And then with my network, um, to the D J dog, uh, brand, um, that my father and my other business partner, Jason run, um, we’re always looking for the good person to hire as well. So either one of those three approaches, they can certainly find us
Scott Luton (46:26):
Outstanding. All right, I’m going to ask you one more question, one more bonus question. Uh, and I’m hoping that your answer may be a little different than what you’ve shared. I’ve got a, I’ve got a feeling, it might be something similar, but so you’ve given kind of advice to, um, to veterans and to veterans in transition. Now give some advice to entrepreneurs. You know what, what’s one thing that really sticks out, that’s put you in position or what’s one thing you had that one piece of advice be
Grady Brain (46:56):
It’s gotta be massive stubbornness staying focused on that goal. It’s gotta be, um, knowing that, uh, when, when to surround yourself with, uh, I’ve tried this 14 times, maybe the 15th time of work, or maybe I need to make a slight adjustment. And it really is just, um, having the tenacity to know that you have a mission in front of you that you need to continue, um, moving forward. But it’s not always through the mountain over, under, around. Uh, if you have to dig a trench under the mountain, are you prepare to do that? Um, do you have the climbing gear to climb over? Or you could just take a road
Scott Luton (47:30):
That’s already page to the right, to the left side of you to move around the mountain. So it’s just being cognizant and aware of your surroundings, knowing that maybe the easiest road isn’t always the best, but, um, if you don’t have climbing gear or digging gear, the maybe the easiest focus is the best, uh, coming forward. Love that Grady brain you did not disappoint. This is, this interview was, was end. Conversation really was what I thought it would be. It’s a pleasure to reconnect with you, even if it is digitally. Hopefully next time we meet it’ll be in person, uh, over an adult beverage or coffee or something, but, uh, really admire, uh, your journey and admire your willingness to make an impact on other folks as they go through a similar journey, especially our fellow veterans and just real proud of what you’re up to.
Scott Luton (48:14):
I can’t wait to see what is next, uh, both in your role Equifax, but also as an entrepreneur, what gets my juices going is, uh, Jay dawg, Athens. So, uh, and, and to our audience, we’re going to make sure we put everybody’s, um, all, all of, uh, ways you can connect with Grady in the show notes and make it really easy. So greedy brain with Equifax and J dog, Athens, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you sir. Much. Appreciate it. Always pleasure. Alright. So to our audience, hopefully you’ve enjoyed that as much as we did. Some tells me we only got just a tip of the iceberg with Grady. We’re going to have to have a second episode, including getting the skinny on some of those contractor roles that we couldn’t get to here today, but hopefully you’ve enjoyed this conversation as much as I have on behalf of the entire veteran voices team. And of course, splashing now, family of programming, Scott Luton. Hey, it challenged you just like with challenge yourselves, do good. Give forward, be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see you next time here on veteran voices. Thanks everybody.
Would you rather watch the show in action? Watch as Scott introduces you to Grady Brain and Veteran Voices through our YouTube channel.
Grady Brain spent six years in the 82nd Airborne Division and six years with the 20th Special Forces Group (A). Over 12 years, he deployed or trained to deploy for over 75 months. He worked as a contractor for the Deptartment of State in Africa and in the Intelligence Community throughout contested parts of the Middle East. He then pivoted to an opportunity with Google while finishing up his EMBA at Cornell/Queens University, in a joint international program. Post-EMBA, he landed at Equifax where he’s currently an Implementation Manager in the Banking & Landing space. In 2019, he and his partners started JDog Athens, and haven’t looked back since.
He looks forward to creating better transition opportunities for Veterans as they find their way forward.
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