Rach Ranton joined the Australian Army in 1997, straight after she finished Year 12. In the years that followed she worked as an Electronic Warfare Operator, responsible for intercepting and analysing enemy communications and giving advice on the battlefield. In 2006 she deployed to Afghanistan, and it was there Rach realised it was time to transition out of service, to pursue a career that allowed her to be at home with her family.
“I really loved my time in the Army. Amazing people and incredible, life-changing experiences. I remember when I discharged – after returning from Afghanistan where I was embedded with frontline patrols and providing real-time support – I realised that at 28 years old, I’d probably never do work as important as that in my life again. It is a real privilege to serve in that environment, to be trusted with the lives of your teammates. It changes you, your values and your attitude forever.”
Discharging from the Army, Rach struggled with her sense of identity, questioning if she wasn’t a soldier anymore, who was she? Building a new life outside of the military took time, but for Rach the first step was finding meaningful employment.
“When I left the Army I started a career in banking as the Branch Manager at St. George Bank Toowoomba. I was lucky to join an organisation who really valued the skills and experience I could bring to them, like leadership, critical thinking and creative problem solving, and who were prepared to teach me the technical know-how, like banking.”
Just as she harnessed her leadership skills learnt during her time in Defence, Rach believes every veteran has the skillset to succeed in a corporate career.
“Some of the things I think military members undersell themselves on are exactly the things that civilian employers are looking for. Veterans know how to push a project forward, achieve an objective, and get things executed even if they have limited time, resources and information. This is something that businesses really need, but veterans often don’t see it as a skillset.”
Building a reputation for being able to “get stuff done,” Rach spent 11 years at the Westpac Group, working as a key driver of the organisation’s autism hiring program and its veterans’ employment initiatives. For her leadership and contribution Rach was named Veteran Employee of the Year at the 2018 Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.
Having carved out a successful corporate career, Rach has now left the world of banking, and is now self-employed, scoring her “dream job” of being a full-time writer. In early 2020 she published a book on leadership called Dauntless: leadership lessons from the frontline, and she is now working on a second book, a science fiction novel.
With a successful transition behind her, Rach has a wealth of advice, and for ADF members looking to discharge, she recommends thinking about the type of work you’d like to do before you get out.
“Ask yourself what are your strengths? What do you like doing? What are you good at? And most importantly - where is that kind of work? That last question is a really important one. I talk to lots of people who are transitioning who want advice about how to get that first job after discharge. If you want to be an investment banker, that type of work isn’t in Byron Bay. Be practical and do your research.”
Rach says it’s also important to know you may take a dip in pay to start with or have to work overtime to build a new career, so consider this and plan for it. She also recommends reaching out to other veterans and asking them about their experiences, work and lives.
“Talking to others about these broad topics can help open up your eyes to careers you hadn’t considered and opportunities you didn’t know about. Knowledge is power!”