John MacCallum: Safety Director at Kiss Electric
John MacCallum spent the first 25 years of his career on active duty service with the U.S. Navy, where he was a Navy Seabee. Seabees are the Navy’s construction force responsible for building roads, bridges, runways, barges, schools, and hospitals. As he neared his military retirement, John registered for Solar Ready Vets, a federally funded program led by The Solar Foundation that provided no-cost solar training for transitioning military personnel. After completing the training program at his base in Lakehurst, New Jersey, he was well-suited for a career in solar.
“I started out with the Navy in construction as a crew member, and over the course of my career I worked up to being in charge of several construction projects across multiple continents,” John says. “By the time I retired, I was responsible for $4.2 billion worth of facilities. All of these projects and tasking were required to be OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliant, so I had a number of certifications related to occupational safety.”
Through his solar training, John learned that his military experience translated well into a career in solar. After earning his North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification, John was hired by Kiss Electric, a Pennsylvania-based electric company with a growing solar division.
“I’m now the safety director for the company, both on the electric side and the solar side. I’m onsite at 90% of our solar jobs from beginning to end, and I really like that my military training and knowledge is able to directly benefit the company and our customers.”
John noted that the transition from military to civilian life has been challenging, but his employer is very supportive of his needs.
“This company has been very good to me as I have adjusted to civilian life. I have been able to be open and honest with the company about my priorities and needs as a parent, so I’m able to set a more predictable schedule for my children.”
As veterans exit military service and join the private workforce, John said it’s important that they maintain humility, while being confident in what they can offer an employer.
“Veterans are coming into an environment with a different mindset, and that takes some time to get used to. They have to realize that civilians don’t necessarily know what transferable skills veterans have from their time in the military, so you have to be patient and prove yourself.” His advice to other vets? “Show your value from your service, like accountability, responsibility, teambuilding, and cohesion…These qualities will allow you to climb the ladder in solar or your chosen career.”