After spending some time with Donna Williams, it’s clear that once she puts her mind to something, she succeeds. She’s an enterprise solution architect and a U.S. veteran, having served eight years in the U.S. Navy. Donna joined the military in her 20s after deciding that she wanted to serve her country. That decision resulted in two deployments to the Mediterranean Sea and a series of amazing experiences. Today, you’re likely to find her running in a 5K on the weekend. She started running just two years ago and since then she has run six half-marathons. She shares with us her experience in the military, and what Veterans Day means to her.
SCN: Tell me a little about yourself.
DW: I have been with JDA Software for five and a half years, and I am an enterprise solution architect. I conduct and lead business process design sessions for retailers and manufacturers for JDA’s Category Management solution. We capture the customer’s requirements and determine the process methodology and best practices to provide them. Then we stand it up in their environment, or we do it in the cloud depending on the statement of work, and write their solution design and functional tech specs of how the solution is going to work in the future based on their requirements.
SCN: What branch of the military did you serve?
DW: I served in the U.S. Navy on board a naval ship called the USS Shenandoah (AD-44) destroyer tender, based in Norfolk, VA. I served as a ship serviceman, which is a SH2 Petty Officer Second Class, and worked as a records keeper in the supply department.
SCN: Can you tell me more about your service?
DW: We did the procurement for the supplies that we sold on the ship, and we took on supplies for other ships that were in deployment. We ensured the ship stores had the supplies that you would need for everyday life aboard a ship. Anything that you would need, or that you would go shopping for, we had in the ship store. This included items like clothing, health and beauty, first aid, soda, candy, and things of that nature.
When we were in port in Norfolk, vendors would come on board weekly, and I would work with the chief of our department and we would order supplies for a certain amount of time and our department was part of bringing those supplies aboard ship and storing. I made two deployments to the Mediterranean Sea. Before those deployments, we would have to purchase for six months because the ship would be deployed for that amount of time. When you’re docked at sea, you supply the ships in your Battle Group. That group consists of about six ships, including the supply ship, which I was on, an aircraft carrier, a submarine, frigates, and war ships. You supply those ships, as well as other ships that pull alongside you if they need extra supplies.
I was also in Desert Storm in 1991 in the Persian Gulf. We were there providing support for those ships that were there fighting. We would carry the Marines over to the Red Sea. Our Battle Group was awarded the Southwest Asia Service Medal. I also received a Good Conduct Medal from the Navy, and two Sea Service Ribbons for deployment to the Mediterranean Sea.
SCN: How did your military service shape your life? Your career?
DW: It gave me exposure to different cultures and nationalities that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. It was amazing! I am from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Before I joined the Navy, I had never really been out of the Winston-Salem area. Through my deployments, I had the chance to see all these incredible places. I’ve been in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. I’ve seen Mount Olympus and the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been in the Louvre and stood in front of the Mona Lisa. I’ve been through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. These experiences really shaped me, and it makes me proud to be an American.
For my career, my military service – and my life experiences – helped me learn that it’s a value to understand there are different opinions and perspectives on things, and it’s okay to hear those. It’s not always one way; there’s always more than one way to do things. In this life, you have to value different opinions and perspectives.
SCN: What is your proudest accomplishment?
DW: There are so many; I can honestly say that I can’t just pick one. I am really thankful and blessed in my life that I have a great family, and a wonderful career that I truly enjoy. I love being able to get up every day and go to work – and just be able to work – and put my best foot forward. I am really proud of the person that I’ve become.
SCN: What’s the best advice you have ever received and who gave it to you?
DW: The best advice comes from my mother, who has always told me that no matter what, I can do and be whatever I want to be, and to never let anybody tell me otherwise. Also, apply yourself to everything that you do. She’s still giving me great advice today.
SCN: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
DW: It’s about honor. It’s being proud of what you’ve done for your country, for being able to serve your country. It’s an honor for all the people who have put their lives on the line for our freedoms and our liberties. If I had a chance to serve and I was young, I’d do it again. I would always recommend it. I think it’s a great thing to go into the military and serve your country.