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Salute Military Community: Jeff Cross

“Seeing someone chase their dreams or push into a new growth role and do the work is exciting to me. Playing a role to guide them gently or more actively is the best part of my workday.”

What is the Salute Military Community?

The Salute Military Community is a unique cohort of veterans and the military community who serve as examples of the value their experiences bring to our industry. The Military Community supports Salute’s mission and strives to achieve our shared vision of providing veterans and military spouses career opportunities in the data center industry. We are proud of the military community for giving back to other members seeking to start careers in this industry.

Lee Kirby, Salute Co-Founder, and retired Army colonel, interviewed Military Community member Jeff Cross, VP & Tech Sector Business Development Lead at HDR and U.S. Navy Reserve Veteran.

Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I spent my formative years in Wasco, a small town nestled in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Raised by young parents with the support of my grandparents, I quickly realized that pursuing a career in agricultural labor wasn’t my aspiration. Instead, I set my sights on higher education. To finance my studies in Industrial Technology – Manufacturing – Electricity and Electronics at Cal State Fresno, I joined the Naval Reserve in Fresno during my freshman year. This decision laid the foundation for my journey into the datacenter industry, commencing in 2003 with an Architectural & Engineering firm spanning various markets.

And what are you doing today?

I am a leader at HDR, overseeing major client relationships within the data center sector. My responsibilities include project development and nurturing partnerships to facilitate our objectives.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background? 

I enlisted in the US Naval Reserve in 1985, where I dedicated eight years of service. Notably, I was stationed at Naval WEAPSTA Concord, CA, during Desert Storm/Shield, managing a train crew responsible for munitions transportation. Following my active duty, I transitioned into equipment manufacturing and international sales until 2001.

Jeff Cross in Uniform 1991

Do you have a memorable story from your military career that taught you valuable lessons? 

Growing up in a rural community, my exposure to diverse cultures was limited. However, my time in the Navy shattered those barriers. Interacting with servicemen and women from across the nation and the globe broadened my understanding of people. That diversity has made me a better human, parent, and employee. I learned to never judge a book by its cover, to be open to all, and learn from everyone.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership?

Undoubtedly, the ethos of “dedication to duty” instilled in the military resonates in my business practices. Meeting objectives and problem-solving with unwavering commitment are paramount, traits cultivated during my service that are integral to effective leadership in any domain.

Is there someone you are particularly grateful to for helping you reach where you are today? 

Alejandro G Morales, my high school Spanish teacher and a Vietnam and Desert Storm/Shield Veteran, played a pivotal role in my life. His unwavering support and mentorship, akin to that of a family member, have been instrumental in shaping my journey.

Jeff Cross & Friends 1991

Why is helping the military community and veterans get into this industry so important to you? 

I think that many times veterans struggle to find their way in industry in general because there are no precise SOP/MOPs to guide you in many jobs and roles in private industry. More technical veterans may need a buddy or a champion to help assimilate or a friend to ask questions. Seeing someone chase their dreams or push into a new growth role and do the work is exciting to me. Playing a role to guide them gently or more actively is the best part of my workday.

If you could inspire a movement, what would it be?

Kindness – it is free, it makes you feel great, and we all appreciate it. I think sharing and demonstrating kindness is the best way to influence positivity and curtail some of what we have lost.

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