Kenneth Mayes, SHRM-CP, is a passionate advocate for military veterans. A second-generation soldier, Mayes retired from the U.S. Army in 2013 and took a job as an HR generalist in Fayetteville, N.C.
He soon realized that the leadership principles and competencies he practiced as an Army recruiter and training coordinator were similar to those practiced in the civilian world of HR. His passion for helping others led him to attain his MBA in human resources and his Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certification.
Mayes now leads the Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ Onward to Opportunity program at Fort Bragg. The career skills training program improves the employment prospects of service members transitioning to civilian life, as well as of veterans and military spouses. He also is an ally for underrepresented groups as co-chair of the institute’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. And he assists those in the HR profession as president of the Fayetteville Area Society for Human Resource Management chapter of SHRM.
What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today?
My greatest challenge was the untimely death of my spouse at age 42. Caring for someone with a terminal illness is a gut-wrenching experience. It’s especially difficult when you have been a problem-solver for your family and face something you can’t resolve. But I learned that internal fortitude, not circumstances, determines our future.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of my senior military leaders taught me that even if you are a self-proclaimed master of something, there is always room for growth and improvement. I learned to never accept the status quo and to remember the lessons in every interaction that I experience.
What do you enjoy in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy listening to music and working as a DJ at private parties. My genres of choice are R&B, jazz, old-school classics, hip-hop, reggae and New York house music.
Photograph by Bryan Regan