Everything You Do Now Paves the Way for the Rest of Your Life
Meet JDA’s Tonjah Wilkins, senior telecommunications specialist and U.S. veteran, having served for nearly 14 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserves. Tonjah has always been a hard worker. In the past, she juggled two jobs and going to school full time for several years during her time in the Navy and in the workforce. She shares with us what her experience in the military has done for her, in terms of shaping her career and mindset, and what Veterans Day means to her each year.
Tonjah proudly wearing her U.S. Navy uniform
SCN: Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do for JDA? What are your hobbies?
I’m a senior telecommunications specialist. I manage all mobile devices, conferencing solutions, and coordinate phone and circuit orders with the network team for all JDA locations.
I joined JDA in 2012 from Lockheed Martin where I was a subcontract administrator. Prior to Lockheed Martin, I worked for a small company that used JDA, so I knew JDA was a good company and I was very interested in working for JDA.
In my spare time, my hobbies are working out, reading, and hiking.
SCN: What branch of the military did you serve?
I served in the U.S. Navy. I have 10.5 years active duty and three years in the Navy Reserves.
SCN: Can you tell me more about why you joined the military and more about your service?
I was inspired to join the Navy as my oldest brother served four years in the Army. I had decided by the time I reached my sophomore year in high school that I wanted to join the military. I was focused on the Air Force at that time, but when I tested for it, there was a year and a half waitlist for females. I didn’t want to wait that long, so I had my test scores transferred to the Navy. Since I graduated from high school one year early, I had to wait until I turned 18. I left for the Navy on Christmas Day!
In the Navy, I was a Yeoman Second Class – (E-5). In this role, I was an equivalent to an executive assistant/payroll/ admiral’s assistant. I was stationed at NAS Mayport in Jacksonville, FL, NAS Barbers Point on Oahu, and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.
SCN: What did you like most about your deployment and the locations you were in?
I joined the military to travel. I have traveled to some wonderful places, loved and enjoyed something unique about each location. I’ve traveled to Guam, Philippines, Diego Garcia, Saudi Arabia and Korea. Each location offered a great ethnic experience from the local cultures to the local foods and sites. Traveling to these locations, offers diversity in the military. You were thrown into different roles. I love change and I am a quick learner. You always learned something new and performed different tasks. I volunteered for various events on base, as well. I also volunteered to travel with a team to deliver supplies to a unit that was deployed to Saudi Arabia. I would always volunteer to do new things and assist where needed.
SCN: How did your experience in the Navy shape your life?
I have always been disciplined and well behaved as a child, joining the military reinforced those traits in me. It teaches you to ‘accelerate your life’ and aim high for everything you want to achieve.
As far as my career, it gave me the tenacity to always go after what I want. The things the military taught me are things that can’t be taken away. These things shape the way I approach life every minute of every day.
For example, when I first moved to Phoenix from Monterey, and during my whole naval career, I worked a second job. A lot of people in the military lose their connection with the civilian world and are terrified when they come out. I didn’t want to be that person. I worked a second job to stay connected to the civilian world.
When I was in Monterrey, I wanted to work at the Hyatt, the ‘glamour’ hotel resort, where the stars visit. I was hired and I worked for the Hyatt the rest of my time in California. The Hyatt transferred me to Phoenix. I worked a couple of jobs in between and then applied to Lockheed Martin, but one of the requirements was a degree. I didn’t have a degree at that time. In two months, I had enrolled in school online. I worked two jobs, got my bachelor’s degree in two years. I then reapplied for a position at Lockheed Martin and was hired! Once I get something in my mind, I go for it!
SCN: What is your proudest accomplishment?
I have two accomplishments that I’m proud of. First my professional accomplishment: I’m very proud to have served in the U.S. Navy for a total of 13.5 years. My second and personal accomplishment is achieving my MBA. I got my MBA in 2011 after taking a year off from finishing my undergrad. Working two jobs and going to school full time was not easy. The reward was worth the sacrifice! I’m working one job and enjoying plenty of FREE time!
SCN: What is the best advice you ever received and who gave it to you?
The best advice I ever received was from the commanding officer (CO) of my first duty station. It was a newly established command. There were eight females, we went to boot camp together and were stationed together after aviation school. We were 18 to 19 years old, we had no direction and probably no clue what we had signed up for. His advice to us was simple: Everything you do now will pave the way for the rest of your life – good or bad. That was etched into my brain, even today.
I share that same advice. Some of my friends and neighbors know I was in the military and ask me to speak to their kids and give them insight into the military. The first thing I tell them is to forget everything you’ve ever seen on television shows about the military. I always tell them what my CO told me – everything you do now will pave the way for the rest of your life. You are going to encounter good and bad people, but it is not hard to stay out of trouble! Keep your head up, stay focused on your goals, your dreams, and don’t look back! Do what makes you happy and do it now!
SCN: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
Veterans Day means a lot to me. I am proud to have served in the military; it represents freedom, sacrifice, and honor. Veterans Day reminds many Americans of the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country. As a veteran, I am proud to be among the elite members of those that have served our great country.