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Leading From an Island, Never Alone Leading From an Island, Never Alone

Learn how Johnson & Johnson goes above and beyond to support military spouses.

hen you marry a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy and relocate to a remote peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, obstacles to career development are bound to arise. Yet after six years and five promotions with Johnson & Johnson, Alison W. is a recognized leader passionate about finding top talent to shape the future of health. Here's what she says has contributed to her success.

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The support for military spouses at Johnson & Johnson allows everyone on your team to know your story and who you are, even if that requires a certain degree of vulnerability on your end. Once you’re willing to share your story and your circumstances, it becomes possible to feel understood.

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“Location Restrictions” in Practice

It’s an undeniable fact: Military spouses face a wide range of challenges—logistical and otherwise—that people outside the military-connected community simply don't.

Take what Alison calls “location restrictions," for instance.

All of her husband’s deployments have been carrier-based, meaning he’s usually somewhere in the middle of the ocean for six-to-nine months at a time, and very hard to reach.

“It’s not at all like, say, a long-distance relationship, because it’s not as if you’re just in two different locations geographically,” Alison explained. “The only ‘direct’ channel of communication you have a lot of the time is email, which is hardly direct or immediate." 

You can probably guess how such barriers to communication might lead to elevated pressure or stress.


“I don’t want to use the word 'distracting,'” Alison said, “but the reality is that your spouse isn’t just on some work trip or in another country for business. They’re serving their country, and you know their life could be in danger at any point.”

Perhaps equally challenging, at least from a professional standpoint, is the fact that Alison and her husband now live on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest.

The location is non-negotiable for her husband, but it couldn’t possibly be farther away from the majority of civilian job opportunities, even for exceptional leaders like Alison.

What, then, accounts for her success?

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It all starts with my supervisor Lou P. being consistently supportive of me. He recognized that, as a military spouse, I’m someone who might need to—someone who really might have no choice but to—work full-time remotely.

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New Opportunities

How Alison has managed to balance the demands of being a military spouse with the demands of her career has a lot to do with remote work.

“Reading about Megan, a fellow military spouse at Johnson & Johnson who has since become my mentor, was a turning point for me,” Alison recalled. "It showed me that it would be possible for me to build a career here even if I was based on an island and had to work 100% remotely. Right now, for example, I’m working blended East Coast hours, despite being on the West Coast.”

For many military spouses, unfortunately, that sort of flexibility isn’t on offer. In fact, it’s a big part of the reason why roughly one in five military spouses are unemployed and actively seeking employment, according to research.

And while in-person collaboration is incredibly important at innovation-driven companies like Johnson & Johnson, we’re broad-minded about flexible work arrangements, especially for military spouses.

In Alison’s case, it has clearly been a determining factor in her success.

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I’ve only been out of college for six years, but since joining Johnson & Johnson I’ve lived in three different states and been promoted five times. That kind of success would be unthinkable if this company hadn’t believed in me, allowed me to move with my husband and empowered me to work remotely.

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Above and Beyond For Military Spouses

How else has Johnson & Johnson supported Alison’s career growth?

For one thing, there’s our policy allowing military spouses to take up to 10 days of paid leave either in advance of, during or immediately after a spouse’s deployment, or in the event of a required Permanent Change of Station—that is, a mandatory “military move.”

“Personally, the policy allows me to spend the time I need to prepare for the deployment, which I feel is very important as a leader,” Alison said. “It allows your team to know your story and who you are, even if that requires a certain degree of vulnerability on your end. Once you’re willing to share your story and your circumstances, you feel less alone—or it becomes possible to feel understood, rather than just feeling alone.”

She went on, “Few organizations have resources for the military-connected community like we do at Johnson & Johnson. Courtney B. and John P., for example, are these really accessible veteran-leaders who can help you navigate tough situations. After my husband’s last deployment, I remember reaching out to John for guidance about a difficult experience that my husband had during his deployment, and John told me, ‘Alison, I’m so glad you’re taking time off for this. Take the time to support your spouse. Help him process everything that’s going on.’ And that really was what I needed to do, but to hear it from leadership was a revelation for me.”

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We all have the same North Star at Johnson & Johnson. It all starts with Our Credo and the knowledge that our patients come first. We know that our patients are out there and waiting for us to solve the world’s most important and complex health challenges of our time.

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Join Our Military-Connected Community

Ready to find out for yourself why we have such a long and proud tradition of support for veterans at Johnson & Johnson—and why we’re part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership as well?

If so, be sure to check out all of the open positions we're hiring for right now.

Plus, you should consider signing up for our global talent community. It’s an easy way to stay in touch, learn more about life at Johnson & Johnson and even get updates about jobs that might appeal to you in the future.


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