Drew Carlson goes from jumping out of helicopters to jumping into Nutrien

United States Marine Corps veteran, Drew Carlson, celebrated his second-year work anniversary in August, and he took some time to reflect on the twists and turns that led him to Nutrien and landed him his dream job. He shares his thoughts about what veteran-focused observances mean to him, his time in the military and his professional growth.

Meet Drew Carlson, Senior Graphic Designer

What does Veterans Day mean to you?

Being a veteran carries weight, and I use observances like Veterans Day to reflect on my time in service and those who served with me. I remember my best friends and our experiences, both the good and the bad. Rather than turn away from some of those memories, I use the observance to understand and acknowledge their impact on my life and how it might affect those around me.

The Marine Corps birthday is the day before Veterans Day, so there is a lot of reflecting done over those two days.

Memorial Day is another observance specifically for those who never came home, and I have a list of friends I remember on that day as well.

What would you like others to know about veterans?

I don’t want to, nor will I speak for every veteran, but I want my colleagues to understand that someone’s life experience may differ from theirs. A veteran might have experienced situations that have a stressful, emotional impact that they are not ready or willing to share openly. This can come across as being gruff or closed off sometimes. I ask people to give one another grace, understanding, and patience. Someone might be going through things internally that are difficult to communicate at times.

That said, I also want others to know that veterans are some of the hardest-working people, and they tend to set high expectations for themselves. There is a sense of pride and responsibility that goes with being a veteran, which I think most of us want the world to see. 

What did you do while serving in the Marine Corps?

I was a Combat Photographer. This means I entered combat zones carrying a rifle and a camera. I am often asked which one I picked up first in a firefight, and honestly, thinking back now, I can’t recall. It depended on the situation and what was needed at the time. Being a Combat Photographer allowed me to experience every aspect of the Marine Corps in some way, from attaching to an aviation unit and spy rigging from a helicopter to embedding with an infantry battalion or fast-roping off the side of a ship. During my time serving, I got to do a little bit of everything from combat to humanitarian missions.

Did you join Nutrien after leaving the Marine Corps?

Not right away. After completing my service, I knew I wanted to continue working in a creative discipline, so I attended Northern Illinois University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts to obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration. I worked for a few companies as I built my skill set and joined Nutrien in 2021.

Why Nutrien?

I live in a small town where Nutrien has high name recognition. Nutrien stood out in my career search because of its global team and footprint, career growth opportunities, competitive pay, and excellent benefits for my family. In addition to all this, I have a job that challenges me personally, I am a part of a highly engaged team and have a leader who provides a space for personal and professional growth. It’s incredibly rewarding.

When my dad asks me how work is going, I tell him I feel like I fell into my dream job.

How has your experience in the military helped you?

We are taught to improvise, adapt and overcome in the Marine Corps. I learned tenacity, how to be flexible, and how to react when things don’t go as planned and still achieve a positive outcome. The military also teaches skills on how to approach people, especially a superior, respectfully and tactfully - decorum is non-negotiable. Of course, I also learned discipline.

This is a mindset that carries me through my civilian life. My military experience influenced my attitude and built resilience. Some people might say it made me too stubborn to give up. I lean on my personal discipline, especially as I work remotely. It helps me to hold myself accountable, stay committed to setting a schedule, get my work done, and contribute as a good teammate.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love my team and am proud of what we produce. We are a small, tight-knit group that can depend on one another, and no one feels like they are off on an island alone. Each of us brings a unique set of strengths, and we share them with each other to make high-quality assets for Nutrien. Our leader, Meghan Litsinger, has set the tone for our team in being open-minded, resourceful and willing to help each other.

What is a fun fact about you people may not know?

Honestly, all my “fun facts” run together with my hobbies. I am an ordained minister and perform weddings. I enjoy running, racing, woodworking, and experimenting with new illustration techniques and graphic design. I also have three children under ten, who are busy with sports, so my weekends are spent in bucket chairs handing out snacks.


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