Publix Patriots: Lieutenant Colonel to Baker

ByAllison L. May 12, 2022
Publix with American flag

At Publix, we love spotlighting our associates and sharing their unique stories. In our Publix Patriots blog series, we share the career paths of military veterans who have found a career with Publix. Today, we meet a Publix associate who uses skills she learned in the military to help in her Publix career, and skills she learned at Publix to assist with her military career!  

Meet Dena, Baker.

Dena enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1999 and went active duty in 2001. After 13 years of active duty, she transitioned to full-time Active Guard Reserve  status and is currently a Lieutenant Colonel and the Acting Director for Army Reserve Affairs for XVIII Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg, NC.

Dena’s Publix journey is intertwined with her military career. She joined Publix as a bagger while in high school. She stepped away from the company temporarily before deciding she needed a job while attending college. She rejoined the company in 1996 as a bakery clerk.

“I was interested in learning more in the bakery, specifically how to decorate,” shared Dena. “I transferred to a nearby store as a cake decorator apprentice and then became a baker apprentice.”

It was while she was apprenticing that Dena learned her previous assistant bakery manager was promoted, and her manager’s new store was in need of a cake decorator.

“I transferred to work with her again. She was later transferred to another store and in need of a baker, so I followed and transitioned into a baker,” Dena said. “It was while working for this manager that I enlisted in the Army Reserve because of her support.”

Dena, Baker

“I transferred to work with her again. She was later transferred to another store and in need of a baker, so I followed and transitioned into a baker,” Dena said. “It was while working for this manager that I enlisted in the Army Reserve because of her support.”

And the support didn’t end there. Dena decided to take her career one step further by testing to become an assistant bakery manager. She passed and became an assistant bakery manager for a while.

While serving in the Army Reserve, Dena knew part of her heart still belonged to Publix, and said if the company ever expanded to North Carolina, she would go back part-time. Just as Publix moved into North Carolina, Dena was stationed in California. When she was reassigned back to Fayetteville in 2018, she received deployment orders to Iraq (her fifth deployment).

“After I redeployed, I chatted with the store manager at my local Publix while shopping one day. He asked if I ever thought about coming back, and I told him after I retired. He asked me about coming back part-time now for a few hours a week, and I said sure,” said Dena. “That was two years ago and I’m still here.”

How Dena’s military background helped her at Publix.

Dena continues to pursue her Publix career each day. Having initiative is something Dena learned in the military and a skill she continues to use at Publix.

“It was the skills I learned at Publix when I first joined the company that allowed me to be successful early in the Army, and now that I’m back at Publix, skills learned in the Army help me be a better associate by taking initiative and knowing when something has to be done,” said Dena.

Dena has learned not to sit back and wait to be told to do something. She completes what needs to be done, whether it’s her personal work or assisting other associates who have extra work.

“Teamwork is really important in the Army, and I try to live that way in the bakery with my co-workers,” she said.

Dena is dedicated to her work, and dedication is a skill she’s learned and used from both career paths. She urges anyone looking for a career path at Publix to have dedication and initiative for their work.

“If you’re looking for a well-paying job that brings satisfaction and enjoyment, Publix is a great place to work and move up, if that’s your desire,” said Dena.

Dena in military uniform

Are you or someone you know interested in joining Publix? Visit our careers website to learn more about the various employment opportunities. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram!

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