diverse professionals climbing ladders of career success

Career Spotlight: Leveraging Military Experience in Equity Comp

November 29, 2022

In this month when we honor and celebrate US veterans, I asked Galahad Dong, who is the director of HR systems & total rewards at Simpson Strong-Tie Co and a US veteran, to join me for an episode of the NASPP's Equity Expert Podcast to discuss his career in equity compensation.

We talked about how having a role in both compensation design and stock plan administration is beneficial, how his experience in the military helps him in his current role, and what advice he can offer to professionals who want to grow their career in equity compensation.

Galahad’s Origin Story

I like to ask people how they landed in stock compensation because it’s always an interesting story. None of us expected to be here. Galahad is no exception. He graduated from college as a poly-sci major. I think it’s safe to say that stock plan administrator is low on the list of expected career paths for poly-sci majors.

Galahad says that when he graduated in 2008, given economic conditions at that time, he took the first job he was offered, which was at a small firm. After several years, however, he was ready to move on and applied for the role of stock plan administrator at Simpson. He admits that his interest in the role was more a result of the financial stability of the company and the overall rewards package, than an interest in stock plan administration.

Ten years later, Galahad’s role at Simpson has expanded considerably but he is still managing their stock plan. He says that he loves what he does and it's been a rewarding journey.

Three Roles in One

In his current role, Galahad supports three different teams at Simpson: payroll; total rewards, which includes both compensation and work-life balance programs; and HR systems, which is the technology infrastructure for the company’s HR and compensation programs, such as HRIS, learning management, time and attendance, and stock plan administration.

As Galahad has taken on these additional roles, Simpson never backfilled his stock plan administrator role, so he has retained that responsibility through every position he’s had at Simpson. He says that one of the nice things about owning total rewards and stock plan administration is that this gives him a seat at the table and practical experience. In his total rewards role, he helps design the company’s equity compensation programs, and, as the plan administrator, he can chime in on the operational aspects of plan design.  

How Military Experience Helps with Stock Plan Administration

Galahad’s military experience was in the infantry, which he says doesn’t involve a lot of practical job skills that are directly transferable to stock plan administration, or even HR or finance roles. But in his time with the military, he learned to make quick and sound decisions with limited information, how to operate in ambiguous conditions, and how to pivot quickly when necessary. Those are all experiences and skills that translate to any job, certainly to stock plan administration, and they have helped him in his professional career.

Equity Compensation at Simpson Strong-Tie

Simpson Strong-Tie is a manufacturing company headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area, which, as Galahad says, makes them a bit of an anomaly.

The company’s founder, Barclay Simpson, strongly believed in equity and employee ownership. And although their equity programs may not be as cutting edge as some local tech companies, they are recruiting marketing, IT, and HR talent from the Bay Area, so they offer equity as part of their rewards package.

Simpson offers time-based RSUs for certain management level employees throughout the organization and they offer a combination of RSUs and TSUs for executives. They also offer a broad-based ESPP for their employees throughout North America. And because of the founder’s belief in equity, in addition to our ESPP program, they also provide 100 shares of Simpson stock for every employee who achieves 10 years of service. That’s 100 shares at every 10-year anniversary.

Simpson Strong-Tie’s Commitment to DEI

From Galahad’s application to serve on the NASPP’s DEI Task Force and from reviewing Simpson Strong-Tie’s 10-K to prepare for our interview, I knew that Simpson has made a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in its workforce, including reporting on the diversity of its employee population.

Galahad explained that, in addition to providing the raw data for those disclosures, his team provides a lot of analysis to help their DEI steering committee make sound decisions. They want their actions and commitments to be genuine and have a meaningful impact on our workforce. Because of this, they are taking a very cautious and data focused approach to any DEI programs that they implement. Galahad shared a couple of the programs that they are working on.

In looking at the data, they discovered that they have an opportunity to increase diversity in their sales function, particularly sales leadership. In response, they are building a year-long executive sales leadership program, as well as a sales rotation program. Their goal is to identify talent in other areas of their business where we may be more diverse and help employees in those areas accelerate their sales career at Simpson.

They also partner with Diversity Jobs, which pushes out open jobs to diversity-focused organizations. After rolling this program out, their initial data shows that hiring diversity is trending up by 5% (and they’re not even 12 months into that new partnership).

Galahad says that these programs have been a meaningful way for Simpson to show a genuine commitment to DEI.

More Information

Galahad and I had a great conversation. I hope you’ll listen to the full podcast to learn more about his career in equity compensation.

  • Barbara Baksa
    By Barbara Baksa

    Executive Director


The NASPP's DEI Initiative
Sponsored by Bank of America

Through our DEI Initiative, the NASPP leads in creating a diverse and inclusive environment in the field of equity compensation. We aspire to  better reflect the diverse workforces we serve and foster fresh ideas and perspectives that are inclusive and representative of all.