It seems almost inevitable that Lt. Patrick Mosley would end up in the U.S. Air Force, dedicating his career to public service.
His grandfather, John W. Mosley, was a Tuskegee Airman during World War II, serving again during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. His father, Eric, also served as an Air Force pilot, flying C-130 transport aircraft for decades. His grandparents were civil rights pioneers who worked with Martin Luther King Jr.
On the day Mosley turned 21, his grandfather died. Mosley and his twin brother Kyle took it as a sign. Following their graduation from Colorado State University, they joined the United States Air Force, commissioned as second lieutenants in 2018.
“We realized we had to do something bigger than ourselves and serve a higher purpose,” says Mosley, now a first lieutenant who serves as an information operations officer.
His service in the Air Force, where he crafts and disseminates the military branch’s strategic narratives abroad, has taken him across the country and to deployments in Europe with NATO. It’s also taken him to Molson Coors Beverage Company as part of a collaboration between the Air Force and American corporations called Education With Industry (EWI).
As one of two EWI fellows at Molson Coors, Mosley joined a company with a strong appreciation for veterans and service, fully integrating into its consumer insights team, where he’s worked to better understand the behavior of legal-age drinkers.
“I’m a big believer that experience is the best teacher,” he says, explaining his decision to apply to EWI. “Everything I was missing professionally before this program, I’ve gained.”
Molson Coors has participated in EWI for the last three years, but the program has been around since the Air Force’s founding in 1947. This year, more than 70 EWI fellows were assigned to companies whose industries ranged from logistics to data to aerospace and, well, beer. In all, 36 companies participate in the highly selective program, which is open to Air and Space Force officers, enlisted personnel and civilian government employees.
The program encourages participants to find new ways of thinking about their own fields, business, the military, leadership and more, says Air Force Capt. Jeff Lowder, EWI program manager.
“We think the best way to learn is hands on, to get down into the weeds and work on a tactical level,” he says. “We have airmen and (Space Force) guardians who go to these different companies and industries, and they come back and share the things they’ve learned and apply that knowledge to the military.”
The program, which puts participants in a civilian environment for 10 months, encourages not only fresh thinking but new ways to identify areas of improvement in the Air Force and Space Force, Lowder says. And participating companies benefit by getting knowledgeable airmen and guardians with upwards of 10 years of experience: “You’re getting someone who’s highly skilled and qualified. They are not observing," Lowder says.
Their experience allows participants to become fully functioning members of the team, says Matt Porembiak, insights manager at Molson Coors and the company’s EWI coordinator.
“EWI fellows are at the top of their class,” he says. “It’s less about shadowing. They become a member of our team for 10 months.”
Porembiak’s insights team studies consumer behavior. But data only answers some of the questions they ask on behalf of Molson Coors’ brands.
“Our job is to study different ways of thinking, so it’s interesting to get someone from a completely different field here to ask questions and get us out of our comfort zone,” he says.
That’s what Mosley’s delivered since he set foot in Molson Coors’ Chicago headquarters in September, where he’s worked on projects for brands such as Vizzy Hard Seltzer, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer and Blue Moon, using data tools to learn more about consumer thinking.
Shortly after Mosley started, the insights team was researching Black consumer habits and Mosley volunteered for the project, Porembiak recalls. And he’s given his team a fresh perspective on global events, as well, such as providing a briefing about the war in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February.
“It was really appreciated that he was able to share his personal experiences as an African American and from a military perspective,” Porembiak says. “We’ve tried to learn what sparks Pat’s interests and how do we explore that.”
‘Life lessons’ learned
For Mosley, learning how to better understand consumers and how they receive messages has been valuable.
“For me, as an information operations officer, to do my job well, and for a consumer insights manager to do their job well, we both have to understand people. So, I dove in head first. I’m learning from them,” he says.
But transitioning to a new industry in a new environment came with a dose of culture shock, he says. He learned to resist the urge to address higher-ups as “sir” or “ma’am” and is comfortable now wearing jeans and a bright orange Vizzy sweatshirt around the office. And he realized he was trying too hard to relate what he learned marketing beer and hard seltzer to his work in the Air Force.
“Instead of trying to force similarities between consumer insights and information operations, which are similar, I took a step back to appreciate the people at Molson Coors,” he says. “The things I’ve accomplished here have only been possible because of the people I’ve met and connections I’ve made, just by watching people’s actions.”
That’s led him to perhaps his biggest takeaway from his time at Molson Coors. It has nothing to do with beer or fighter jets. It’s his observations of how his new colleagues approach their work and their team members, and three qualities of good leadership: emotional intelligence, empathy, and effective communication.
“The most successful leaders here had a lot of similar qualities,” he says. “You can still get the job done, have a positive experience, and leave a person better off for having interacted with you. That’s a life lesson.”
It never dawned on Mosley that living up to his family’s legacy of service would lead him to marketing beer and hard seltzer. It’s a far cry from the legend of Tuskegee or his deployment in support of NATO. But his experience with EWI has positioned him to take the next steps in his career and pursuit of service.
“Leadership is not about being the smartest person. It’s about being someone who can work well with others and bring out the best in people,” he says. “That’s what my grandfather did, what my father did, and what I’m going to do my best to live up to.”