A high school counselor told Kimberly Hessler that she wasn’t college material and should just get married. She has proved that advisor wrong, many times over.

As career services manager for SecureSet, a company that trains cybersecurity professionals, Hessler is a tireless advocate who helps graduating students — most of whom are transitioning military — launch their careers.

Hessler didn’t follow her counselor’s advice; she enrolled in Central College, a small, two-year school in Kansas, where she met her husband. After they married, the couple was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, where she completed a degree in sociology at Saint Leo College.

“I ended up being very well positioned,” Hessler said. “A retired chief master sergeant’s wife took me under her wing and helped me with my career. She was a great mentor.”

Both women believed spouses were integral to a military career, and they started a family support center at the base.

After the Air Force moved the Hesslers here 27 years ago, she volunteered at the family support center and a transition assistance program at Peterson Air Force Base. When a TAP facilitator position opened up, Hessler was hired to fill it.

She stayed at that job for almost 20 years. In 2007, she founded HSC Careers and offered career coaching for military members, veterans and their families.

She also worked as a TAP facilitator for Native American Management Services and Inverness Technologies and an account manager for the Military Spouse Employment Partnership before joining SecureSet in March 2017.

Many active-duty personnel, especially in Colorado Springs, have never worked in the civilian world, she said.

“I help them write resumés, pinpoint what they want to do and what works for them and their families,” she said. “It’s not just, ‘I’m going to get you a job,’ but ‘How can I point you to the right resources?’ … Anything they need to help them adjust to civilian life and work.”

Hessler has volunteered and worked with several organizations that assist military, veterans and families, including the Colorado Springs Military Spouse Career Committee; Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a White House initiative; and the American Red Cross. She has helped military members through the Military and Veteran Employment Expo, Homeland Defense and Security Symposium and Career Summit and Military Transition Assistance program.

Viewed by her colleagues as a “quiet warrior” who does not seek the limelight, Hessler has earned her stripes as a leader who has mentored many military members toward success in a variety of fields, from physicians to CEOs.

Asked what makes a strong leader, she said, “I really think it’s a servant leader — someone who’s going to get down in the trenches with you. I give 100 percent, you give 100 percent, and we’ll go across the finish line together.”

She cites raising three children and caring for her mother-in-law while building her successful career as her greatest personal accomplishment. In her career, “the ability to influence so many people’s lives and how they’re going to land well” has given her great satisfaction.

Once the family moved to Colorado Springs, “we absolutely loved Colorado Springs and did not want to leave,” said Hessler, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania “where it rains 365 days a year.”

The family loved the weather and location of Colorado Springs. Her 13-year-old son loves to ski, and her sister has a working cattle ranch near Salida, where she enjoys down time with her family.

Her mentor at MacDill helped point Hessler in the right direction and overcome both the challenges of being a military spouse and the message she got from that high school counselor that “I couldn’t be anything more than just getting married.”

She advises young women striving to succeed in their careers to “find incredible women mentors who can encourage you along the way. That’s how I became successful, by finding people smarter than me.”

— Jeanne Davant