By Olan Beam, Photography By John Walsh

Warriors Ethos owner Jared Shepard

Jared Shepard at The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Jared Shepard is an energetic, engaging, self-assured and well-spoken young business executive. At the age of 39, he has built a thriving business, Intelligent Waves, which works with the U.S. Department of Defense to help build and maintain sophisticated communications systems and cybersecurity. The company supports the U.S. Armed Forces throughout the world.

Yet, when you talk with Shepard about how he achieved his success, he first gives credit to a variety of mentors, comrades, friends and the U.S. Army.

“I think I always had some of the characteristics that helped me be successful – willingness to take risks, assertiveness and ambition. I was usually a quick study in things I had an interest in,” Shepard explains. “But those characteristics can take you in a negative direction as opposed to a positive one. I flirted with the negative, but I had exceptional mentors who guided me in the right direction.”

Learning Values

Shepard grew up in Denver, Colo. His parents split up early in his childhood, and his mother worked as many as three jobs at a time to make ends meet.

“My mother was committed to taking care of me, but because she had so much on her hands, I was left on my own a good bit,” he remembers. “As you can imagine, I always challenged myself and when I was young, rules could be the challenge. So, I guess you would describe me as a handful.”

He struggled with what society expected of him. Then in 1995, Shepard’s life changed significantly when he encountered one of his first and most influential mentors, John Patterson.

“I think he recognized potential in me that I couldn’t see,” Shepard says. “He gave me guidance and advice, but he made me feel like it was my idea. Much later in life, I realized the obligation of that mentorship was to ‘pay-it-forward.’ John did what he did for selfless reasons. He did it because it was the right thing to do, not because he had to. That’s a personal rule I’ve also embraced.”

Army Strong

Warriors Ethos Jared Shepard BB&T Perspectives metals

Military unit challenge coins given to Shepard.

Patterson encouraged Shepard to explore the U.S. Army, and he enlisted as an infantryman in 1996. In less than three years, Shepard was trained as a sniper, achieved his Expert Infantryman’s Badge and was promoted to sergeant. Army life was exactly what Shepard needed and adopting those values – loyalty, respect and integrity – became a hallmark for him. He realized those values allowed members of an organization to work confidently together for a common purpose. And, that makes a formidable and successful team.

His military service helped Shepard internalize that set of strong values and leadership skills, yet he still didn’t feel he had found the right direction for his future. Encouraged by his best friend, Eric Elbert, Shepard decided to leverage his operational leadership experience and explore information technology within the Army. After re-enlisting and training in the new career field, he was identified by the III Corps Commander, Gen. B.B. Bell, to become the commander’s communications non-commissioned officer, responsible for many of the command’s communications capabilities.

He found his infantry background gave him unique insight into translating “tech” into “operational” language, and he leveraged this in designing networks that more effectively support ground troops. In 2002, Shepard decided to expand his potential influence on the U.S. Army as a civilian and was honorably discharged. Shepard returned to assist the Army as a consultant and soon became the lead technical advisor for the III Armored Corps. He helped take a leading role in the design and employment of the commercial communications infrastructure the U.S. military would use in Iraq for the next six years.

Entrepreneurship 101

While having the privilege of working for III Corps Commanding Gen. Ray Odierno, Shepard realized he possessed a skill set with insight only one or two other people in the world possessed. As he began working with the Joint IED Defeat Organization, Shepard recognized the opportunity (with some encouragement from friends) to start his own business helping deploy advanced technology into Iraq and Afghanistan.

Warriors Ethos Jared Shepard BB&T Perspectives flag

U.S. flag flown over U.S. Army base in Afghanistan where Intelligent Waves worked.

“I really wasn’t prepared to start a business, but no entrepreneur really is,” he says. “The opportunity was uniquely perfect for me, and I was committed to making this business work and the missions succeed. I’m often asked the cost to start a new business, and I tell people it’s two things: time and risk. You have to be willing to commit 100 percent of both to be truly successful.” The risk paid off and Shepard began his business in Iraq.

Shepard’s company, Intelligent Waves, has experienced phenomenal success. In eight years, it has grown from a two-man operation to a staff of about 50. Headquartered in Reston, Va., more than 70 percent of the company’s staff are military veterans. Some of Shepard’s key staff members are retired officers he worked with and for, both in the Army and as a contractor.

“I surround myself with people I respect, people with more experience, expertise and leadership than I have,” he says. “I thrive on and learn from my team every day – and encourage each of them to same. Our values and ideals are core to my company’s identity and my employees reflect that.

Walking the Talk

The success of a mission and the welfare of the team are the two principles that fuel Intelligent Waves. Shepard has high expectations of his team, but he gives them the support they need.

“We’re more than just a company. We’re a family that supports each other so we can support the Army’s missions and our nation,” he explains.

Warriors Ethos Jared Shepard BB&T Perspectives Intelligent Waves Conference Room

Intelligent Waves offices.

That sense of responsibility extends beyond Intelligent Waves. Shepard has historically donated a significant portion of his company’s income to soldier-related nonprofits. As time passed and their exposure and experience with wounded service members grew, Shepard and his team identified a need they felt had to be addressed. They created Warriors Ethos (WarriorsEthos.org), a nonprofit 501(c)(3), to help wounded veterans prepare for and transition into a successful career post injury.

“Many struggle with deciding how and where to start a new career after service,” he points out. “Wounded warriors, in particular, don’t have a chance to prepare for their separation from the military. That decision was made for them by an enemy bullet or explosion. Warriors Ethos gives them guidance, preparation, resources and a network to help facilitate their transition into a career that fits their skill set and goals. These soldiers don’t need to be taught how to stand on their own. They just need help standing back up.”

Next Mission?

So what does this successful, young entrepreneur see as his legacy? “No doubt, the most important legacy I can leave is for my children to be happy, healthy and successful. The best way I can help them prepare is to give them love, teach them and demonstrate the values that have made such a difference in my life,” Shepard says.

But Shepard believes he still has much more to offer before he starts thinking about his final legacy.

“I still have a lot I want to achieve,” he says. “I’m confident I can grow my business significantly, and I have already set goals I want to accomplish. Equally as important, I want to help my country. I believe what I’ve learned and what I’ve been able to achieve reflects values and principles most Americans embrace. I think I have something more to offer my country. I just have to decide how to best provide it.”

Like a true warrior, once Shepard decides on his mission, he will never accept defeat or quit. His expectation, without exception: victory.

Jared Shepard’s BB&T Wealth advisor is Jonathan Myers.

By Olan Beam, Photography By John Walsh

Warriors Ethos owner Jared Shepard

Jared Shepard at The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Jared Shepard is an energetic, engaging, self-assured and well-spoken young business executive. At the age of 39, he has built a thriving business, Intelligent Waves, which works with the U.S. Department of Defense to help build and maintain sophisticated communications systems and cybersecurity. The company supports the U.S. Armed Forces throughout the world.

Yet, when you talk with Shepard about how he achieved his success, he first gives credit to a variety of mentors, comrades, friends and the U.S. Army.

“I think I always had some of the characteristics that helped me be successful – willingness to take risks, assertiveness and ambition. I was usually a quick study in things I had an interest in,” Shepard explains. “But those characteristics can take you in a negative direction as opposed to a positive one. I flirted with the negative, but I had exceptional mentors who guided me in the right direction.”

Learning Values
Shepard grew up in Denver, Colo. His parents split up early in his childhood, and his mother worked as many as three jobs at a time to make ends meet.

“My mother was committed to taking care of me, but because she had so much on her hands, I was left on my own a good bit,” he remembers. “As you can imagine, I always challenged myself and when I was young, rules could be the challenge. So, I guess you would describe me as a handful.”

He struggled with what society expected of him. Then in 1995, Shepard’s life changed significantly when he encountered one of his first and most influential mentors, John Patterson.

“I think he recognized potential in me that I couldn’t see,” Shepard says. “He gave me guidance and advice, but he made me feel like it was my idea. Much later in life, I realized the obligation of that mentorship was to ‘pay-it-forward.’ John did what he did for selfless reasons. He did it because it was the right thing to do, not because he had to. That’s a personal rule I’ve also embraced.”

Army Strong
Warriors Ethos Jared Shepard BB&T Perspectives metals

Military unit challenge coins given to Shepard.

Patterson encouraged Shepard to explore the U.S. Army, and he enlisted as an infantryman in 1996. In less than three years, Shepard was trained as a sniper, achieved his Expert Infantryman’s Badge and was promoted to sergeant. Army life was exactly what Shepard needed and adopting those values – loyalty, respect and integrity – became a hallmark for him. He realized those values allowed members of an organization to work confidently together for a common purpose. And, that makes a formidable and successful team.

His military service helped Shepard internalize that set of strong values and leadership skills, yet he still didn’t feel he had found the right direction for his future. Encouraged by his best friend, Eric Elbert, Shepard decided to leverage his operational leadership experience and explore information technology within the Army. After re-enlisting and training in the new career field, he was identified by the III Corps Commander, Gen. B.B. Bell, to become the commander’s communications non-commissioned officer, responsible for many of the command’s communications capabilities.

He found his infantry background gave him unique insight into translating “tech” into “operational” language, and he leveraged this in designing networks that more effectively support ground troops. In 2002, Shepard decided to expand his potential influence on the U.S. Army as a civilian and was honorably discharged. Shepard returned to assist the Army as a consultant and soon became the lead technical advisor for the III Armored Corps. He helped take a leading role in the design and employment of the commercial communications infrastructure the U.S. military would use in Iraq for the next six years.

Entrepreneurship 101
While having the privilege of working for III Corps Commanding Gen. Ray Odierno, Shepard realized he possessed a skill set with insight only one or two other people in the world possessed. As he began working with the Joint IED Defeat Organization, Shepard recognized the opportunity (with some encouragement from friends) to start his own business helping deploy advanced technology into Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I really wasn’t prepared to start a business, but no entrepreneur really is,” he says. “The opportunity was uniquely perfect for me, and I was committed to making this business work and the missions succeed. I’m often asked the cost to start a new business, and I tell people it’s two things: time and risk. You have to be willing to commit 100 percent of both to be truly successful.” The risk paid off and Shepard began his business in Iraq.

Shepard’s company, Intelligent Waves, has experienced phenomenal success. In eight years, it has grown from a two-man operation to a staff of about 50. Headquartered in Reston, Va., more than 70 percent of the company’s staff are military veterans. Some of Shepard’s key staff members are retired officers he worked with and for, both in the Army and as a contractor.

“I surround myself with people I respect, people with more experience, expertise and leadership than I have,” he says. “I thrive on and learn from my team every day – and encourage each of them to same. Our values and ideals are core to my company’s identity and my employees reflect that.

Warriors Ethos Jared Shepard BB&T Perspectives flag

U.S. flag flown over U.S. Army base in Afghanistan where Intelligent Waves worked.

Walking the Talk
The success of a mission and the welfare of the team are the two principles that fuel Intelligent Waves. Shepard has high expectations of his team, but he gives them the support they need.

“We’re more than just a company. We’re a family that supports each other so we can support the Army’s missions and our nation,” he explains.

Warriors Ethos Jared Shepard BB&T Perspectives Intelligent Waves Conference Room

Intelligent Waves offices.

That sense of responsibility extends beyond Intelligent Waves. Shepard has historically donated a significant portion of his company’s income to soldier-related nonprofits. As time passed and their exposure and experience with wounded service members grew, Shepard and his team identified a need they felt had to be addressed. They created Warriors Ethos (WarriorsEthos.org), a nonprofit 501(c)(3), to help wounded veterans prepare for and transition into a successful career post injury.

“Many struggle with deciding how and where to start a new career after service,” he points out. “Wounded warriors, in particular, don’t have a chance to prepare for their separation from the military. That decision was made for them by an enemy bullet or explosion. Warriors Ethos gives them guidance, preparation, resources and a network to help facilitate their transition into a career that fits their skill set and goals. These soldiers don’t need to be taught how to stand on their own. They just need help standing back up.”

Next Mission?
So what does this successful, young entrepreneur see as his legacy? “No doubt, the most important legacy I can leave is for my children to be happy, healthy and successful. The best way I can help them prepare is to give them love, teach them and demonstrate the values that have made such a difference in my life,” Shepard says.

But Shepard believes he still has much more to offer before he starts thinking about his final legacy.

“I still have a lot I want to achieve,” he says. “I’m confident I can grow my business significantly, and I have already set goals I want to accomplish. Equally as important, I want to help my country. I believe what I’ve learned and what I’ve been able to achieve reflects values and principles most Americans embrace. I think I have something more to offer my country. I just have to decide how to best provide it.”

Like a true warrior, once Shepard decides on his mission, he will never accept defeat or quit. His expectation, without exception: victory.

Jared Shepard’s BB&T Wealth advisor is Jonathan Myers.