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The FourBlock Podcast

Dec 20, 2021

This week, we’re continuing with our countdown of the top 10 most-downloaded episodes of the FourBlock Podcast since it first launched in the fall of 2019.

Number three on the countdown is a conversation with Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and retired Army Colonel John Tien, originally released on January 13, 2020 and recorded when John was serving as a managing director with Citigroup.

In this episode, Tien discusses his incredible service, the impact of his time in the Army on his family, and the similarities and differences between leading troops in combat and teammates at Citigroup. If you are a civilian seeking to better understand military service or a veteran trying to learn how to most effectively transition military leadership principles to a corporate environment – this is a must-listen episode!

Prior to becoming the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Tien spent ten years serving in senior executive roles in the critical infrastructure financial services sector as a managing director at Citigroup. As a chief operating officer, he provided customer service support to tens of millions of customers to include safeguarding their accounts against fraud, data breaches, and other cyber threats.

Tien previously served in the Obama Administration as the National Security Council Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2009-2011, the Bush Administration as the National Security Council Director for Iraq from 2008-2009, and the Clinton Administration as a White House Fellow in the Office of the United States Trade Representative from 1998-1999.

Tien began his career of public service at the United States Military Academy at West Point where he was the first Asian American to ever serve as the First Captain and Brigade Commander, West Point’s top ranked cadet position. For the next 24 years, he served as a U.S. Army combat arms officer, retiring in 2011 at the rank of Colonel. He is a veteran of three combat tours to include serving as the Task Force 2-37 Armor Battalion Commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He and his unit were responsible for securing and stabilizing the Iraqi cities of Tal Afar and Ramadi with an emphasis on counterinsurgency operations, community partnership, creating rule of law institutions, and the training of thousands of Iraqi police officers. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Combat Action Badge, and the Valorous Unit Award.

Tien holds a Bachelor of Science from West Point and a Master of Arts from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and was also a National Security Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.



Welcome to the FourBlock Podcast, a show that examines veteran career transition and the military-civilian divide in the workplace.

General Charles Krulak coined the term "Three Block War" to describe the nature of 21st-century military service defined by peace-keeping, humanitarian aid, and full combat.

But what happens next? Veterans are often unprepared to return home and begin new careers. We call this the Fourth Block. 

FourBlock is a national non-profit that has supported thousands of transitioning service members across the nation in beginning new and meaningful careers. 

Mike Abrams (@fourblock) is an Afghanistan veteran, founder of FourBlock, and author of two military transition books. He represents the military transition perspective.

Lindsey Pollak (@lindsaypollak) is a career and workplace expert and New York Times bestselling author of three career advice books. Lindsey represents the civilian perspective of this issue. 

Veterans, explore new industries and make the right connections. Find a career that fits your calling. Join us at

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Podcast episodes are produced and edited by the Columbia University Center for Veteran Transition and Integration.