Vets in Silicon Valley is a collection of stories from military veterans from all four branches who are now working in Silicon Valley. These quick glimpses into daily life are made for current service members researching how they might break into the technology community.
Tell us about your military background
I worked in Administration as a 71L (now 42A), with the Michigan Army National Guard. I worked one weekend a month and two weeks a year during the summer through high school and college. The majority of my service was being deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, I had an 18-month deployment at the very end of my service. We were attached to the 101st Airborne as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we did a lot of building of the infrastructure for safety and in the city of Mosul, Iraq. I got out as an E-4 (Specialist).
How was the transition back from Iraq for you?
Because I was enlisted I became very focused on getting my college degree. I remember meeting General Petraeus and he asked me, “What are you going to do when you’re done?” I told him, “I’m going to get my bachelors degree”. So I got my degree and worked in the non-profit space for a long time. I had seen a lot of what I liked in the military and wanted to do it full-time. I started doing a lot with veterans, building a community with veterans. All of my free time was being spent in the military community, and somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You should do this full time”. So I started helping vets find jobs and that’s when I realized, this is my passion.
What did you do to find success and what do you do now?
It’s hard to come out and transition, especially if you don’t have a support system, so I get to be that support for transitioning service members. When I worked directly placing veterans in jobs in Silicon Valley I remember thinking if I could just work at one of these companies that is actually doing the training, we could bring in veterans in mass. The thing is, a lot of companies want vets to guard their buildings but what I care about is, “how do we get them into the boardroom?”
So now that’s what I get to spend my time doing, showing vets that you absolutely belong in these tech jobs and you don’t have to have a computer science background. What I get to think about every day is, “what can we do to get more veterans in the great jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem?
How can veterans thrive at your company?
At Salesforce our Employee Resource Groups are called Ohana Groups. VetForce was created to build a strong military community at Salesforce as well as to fulfill our goal of training veterans in Salesforce skills. We offer free training through veterans.force.com and have a vibrant learning community that any veteran or spouse can join. Within the walls of Salesforce we make sure that veterans know one another, that we gather for military events and VTO (volunteer time off) and that we develop and retain our military talent.
What is your best advice for transitioning service members and veterans?
It’s not just about direct translation of skills at Salesforce, it’s really about being able to explain what you bring to the table. There are so many good podcasts and resources for people to see themselves in different places.
Also, hone your ability to network. If you’re a vet, reach out to other vets working at companies you’re interested in. Taking that first step is really important and I’d be surprised if anyone said no.