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January 10, 2017



Military Veterans: Tech Has a Mission For You


Calling all transitioning and job-seeking military veterans: the technology industry has a mission for you.


As we enter 2017, the technology sector continues its ascension to new heights - and the outlook for the future is promising. As we soar, there are not many contrarian signs anywhere on the foreseeable horizon. This is due, in part, to the growth of the tech sector being steadily driven by the ongoing, innate demands of our society for digital dominance. In other words, technology growth is occurring naturally. Tech is getting big because, well, we all want it to get big. We all need it to get big, if we are to meet the demands of the marketplace.


As both producers and consumers, business and personal, we have an insatiable appetite for technology. It powers the world around us. Our dependency on technology to support commerce, and to enrich our lives, has never been greater. The day our desire for advancing technology goes away is the day we retreat back to the stone ages and return to carving out hieroglyphics in caves.



Carving out technology

The tech industry is forecast to grow at a pace that doubles the growth rate of any other American industry through the year 2024. The numbers are indeed strong: in the United States alone, there are forecast to be half a million new tech jobs created by 2024. Globally the numbers are also astounding.


Over this same time period, the civilian economy of the United States will gain around 1.5 million transitioning military veteran job seekers. U.S. companies have already fully committed to hire or train 90,000+ of these veterans to fill technology sector jobs over the next 5 years. More organizations are increasingly signing up for this “call of duty” with each passing day.


This Modis Research infographic shows the detailed, segmented I.T. sector forecast; it is quite promising indeed:






We are looking for vets to join us on this exciting and BIG tech mission. I say “we” and “us” from my vantage point as an industry insider: I’m a software developer by trade, and more recently I’ve marched into the executive ranks as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a St. Louis-based tech startup. I say “BIG tech mission”, but that may actually be an understatement. Whether your objective is gaining employment or you are an up-and-coming, high-flying entrepreneur, the opportunity today in tech for military veterans is nothing short of HUGE.


I see real opportunity in the tech sector first-hand each and every day. I have put food on the table for my family for the past dozen years thanks to the fruits of this industry. Many of my fellow brothers and sisters at-arms have also found great success in the technology sector after leaving the military. The rewards in I.T. far surpass mere food-on-the-table survival though; the tech sector has provided me and many other vets with a very lucrative career path. Tech has been exceedingly good to me. As a result, it is near and dear to my heart.


You are also near and dear to my heart. I am one of you, a fellow military veteran: U.S. Navy, 1997 to 2002, Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S.S. Kitty Hawk Carrier Battle Group, 9/11 military first response forces. I was an Aerographer, part of the Navy’s larger Information Warfare Community. In the Navy, along with the other branches of the armed forces, computers play a large part in warfare. In my specific job function, computer systems were my bestowed weapons of war. In information warfare, the computer was my rifle; it never left my side. I “fired” it, maintained it and cared for it just as a rifleman would their M16. If you have ever seen the movie “Full Metal Jacket” and heard the Rifleman’s Creed, you’ll understand the level of intimacy a rifleman has with his/her rifle. I share that same level of intimacy with computers, and I have the military to thank for that.


Information Warfare Community, U.S. Navy


I was able to connect my own military dots to establish a rewarding career in the civilian technology industry. And fellow veterans, if you are interested in doing the same, I am here to tell you with the highest degree of confidence: Go for it!


The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations is around $86,000 annually, with many jobs in this space paying well over $100,000. Most I.T. workers I know are making a solid 6 figure (plus) salary with good benefits packages. Median paying jobs in tech pay out at around 2X higher on average than the median wages for all occupations, which is currently around $48,000 in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Regardless of your role in the military, whether you’re a rifleman or a computer jockey, or anything in between - whatever your skill-sets - it is highly likely that if you have the desire and the right attitude, you’ll have at least some dots to connect to the I.T. industry. There are paths leading to I.T. coming from many different origins. I am thankful for the doors that my military training and experience has opened up for me and where those paths have led. Just like the tech industry, this country and its armed forces have been very good to me.


The dots of opportunity are actually not too difficult to connect for veterans desiring to enter an I.T. career. As a result of the top notch training, education and experience that our service men and women receive while on active duty, a large percentage of U.S. military veterans possess the precise skill-sets, attitudes and aptitudes that the tech industry values and prizes: discipline, work ethic, problem solving, dedication, courage, leadership and hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology, just for starters.


There is certainly enough work to be done in tech to “feed an army”, as they say. If you are hungry, then what are you waiting for? It’s chow time, soldier! Your services as a military veteran are not only needed, but moreover being actively sought after. Just ask one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent entrepreneurs and investors, Mark Andreessen, about this mission. Andreessen and his philanthropic wife Laura are actively giving money and resources to several organizations fighting on the front lines to get more military veterans in tech jobs. Among others, he supports VetsInTech, whose mission is self-evident in its name: they seek to put more veterans in technology. VetsInTech also has support from big names such as Facebook, Intuit and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, to name a few.


There Are Many Tech Inroads For Vets

One flagship program that representatively summarizes the current state of the union when it comes to vets in tech is Amazon’s Military Recruiting program. Amazon is one of the world’s biggest eCommerce and Cloud Computing companies. As a software developer, I utilize Amazon Web Services (AWS) technology quite extensively, and regularly. They currently own more than half of the entire global cloud computing market, and are effectively the “800 pound gorilla” in the Cloud. Amazon is one of the biggest tech companies on earth.



Vet-friendly Amazon Dominates the Cloud Computing Sector of Tech

Amazon places a high value on military veterans in its workforce, straight from the top down:


“We actively seek leaders who can invent, think big, have a bias for action and deliver results on behalf of our customers. These principles look very familiar to men and women who have served our country in the armed forces, and we find that their experience leading people is invaluable in our fast-paced work environment.” - Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos


In May 2016, Amazon pledged to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years, and committed to train 10,000 veterans and military spouses (not employed at Amazon) in cloud computing through AWS Educate memberships and a path to AWS certifications. Amazon’s Leadership Principles closely align with the unique skills and strong character that make people successful in the military, and these 14 principles guide the Warrior community, and all employees, at Amazon.


Amazon is a prime example, no pun intended, but still only one example. Many tech companies, - and the list is quite extensive - have programs set up to recruit and hire military veterans. And it is not just tech companies seeking vets; these days companies across all industries nationwide have blossoming internal technology departments and operations - and many are looking to our military veterans to fill important roles. Many “non-tech” companies operate very robust technology programs, and many of them proactively target veterans for tech jobs.




Vets: Will You Answer Technology’s Call of Duty?

The opportunity is as broad as it is deep. A couple weeks ago I volunteered to help out at an annual Cybersecurity conference here in St. Louis, STLCyberCON 2016, held at the University of Missouri - St. Louis (I’m UMSL MBA alumnus class of ‘09), and along with speakers and informational sessions, there was a fantastic job fair. In attendance were big name companies from across all industries recruiting for various I.T. roles, not just cybersecurity. I was delighted to hear Ron Green, the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for MasterCard, deliver an amazing speech in which he directly credited his military background to his I.T. career success. Beyond that, he noted that MasterCard’s I.T. department has a thriving program that intentionally targets veterans and provides them comprehensive on-the-job training and education.


Vets: there is an entire, thriving industry actively recruiting you. Now is your time to engage in a new, meaningful mission: technology. How will you respond to tech’s call of duty?




Stuart Ashby, friend of military veterans and technologists



The author, Stuart Ashby, is a vet and software developer. He’s a friend of both military veterans and technologists. Please connect with him on LinkedIn. He is here to help. Thank you for your service to our great nation, and now please let him know how he can serve you as you transition and target a career in I.T.!



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