Military vets move into second careers in technology
Companies find that many veterans bring important experience and savvy
to the table
Some vets have simultaneous careers with their companies and in the
reserves; others go to work in civilian jobs after they leave the military
By Monique Rizer
Well-armed with technical skills, work ethic and important insight into the needs and desires of military customers, veterans are valued in the civilian work world.
GE (Fairfield, CT), for example, has been named as one of the top fifty military-friendly employers every year since the rankings were first compiled in 2003. But GE has focused on veterans much longer than that, says Dave Ferguson, GE’s military staffing and recruiting program manager.
Ferguson reports that GE began the push to hire vets in the late 1990s. The original effort evolved into a formalized recruitment program, a veteran employee group and several programs to support reservists who are called out of their GE jobs to deploy.
The company offers pay differential if the reservists’ military pay is less than their GE salaries, flexible work schedules to ease their return to civilian life, and continuity of benefits. “We really want reservists to worry only about the task at hand, coming home to family and friends and coming back to us as great employees,” Ferguson states.
The company values the experience veterans bring to civilian jobs. It hired more than 800 vets last year.
“Veterans really fit well at GE,” says Ferguson, a vet himself who was on active duty and in the Army reserves for seventeen years. “A vet’s dedication to duty, accountability to mission completion and integrity are honed by the military and closely aligned to the GE culture.”
Some military experience makes an especially great match with jobs at GE. Helicopter maintenance experts, for example, tend to make good biomedical technicians and engineers for diagnostic equipment. “It sounds like a strange match,” says Ferguson. “But if you think about it, an MRI machine is an expensive piece of equipment just as an Apache helicopter is. They’re both examples of sophisticated technology and if they break down they have to
be repaired quickly.”
Vets are part of the spectrum of diversity at GE. “Veterans’ unique experiences give them a diverse outlook and problem-solving skills,” Ferguson says. “We think they tie in with everything else we do from a diversity perspective.”
Army Reserve Colonel Doug Dinon leads a GE development group
Doug Dinon manages the process systems lab for GE Global Research. His team of twenty engineers develops new manufacturing process technologies. “We’re working on technologies that get developed in the lab and then scaled up, validated and transitioned into the GE supply chain,” he explains.
Before GE, Dinon worked for Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, NJ) for eleven years. He was a manufacturing unit manager and logistics director.
In 1980 Dinon graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point, NY) with a BS in general engineering, and went on to eight years as an infantry officer on active duty. After that he continued to serve in the Army reserves, as he still does. He completed an MBA from the University of Chicago (Chicago, IL) in 1995 and an MS in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College (Carlisle, PA).
“My military and civilian careers are very different, but my experiences integrate back and forth,” Dinon says. He’s been able to apply Six Sigma principles he learned at GE to his deployments at Fort Dix, NJ where he headed up processing for 8,000 deploying soldiers and 10,000 returning soldiers. His lessons at the War College also expanded his operational understanding at GE.
Dinon has scaled back his military time now that he’s approaching thirty years of service, but his work at GE remains robust. “I have a team of great people and that’s where the technology happens,” he says. “Part of what we do is working on how to make the leap from the R&D lab to the factory. We are part of GE’s ‘American renewal’ strategy. It’s a lot of fun.”
National Guardsman Steven Gillis:
information assurance at ONR
Steven Gillis has served as both a government employee and a National Guardsman for more than twenty-eight years. The two careers aligned nicely, giving him the chance to interchange learning experiences from both his jobs. For example, he credits the military with sparking his interest in IT and giving him an edge in his civilian career.
“The military provided hands-on opportunities to explore the IT field,” Gillis says. “I was often in an environment where things had to be done quickly and well; you learn
a lot in that mode.”
Gillis joined the Air National Guard in 1981, working in avionics. In 1988 he transferred to the Washington, DC Army National Guard to become an officer. At the DC Guard he moved up through the IT world and “took on pretty much every position there was, from network admin to deputy CIO.” He is now a Lt Colonel, in charge of the DC Army Guard’s IT ops.
Gillis has a 1991 BS in information resource management from George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) and a 1998 MS in managerial leadership from National-Louis University
During much of his military career Gillis worked in the civil service as an information security specialist. In 2001 he joined the Office of Naval Research (ONR, Arlington, VA) as an information assurance (IA) manager.
While at ONR Gillis deployed to Southwest Asia as the IA manager for Army Central Command (CENTCOM); he took a lot of what he learned there back to ONR. He was involved in everything related to IA in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. “It really broadened my view,” he recalls. “I came across a lot of new techniques and mindsets in the IA area.”
As lead IA manager at ONR, Gillis is responsible for coordinating IA policy plans and programs. He supervises seven direct reports in three departments: compliance, governance and protection. His team makes sure ONR’s information systems comply with Department of Defense, Navy and industry standards; they monitor data coming in and out of the organization to protect their networks, and implement new programs. “We have a world-class cutting-edge IT organization here,” Gillis says proudly.
West Pointer RJ Jimenez
is an analyst at Unisys
RJ Jimenez graduated from West Point in 2001 with a BS in systems engineering. He became an aviator, flying CH47 Chinook helicopters. During his service he deployed three times: six months in Afghanistan, ten months in Iraq and eleven months in Kuwait.
He completed his commitment to the Army in 2008 and joined Chesapeake Energy Corp (Oklahoma City, OK). He was an inventory coordinator on a team that oversaw the installation of 140 miles of natural gas pipeline in New York and Pennsylvania. “That used my logistics experience from flying and other jobs in the military,” he says.
But he missed the camaraderie of the service, and last year he joined the federal systems division of Unisys (Blue Bell, PA) as a readiness analyst contracted to the Department of Defense (DOD).
Jimenez works with the office of the deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness at
the Pentagon. “I’m on the readiness side of the business,” he explains. “All the services
provide us with a status of their units and capabilities to perform their assigned missions in defense of the country. I take that data, put it together, run macros and create reports and present our assessments to senior leadership. We also work on the quarterly readiness report to Congress.”
His experience as a junior officer, combined with recent deployment experience and technical mindset, were just what the DOD was looking for, and Jimenez feels he’s back where he belongs. “I grew up as an Army brat, I did my service, and I wanted to continue to contribute to my country.”
Cindy Holt, Air Force vet: desktop
support at Northrop Grumman
Cindy Holt is a desktop support tech for global security company Northrop Grumman (Los Angeles, CA), working in Melbourne, FL. She served in the
Air Force from 1995 to 2002 as a signal analysis and satellite system technician, monitoring, maintaining and troubleshooting secure IS platforms. The experience ties in well with her current job, where she’s responsible for supporting more than 2,000 computers and solving high-precision technical issues.
Still, it’s been a learning experience since leaving the service, she admits. “I was looking for a job and someone asked if I wanted to work on computers.” Holt was confident she could learn, just as she did in the military. “In the Air Force I was thrown into many different jobs. You had to be adaptable and learn quickly, and work in the field might be totally different from the classes you had.”
So Holt took her can-do attitude to computers. Her first job was at Eagle Alliance (Annapolis Junction, MD) where she assembled and mass-deployed computers. Then a former supervisor hired her at BAE Systems (Rockville, MD) where she worked for a year.
She returned to a temporary desktop tech support position in Florida, but when the temp job was up they asked her to stay on permanently. “When I first came in I knew very little, but through reading and hands-on training I learned what I needed to know,” she says. In 2007 she was hired by Northrop Grumman.
Last year Holt completed a BS in IT from the University of Phoenix. “I really enjoy what I do,” she says. “There’s something new and different every day.”
Northrop Grumman’s award-winning
veteran hiring program
In 2006, the Department of Labor’s office of disability employment policy presented Northrop Grumman with its “new freedom initiative” award for Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transitions). The program has also been recognized by state awards from California and Utah, and from veterans’ groups. So far, the program has placed fifty-five wounded vets in jobs at Northrop Grumman.
“America’s military vets represent the full spectrum of our society,” says Duane Hardesty, external outreach ambassador for Operation Impact. “Vets bring an outstanding professional ethic, a commitment to excellence and varied experiences to Northrop Grumman. They enhance our ability to provide our customers with the finest products as they work to keep
our nation secure.”
Craig Korth’s military
insight supports Raytheon
Craig Korth is a mission development engineer in the Aurora, CO mission assurance department of the Intelligence and Information Systems business
of Raytheon (Waltham, MA). He acts as a translator and mediator between Raytheon engineers and the company’s customers, many of them military.
Korth served in the Army National Guard from 1981 to 1985 and was on active duty from 1985 to 1989. “My military background enhances my ability to understand the warfighters’lingo, environments and culture,” he says.
Before joining Raytheon Korth worked at BG Consultants as a quality inspector. He left to pursue his BSIE with an emphasis in business from Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS). He joined Raytheon in 1999 as a manufacturing engineer in McKinney, TX, and later became
a Six Sigma instructor leading improvements to Raytheon product lines.
Korth believes his military background gave him a head start at Raytheon, demonstrating his ability to work hard, perform under pressure, adapt and improvise. “Veterans are proven and can hit the ground running,” he says. He notes that Raytheon hires wounded vets through Operation Phoenix, a recently implemented program led by a wounded veteran.
“If it weren’t for the veterans, many companies might not exist,” says Korth. “We owe so much to the American free enterprise system, which veterans help preserve.”
Latarshia Jones’ Navy career led to
systems support at Harris
Latarshia Jones served on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1997 to 1999. Then she transferred to the reserves until 2003. Her last duty assignment was with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
Her husband was an active-duty sailor and his change of duty stations resulted in several job changes for his wife. But, like many military spouses, Jones made it work. She continued her career throughout the moves, and her work in the Navy segued nicely into a civilian career.
“I was formally trained as an intelligence analyst,” Jones says, “but a lot of my work required me to learn IT. To get intelligence products out to people you had to get them published and create a website. That piqued my interest in IT.”
After separating from the Navy, Jones joined Sabre Systems (Warminster, PA) as a Web developer at its Patuxent River, MD location. In 2001 she joined SAIC as a temporary employee doing helpdesk analysis and computer ops at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital (Portsmouth, VA). The next year she transferred to SAIC’s McLean, VA HQ, changing her job description to intelligence analyst. In 2004 she moved to San Diego, CA where she joined Northrop Grumman as a technical writer. “That was a formality, though,” she explains. “I was hired as a subject-matter expert for an intelligence system they were developing. My job was to provide feedback on how a real analyst would use the system.”
In 2007 she joined Harris (Melbourne, FL) in her current position as a systems support engineer in Palm Bay, FL. “I do software builds, and ensure traceability for configuration items and other requirements related to system configuration,” she says. “I’m also responsible for managing my department’s training and development budget, and I’m the lead systems support engineer on my program.”
Jones holds a 2004 BS in CIS from American Intercontinental University (Hoffman Estates, IL) and a 2009 MBA from New York Institute of Technology.
Though she had scholarship offers after graduating from high school, she choose the Navy.
“I wanted to get out into the real world,” she says. “The military taught me a sense of responsibility for my job, for myself and how my actions affect others. That’s really helped me in my career.”
Harris recruiter Rodney Stigall agrees. “Vets have a value-based character that fits really well into our culture,” he says. “They know what it means to be reliable and work hard, and they have leadership skills. There’s nothing like having charge of a $4 million vehicle and $30 million of equipment to build leadership skills in nineteen-year-old kids! The responsibility thrust on them
so early puts them ahead of their peers in the civilian world.”
Harris has more than 1,500 employees who are veterans. The company recently joined the Army Reserves Employer Partnership Initiative, donating $20,000 to support an entrepreneurship course for vets at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN). “That’s something we’re really proud of,” Stigall says.
Drug Enforcement Admin
brings in vets
The office of information systems for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has hired many veterans over the years, notes Dennis R. McCrary, deputy assistant admin in the office of information systems at the DEA.
“During their military careers, many of these employees received great training in IT networks, security, engineering, software development, deployments and operations: the skills that make them so desirable as federal IT employees,” he says. “But whether or not the vets were hired with IT experience, our organization has benefited from the excellent management and leadership training they all received in the military.
“As a U.S. Army retiree myself, I am proud to have these talented men and women on the
COMPANIES ACTIVELY RECRUITING VETS FOR TECHNICAL POSITIONS
Check websites for current openings.
|Company and location
|Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA)
|Strategy and technology consulting
|General Dynamics Electric Boat
(Groton, CT) www.gdeb.com/employment
|Design, construction and maintenance of U.S. Navy nuclear submarines
|GE (Fairfield, CT)
|Technology, media, financial services
|Harris (Melbourne, FL)
|Communications and IT
|Northrop Grumman Corp
(Los Angeles, CA) www.northropgrumman.com
|Office of Naval Research (Arlington, VA)
|Science and technology research
|Raytheon (Waltham, MA)
|Military and commercial systems
|Unisys (Blue Bell, PA)
|U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(Washington, DC) www.justice.gov/dea
|U.S. Navy (Washington, DC)
|Maintains, trains and equips combat-ready
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