Helping Veterans Transition From Military to Tech
I’m an Iraq War veteran and transitioned from Active Duty service in 2009 after serving in the United States Air Force. My transition to the civilian sector occurred during the Great Recession, which created a turbulent job market. I went to countless job fairs and applied to so many positions, but was struggling to communicate the value I would bring to a company.
In my military career, I had a significant amount of responsibility. While deployed, I led an Area Defense Operations Center (ADOC) which coordinated the movement of approximately 60 defense personnel. However, communicating how my experience applied to a whole new industry was a difficult task.
The AppianVeterans affinity group at Appian aims to help others have a better experience transitioning from military service and to a corporate environment. We’re a community that has served in the military and first-responder roles, helping alleviate barriers so people can really shine.
Building the AppianVeterans Affinity Group.
The AppianVeterans group was just starting when I joined the company and I was immediately drawn to help get it going!
People may not realize that a lot of employees at Appian had an entirely different life in the military before coming here that still continues to influence their current work and how they approach things. It’s pretty special to connect with other veterans from all walks of life and on various teams who have made the transition from the military to a corporate environment.
I joined Appian during the early days of the pandemic when it could feel pretty isolating working remotely. AppianVeterans provided a much-needed community for me to connect with others who have uniquely shared experiences. We’re partnering with the charity Wounded Warrior Project for some upcoming events, and worked closely with our recruiting team to help educate others on barriers veterans may face.
Breaking barriers for veteran job seekers at Appian.
We’re all about advocating for veterans and one of the first projects we took on was improving our recruiting process. There is a lot of knowledge, skills, and abilities you gain through the military that can be difficult to translate into a corporate work setting.
We worked closely with the Appian Talent Acquisition team to build a skills matrix. This involved educating the team on what to look for in veteran resumes and the context of what skills and responsibilities are behind military titles.
For example, a Non-Commissioned Officer role or a certain achievement medal may not mean anything to you if you don’t know the context. AppianVeterans can help fill in the gaps and show recruiters that this likely means they’re in charge of 30+ people and have developed strong leadership and management skills.
3 Tips for veterans looking to transition out of the military.
I used to teach at the Deloitte University CORE Leadership Program where I helped veterans transition from the military to the private sector. The heart of the program was about breaking things down, and here are some tips I would give to veterans that are making the transition:
1. Follow your strengths and interests.
Don’t focus on specific titles or industries at first. Think about what kind of work excites you. I worked with one veteran who came in saying he wanted to be a management consultant. But after chatting, it became clear that he was most interested in financial analytics and auditing work. After we identified his strengths, he pursued a career in finance and six years later let me know he’s the Senior Vice President of a Top-5 National Bank!
2. Build your network.
Transitioning from the military involves getting in contact with the right people and learning about what is required for different corporate roles. Do your research by finding people who are in roles you’re interested in and learn about their experience, training, and responsibilities.
3. Get clear on transferable skills.
The challenge can be showing how your military experience relates to the job you’re applying for. When you identify your strengths and a job opening, I guarantee in your military background, you’ll have an experience that backs up how you’ll be good at that. Leadership and managing a team well while under pressure are a few very transferable skills from military to corporate settings. Think of specific examples you can share in the interviewing process.
“Do the right thing even when no one is looking.”
Integrity is one of the core values of the U.S. Air Force. That’s about doing the right thing even when no one is looking. I’ve taken that with me in my career and see that in people I work with at Appian. I don’t know how else to put it, besides that people at Appian just genuinely care.
We had an event where all the Affinity Groups at Appian’s headquarters were set up outside the office and employees could walk around and learn about each group (see picture below).
People asked about our experiences, and how they can help or spread the word about our AppianVeterans. They followed up and a few people from other Affinity Groups invited us to partner on shared events.
Being a veteran means you have this entirely different life and career before Appian.
Leaving that event, showed me people just want to help and are curious to understand something that’s so meaningful to you.