Tell us about your military background.
After I graduated from West Point, I was commissioned as an Engineer Lieutenant and stationed with the 3rd Brigade, 3rd ID out of Fort Benning, Georgia. From 2007 to 2008, I served on an 18-month deployment to Iraq.
Afterwards, I took on an assignment as a Construction Engineer at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I found that job to be the most exciting in my military career, because I worked at the White Sands Missile Range and witnessed the Air Force test their MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) on my targets. I worked there for a couple of years before I transitioned off of active duty in 2011.
How was the transition from active duty military for you?
I was active duty for six and a half years before I decided to transition out. When I decided to transition out it was pretty rough because like many Soldiers my identity was tied to my rank.
In the military, when we transition out, some often say, Well, its time to get a “real job” now. So, that type of thinking works against you, and actually makes the transition all the more daunting.
Soon enough you learn that once you enter the real world you have to set your expectations a little bit lower. You might have to accept the junior level job or military internship, just to get your foot in the door.
For me, it was definitely a humbling experience and I want to help other veterans make that transition so they don’t have to go through the same struggles I did.
What did you do to find success in your job search?
At my last active duty post I networked and accepted a position as a project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers. I spent a couple of years honing my project management skills.
My wife and I also opened a self-serving frozen yogurt shop in Albuquerque. I was able to apply a lot of the leadership and project management skills towards the business. The most rewarding part was that I learned how to run a business without going to school for an MBA, in an industry that I didn’t have any prior experience in. I learned a lot about customer service and how to deal with customers. I ran that business for three years before selling it and moving back to the Bay Area.
After I moved back, I became a business consultant for veteran startups. I was very active on LinkedIn: building a network as well as helping fellow veterans on the Veteran Mentor Network.
What do you do now?
I work for the government as a project manager and am an Assistant professor teaching military science at Santa Clara University.
Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that there is a lack of good leadership role models. To solve this problem, I’ve taken leadership principles from West Point and founded The Leaders Bootcamp, where I focus on helping leaders become the leaders that they want to be.
What is your best advice for transitioning service members and veterans?
Prepare and make a plan at least a year out. Work on a resume and get out there and start planning, start thinking about what you want to do in the future. It’s not going to be given to you on a silver platter. You have to work for it and it’s scary but it was scary for me as well.
Work on your LinkedIn profile and get out of your comfort zone to network and meet up with others for coffee. I would say that LinkedIn helped me out the most, even though it was still fairly new at the time.
Go to networking events, like Bunker Labs Brews, to meet other veterans who have made a successful transition and are working in startups and tech companies. As veterans, we stick together and look out for one another.