From Veteran to IT Consultant - How to Find a Job in Tech
Veteran’s day is an opportunity for us all to show our appreciation to those who served. It’s also a chance for us to reflect on the reality that many veterans face today. At the onset of 2019, Veteran unemployment was 3.1% and trending in the right direction. As of October 2020, though, that number has more than doubled to 6.8%. Finding employment after service can be difficult, and building a rewarding career even more so. We at Peterson Technology Partners would like to be part of a collective effort in our society to help our veterans.
To do our part, we proudly sponsor local non-profits, such as Salute, Inc., that focus on helping veterans and their families. They save military families from homelessness through rent and mortgage payments that prevent eviction and foreclosure. Their extraordinary work is appreciated and desperately needed. Once veterans are back on their feet, helping them find financial stability and a rewarding career is the next step to a great life after service.
At the onset of 2020, roughly 8% of the U.S. population were veterans. That equates to nearly 19 million men and women who had proudly served this country and are now a part of the civilian workforce. Of those 19 million, only 1 in 4 stated that they had a civilian job lined up after leaving the military. That leaves 75% of vets just starting their job search once their service is complete.
Many don’t consider a career in technology with the misunderstanding that experience is a prerequisite. The truth is, many of the skills and traits that veterans have developed in the military are exactly what employers are looking for when they build their teams.
Is a Job in Tech Right for Veterans?
Absolutely. After a career in the military, odds are servicemen and women already have many highly sought-after skills. Veterans often have exposure to advanced technology, machinery, and operations. That knowledge can be transferred directly to a new job. Additionally, the soft skills learned along the way make veterans ideal candidates.
In our panel interview “Careers and Conversations: Looking for a career change? Consider a job in IT!”, we spoke with a few IT professionals who transitioned from non-technical backgrounds. One of the panelists, Nathan Wells was a 10-year military veteran. After his service, he helped multiple startups get off the ground, earned his MBA, and is now a successful consultant at Accenture. Nathan credits much of his success to the soft skills he learned while in the military. The communication, leadership, and organization he mastered in the service paved the way for his future.
Can Veterans Learn IT After Their Service?
How can someone get a job in tech without any experience? If a veteran had any technical experience while in the military, it's definitely a plus, but it’s not required. There are many different pathways and on-ramps into the sector.
A traditional university, when possible, is the most direct way to get into tech. A typical computer science (CS) degree will take four years and give you a great foundation in math, algorithms, and CS theory. Financial aid may be available through the programs like the GI Bill, VET TEC funding, or The Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship. The time and cost it takes to complete, though, may still be a roadblock for many.
Many veterans choose to learn to code themself. Any language or technical skill can be acquired, for free, online, or otherwise. Self-teaching takes a lot of discipline which, fortunately, is a strength of most veterans. However, the sheer amount of classes and resources can be confusing for a beginner. This is the reason why many choose a structured, targeted coding bootcamp.
Are Coding Bootcamps a Good Option for Veterans?
The right coding bootcamp can be a great way for veterans to get into the industry. They provide a structured framework, educational resources, and professionals to help guide anyone through the process. The best bootcamps focus on helping vets with job placement after the curriculum is complete. Code Platoon, based in Chicago, IL, is a great example.
Code Platoon is a non-profit coding bootcamp for veterans and their spouses. It’s a 14 week, highly immersive program with limited openings. They only accept highly motivated individuals who pass the admissions process consisting of 50-100 hours of tutorials.
Code Platoon was launched in 2016 by Rod Levy. After going through a coding bootcamp himself, Rod realized that many of the programs focused on the profit from running the camp rather than on the outcomes. 70% of veterans don’t have a college degree, they often enlisted right after high school. Those who moved up in the ranks may have opportunities, but many do not. As Mr. Levy put it,
“The Colonel who leaves the military has options, but your average machinist does not.”
Many companies say they want to hire veterans, and some do, but the experience gap leaves a heavily underserved market. Rod’s solution was to start a non-profit, exclusively for vets and their families, that put the emphasis on the graduates and their futures.
There are many great programs with a focus on helping veterans start a new career.
How Do Veterans Get their First Tech Job?
Once technical skills or certifications have been acquired, it’s time to put the education to work. Hopefully, getting involved with an organization will speed up the process. With job placement assistance, though, there is no guarantee of an offer. Building a network and demonstrating skills will be the tipping point to successfully landing a job.
Not having technical work experience shouldn’t stop anyone from showing off their IT skills. How to do it will depend largely on the technology focus but there’s always a way in today’s connected environment. Programmers and coders should create a GitHub page and start publishing their personal projects. It is also a way to help with other’s open-source projects. Data scientists can compete in competitions on Kaggle. Web developers can build portfolio pages to display on the web. No matter what technology, there is certainly a way to demonstrate it.
Networking is equally as important as the ability to demonstrate a skillset. In “Careers and Conversations: The Employer and Employee Perspective”, our panelist Ninos Youkhana described how his network landed him a job after service.
As an Iraqi-American, Ninos “couldn’t resist the call (to serve as a defense contractor) during the liberation of Iraq”. Years later, once his service was complete, it was his reputation and network that delivered him a new career path.
According to Nino,
“I got the phone call from DC and my heart started to beat. I thought ‘Am I in trouble?’ But the person on the phone said, ‘because of your network and friendships, your resume landed on my desk.”
While not every veteran has that kind of network, it’s never too late to start building it. Look for communities on LinkedIn, MeetUp, and other sites to find like-minded individuals to connect with. Start attending events related to your field, be it in-person or virtually.
Reach out to other vets who are also in transition. Lastly, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with friends and family. There is always someone out there who wants and is able to help.
If anyone deserves a satisfying career, it’s our nation's veterans and their families. We know that after their military service, veterans often find themselves with limited job opportunities. It may seem that the jobs that are available are usually entry-level and with few if any, opportunities for advancement.
Getting a job in tech may be a solution for veterans looking for a new, rewarding career. IT careers typically pay well, are highly fulfilling, and are a great springboard to advancement. Additionally, military vets often have experiences and personality traits that lend themself well to the field.
The barrier to entry may seem steep, especially if technical experience wasn’t a part of the military service. But those barriers are easily surmountable with the right mindset and determination. Use the right online resources, have a plan or organization to help guide through the process, and leverage the strength and conviction that was developed in the service to build a new career in no time.
Check out our latest YouTube video!
About the Company:
Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has been Chicago's premier Information Technology (IT) staffing, consulting, and recruiting firm for over 22+ years. Named after Chicago's historic Peterson Avenue, PTP has built its reputation by developing lasting relationships, leading digital transformation, and inspiring technical innovation throughout Chicagoland.
Based in Park Ridge, IL, PTP's 250+ employees have a narrow focus on a single market (Chicago) and expertise in 4 innovative technical areas;
Cloud & DevOps
PTP exists to ensure that all of our partners (clients and candidates alike) make the best hiring and career decisions.
Peterson Technology Partners is an equal opportunity employer.