This post was also published on the Huffington Post.
Recently, a few of my veteran peers here at Cisco made a video that highlighted our military service and how it aided our ability to integrate into the private sector workforce. What a great experience and opportunity to highlight Service Members and all that we bring to the table.
So, what do we bring to the table?
I am going to speak from the lens of a National Guardsman, so bear with me. Why the National Guard? I am speaking as a Guardsman, having served with the Mississippi Army National Guard from 2000 until 2009, and just swore back in as a Captain this year, 2013. The Army National Guard is the oldest component of the Army Forces of the United States and one of the nation’s longest-enduring institutions. The National Guard is a ‘dual state-federal force,’ which means we answer to the governor of our state as well as the president of the United States.
Guardsmen have served in every major conflict this country has been a part of, stemming back to the Revolutionary War. They have also served in humanitarian efforts abroad in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Japan after the 2011 tsunami. Now that that’s taken care of, let me give you a little history of my service.
I enlisted into the Guard my senior year of college when I enrolled directly into the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) after my Initial Entry Training (IET, also known as Boot Camp). I received my commission as a Second Lieutenant with the Mississippi Army National Guard upon graduation in 2001.
It was during that time that I started to be tempered with leadership, incorporating essential skills such as collaboration, communication, team building, and the ability to multi-task between a full college workload and the responsibilities of my leadership training in ROTC. I was also attending weekend drills with my guard unit, receiving hands-on training from current enlisted personnel and my commanding officers prior to my commissioning.
During my time in service, I deployed to Afghanistan (2003), mobilized in support of Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Gustav (2008), and Hurricane Ike (2008). I have served in roles from being a Signal Detachment Commander with a Special Operations Unit to being a Battle Captain in a Tactical Operation Center. I have learned, through my service, that there is a pride with putting others first. There is a pride that comes with getting the call to serve your country or community while also serving your family.
Early on, you also start to tune yourself physically and mentally; forging from hard work a discipline that allows you to overcome obstacles – physical, mental, and emotional.
The tenacity that the military engrains can be seen in any Service Member. There is an eagerness to learn, to excel, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. There is a selflessness that comes with service.
So how does this translate into the private sector workforce, and the technology sector in particular? With the advancement of technology, our youth and Millennials have been raised around and through technology. Technology is everywhere throughout our military, connecting soldiers and support elements in order to effectively perform their jobs. From front line fighters using smart phones with apps that enable “call-for-fire” missions or troop locations to communications and intelligence analysts’ being able to more quickly provide vital information to forward commanders. This has created a culture that is more adept to a fluid environment, allowing for quicker and effective decision making at lower ranks.
All of these attributes are essential in today’s workforce, especially in the field of information and communications technology (ICT). In fact, in his recent Huffington Post blog From Combat Fatigues to Cyber Networks: Veterans for Hire, Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers highlights veterans’ strengths coming into the workforce.
There is a severe gap right now when it comes to warriors in technology, cyberspace, and communications. I just recently read an article from Defense Systems on May 17, Digital Conflict by Kevin Coleman. Coleman wrote that a respected individual from the U.S. intelligence community (IC) stated “there are about 1,000 security people in the U.S. who have the specialized security skills to operate effectively in cyber space… we need 10,000 to 30,000.” This is a pretty powerful statement.
He goes on to say that the demand for cybersecurity jobs is soaring; this runs horizontally from private sector to public sector. He even made the statement with regard to re-training, or as he put it “re-skilling,” veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq in the field of cyberspace and security. Personally, I feel this is a great idea. We are already trained and many of us have clearances, we just have to plug in a more specific skill set and viola, you have “Cyber Warrior.”
Service members can get started now by obtaining certifications in the ICT field while they are enlisted or even as Officers. Cisco is one of the pioneers with programs like the Cisco Networking Academy, which has already provided training for more than 33,000 military personnel.
When you enter the workforce, there is not one thing from the military that you disregard. You understand followership, you understand leadership, you understand getting the job done, whatever it takes. Now all you have to do is plug in the job. The leadership infrastructure has been built.
So you go from serving as an Intelligence Analyst to being on a team creating market insights for your company… You go from being an Infantryman to leading construction crews on major sites and providing necessary “on the ground” input to your leadership chain. You understand sacrifice and long hours.
So maybe instead of asking “what does a veteran bring to the table?” one should really ask “why not veterans, they probably built the table…”
Captain, Signal Corp
Mississippi Army National Guard
Veteran – Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)