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This article was published on March 12, 2012

Hiring veterans: Which tech companies are leading, and how we could all do better

Hiring veterans: Which tech companies are leading, and how we could all do better
Alex Wilhelm
Story by

Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

My personal military career consists of a single week at West Point’s ‘Summer Leader Seminar,’ a program designed to bring candidates that the US Military deems attractive to the fort to shoot howitzers and run around. One week was enough to make it very plain to myself that the military life isn’t for me, to the chagrin of my parents, and the back pat of my brother who was a cadet at that time.

Though I’m no soldier (I do love guns, of course), as a member of a military family the issues of those in the service are very much in my mind. However as a group, us in tech, I’ve found that military service, and familiarity with our armed services is light; we just don’t overlap with the Army or Navy or Air Force or Marines or Coast Guard. Given that, I think that an important issue facing our returning service men and women is not receiving the attention that it deserves from our industry.

Veterans often face a difficult transition back into civilian life after a tour or three. It’s a challenge even for the best educated of our troops, to get back to a 9 to 5. Those with lesser education credentials can have an even tougher time of it. As a nation who expects a volunteer service to fight our wars and handle its echoing effects for the rest of their lives, I personally don’t think that we do enough as country, let alone as a business niche.

Happily, after some investigation, even though you won’t find too many techies chatting about gun cabinets or Semper Fi tattoos, several tech companies have already stepped up to the plate, and are working to train, and hire veterans.

This is excellent, for a number of critical reasons. Primarily, technology jobs pay well, relatively, and as our industry is an engine of growth, there is a good supply of open positions. Any conduit that can connect our returning warriors and a solid, steady, job with benefits is a good in my books.

Now, no veteran wants a hand out. You won’t find a more self-sufficient group than those in our armed services. They’re tougher than us, and they know it, but they won’t show it off. But I will say that our titans in tech are locking down profits in the billions, and cash hoards approaching twelve digits are hardly out of reach. While some tech companies are quietly doing good, I think that we can, and should, do more.

I’m going to highlight a sample of what several tech companies are doing to support veterans, but this post is only the start of a conversation that I want to have. If you are a veteran, tech employer, a job seeker, or anyone who has insight into this issue, please send me a note: [email protected] Let me know. Especially if you are doing something innovative.

Right, here are few things that are out there right now, as quoted from the White House’s page on companies that are making commitments to veterans:

Microsoft will offer 10,000 technology training and certification packages to U.S. military veterans over a two year period, through a partnership with the Department of Labor. The technology training and certification will be available at intermediate and advanced levels and will be delivered through e-learning, with additional in person support. This partnership is an extension of the overall Microsoft Elevate America veteran’s initiative, which demonstrates a total investment of $12 million cash, product and related support for U.S. veterans.

AT&T is launching two new online resources: a custom military skills translator, which will enable servicemen and women to use their current Military Occupation Code or Military Occupation Specialty to find corresponding civilian career opportunities at AT&T, and the Careers4Vets program which connects interested veterans with mentors within AT&T. These new platforms will support AT&T’s ongoing veteran initiatives, including supplier diversity initiatives like Operation Hand Salute, a mentoring program that is designed to help disabled veteran businesses develop the tools and expertise to win large corporate contracts.

LinkedIn is committed to adopting the job posting schema and developing an easy to use tagging method to help facilitate the identification of veteran hiring commitments posted on their web site. Additionally, LinkedIn is developing innovative applications to support veteran employment and developing a microsite to help veterans find jobs.

Google helped design the job posting schema and is supporting the Veterans Job Bank through its custom search engine. [The company also] launched “Google for Veterans and Families,” on Veterans Day 11.11.11 as a single interface that brings together Google products and platforms for service members and their families.

I was very content to see the number of tech faces on the list. It’s also somewhat endearing that I haven’t (perhaps I’m deaf) heard these firms trumpeting their work.

Now, this post is a call to arms, of a sort, so here’s what I think that we could do as an industry: identify what military specialties translate well into specific technology roles, and build a path from active duty service to private employment. This would need to be coupled to a jobs database, of course. There’s probably a startup opportunity here. You build it, I’ll write about it.

Hire a vet, you won’t regret it. They know how to care for high explosives and the lives of their squad mates. They can handle the office, trust me.