How Hiring Veterans Wins The War For Tech Talent
by Geri Stengel
As the saying goes, “the only thing constant is change.” Nothing could be truer for the tech industry. There will always be some new hot technology skill that everyone is competing to hire. “You have to be agile and spin on a dime,” said Karen Ross, CEO at Sharp Decisions. You also have to have a clear differentiator.
She started her company in 1990. Over time, Ross discovered an incredible source of talent — military veterans. They have traits that make them ideal workers, including hard-working, detail-oriented, quick learners, team players, and deadline-oriented. They also have leadership and technology skills. Placing veterans in technical jobs became Sharp Decision’s differentiator.
Despite the decreasing veteran unemployment rate, underemployment remains a problem. Many had much higher levels of authority in the military. When they returned to civilian life, they had to take low-skilled level jobs that don’t pay well.
Now, you would think it would have been a piece of a cake to place vets in tech jobs. Surprisingly, it was not.
The business world was resistant. Corporations felt veterans didn’t necessarily have the know-how on the specific technology platforms businesses were seeking. Even the language they used was problematic. Civilians and the military speak differently. Veterans often found themselves using acronyms and catchphrases that their business coworkers did not understand. Ross recognized that if veterans could quickly master complicated new technologies and transfer these skills to other industries, they could also learn the language of business.
Her solution was to start a training program — Vocation, Education, and Training for Servicemembers (V.E.T.S.) Program. The program hires, trains, and deploys veterans to Sharp’s clients, often in teams. Today, it may be all about automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain. Tomorrow, it may be other technologies. You have to be responsive. Providing training is key to being responsive.
Sharp also determined that the teamwork approach taught in the military drives much higher efficiency for client engagements, especially because the veterans are trained together for specific companies and projects, which allow them to assimilate quickly and provide immediate results. In addition to application development, cybersecurity, network assessment, and information security, veterans have ideal skills for project management, business analysis, and quality assurance.
Hiring veterans has additional benefits. “Years ago, people worked for companies,” said Ross. “Today, people work for people.” Veterans know how to build a cohesive team and motivate them to work toward a common goal. No surprise, three-quarters of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as very important, according to ClearCompany.
The tech industry is notorious for projects that are over budget and late. Fewer than one-third of all tech projects were completed on time and on budget over the past year, according to Ross
Hiring veterans is also a solution to the smaller pool of H-1B workers. The administration of President Donald Trump has dramatically decreased H-1B visas, with outsourcing and staffing companies particularly hard hit. H-1B visas were designed to fill a shortage of STEM workers. However, companies abused the program. Some companies use the program to fill entry-level programming and software development jobs.
Offshoring and onshoring talent trends seesaw back and forth. While offshoring talent was back on the rise in 2019, the upsurge in data breaches raises security concerns. Though it may be more expensive in the short term, hiring veterans in the US may be cheaper in the long term. Tracking the trends and understanding how your solution meets the new needs of the market is key.
How will you keep up as your industry changes?
Originally published on September 11, 2019 on Forbes.com. Geri Stengel is the president of Ventureneer, a digital media and market research company that helps corporations reach small businesses through thought leadership.