Search interest for “jobs for veterans” reached an all-time high in the United States in 2019. Meet veterans on the journey to civilian success.
Silas Avilez Sergeant, U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina 2013-2019
Silas Avilez is a recent graduate of the Veteran Capital Fellowship program, where he learned skills, gained experience, and received mentorship from other veterans turned entrepreneurs.
He excelled during his four-month placement at software sales startup REVGEN and now has multiple job offers to consider.
Silas wants veterans to know that they can “do their own thing” — and that deployments, where you learn to operate and thrive in ambiguity, can be a tangible advantage. Opportunities do exist, but it can be hard for veterans to identify which ones are right for them.
“The greatest challenge facing veterans entering the workforce is a lack of awareness of the market, and the market’s lack of awareness of veterans entering the workforce,” notes Tim Horan, who served as a company commander in the 101st Airborne Division (U.S. Army). He co-founded Veteran Capital, a Google for Startups partner, to connect veterans and military spouses with opportunities at growing tech companies. Silas is just one Veteran Capital success story.
The military provides some help with skills translation, but presenting your experience still takes work and resources. Getting mentors. Listening to other veterans share their successes (and setbacks). Figuring out what’s going to work best for you. Silas actively sought out these resources, and he hopes his story can serve as an example of how to successfully transition from military to civilian life.
As veterans like Silas succeed, more employers are recognizing how much they have to offer. “Veterans have the skills and experiences that high-growth tech companies want,” notes Tim. “They’re trained in the latest technology, have exceptional leadership skills, and know how to work in fast-paced environments.”
“I completely understand the struggles and speed bumps ... because I’ve had plenty of failures. You just overcome them and you drive on.”
But companies can and should do even more to help veterans get their footing, notes Silas. “Companies can make it more aware that they welcome veterans … ‘Hey, if you’re a veteran, apply here. We’ll definitely give you a chance to bring yourself to the table and see what you’ve got.’”
Angie Kelly Airman, First Class, U.S. Air Force 628th Security Forces Squadron, Charleston, South Carolina 2011-2014
Angie Kelly is the first person in her family to graduate college, and her journey there wasn’t an easy one.
She grew up in Englewood, on the south side of Chicago. After a brief stint at Illinois Wesleyan, working multiple jobs while a full-time student, Angie realized there must be a better way to get an education.
Angie had always wanted to be part of the military. “The military was so appealing because they tell you that you can get free education and you learn a trade and a skill at the same time.” So, at 19, she enlisted in the Air Force. “It was one of the best decisions that I made, and it felt like a call to service, like a call to something greater.”
She was assigned to security forces and stationed at Charleston, South Carolina, where she met her husband, who is now a special air missions crew chief. “That means that wherever his plane goes, he goes with it … and after becoming pregnant with our first child, we had to have a talk. We didn’t want to have the option of shipping off our kid if both of us were deployed at the same time.”
She made the difficult decision to leave the military, which left her with “pretty much an identity crisis. … ‘Who am I now?’ I’m a veteran, but what does being a veteran mean?”
Enter the USO Pathfinder program and the Google IT Support Professional Certificate Course (hosted on Coursera), which Angie found through Search. “I was like, ‘What? I just used Google to find something about Google. This is amazing,’” she remembers with a chuckle.
Angie took on the self-paced IT course and managed her assignments around family responsibilities. It was daunting at times. Keeping up meant late nights studying and lots of homework. But the payoff was worth it: Completing the program meant not only a certificate but also assistance with the next crucial step — getting hired.
“I’m a veteran, but what does being a veteran mean?”
Angie completed the course in August. She has decided to stay home with her kids and family right now, but is also volunteering with an organization that helps military spouses find remote work. In the future, she may decide to work in IT, but she’s happy that the decision is her own when she’s ready for it. With the support of the USO Pathfinder program and the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, Angie has gained resources and a network to help achieve a career that is both professionally fulfilling and personally meaningful.
Looking forward to what the future holds, Angie advises veterans to keep an open mind. “There’s more than just one side or one certain path. There could be a million ways to do something, so it’s all about finding a way that works for you.”
Carla McIntosh Senior Airman, U.S. Air Force Aerospace Control and Warning Systems, U.S., South Korea, and Bosnia 1992-1998
“Just because you take off the uniform doesn’t change who you are — you’re still you. And that’s very meaningful to employers.”
But taking off the uniform brings many emotions and assumptions — for both veterans and employers. Carla McIntosh knows this all too well.
Carla served in Panama City, Florida; Osan Air Base, South Korea; and Anchorage, Alaska. She was also part of the NATO postwar stabilization efforts in Bosnia. Her work in the Air Force included assisting control of fighter jets for training missions, search and rescue operations, and counter-narcotics efforts. When she left the Air Force, she realized that her organizational and leadership skills would translate well into staffing and consulting work. The challenge was getting employers to understand that.
As she translated her own skills into more civilian-job-friendly terms, Carla realized that helping veterans describe, demonstrate, and present their skills could be a great service. She is now a senior staffing solutions consultant within Google and an advisor to the Google Veterans Network (VetNet), where her work focuses on recruiting and retaining veteran talent.
For veterans with a 5-, 10-, or even 20-year military career, finding their first civilian job can be a humbling experience. Jobs in the military don’t translate perfectly into jobs in the civilian world. But they are getting closer, and a new feature on Google Search allows veterans to search “jobs for veterans” and then enter their military occupational specialty code (MOS, AFSC, NEC) to see relevant civilian jobs that require similar skills to those used in their military roles.
MOS translation can be a starting point to any veteran’s search. But it doesn’t end there. “If you’ve spent the last 20 years building a career, building a family, used to insurance, benefits, and the whole nine, it can be hard to hear that you may not get [the compensation you had] in the civilian world,” Carla notes. She advises veterans to be patient. “If it took you 20 years to get to the level you are at in the military, you can’t expect to get a corporate job at that level without that same level of experience … BUT you can expect to be at that level a lot sooner because your experience does translate.”
“Every connection that you make brings you closer to the person you are talking to. And suddenly, you’ve become a brand ambassador for veterans.”
Carla also encourages veterans to engage with employers by telling their stories. “Ask questions, find out what they know. … Every connection that you make brings you closer to the person you are talking to. And suddenly, you’ve become a brand ambassador for veterans. The interviewer is now seeing a person, a human being who can be useful to them.”
She notes that companies can help by writing more inclusive job descriptions. But most importantly they need to show a commitment to employing veterans by providing “a welcoming work environment. This might mean assigning a mentor, connecting the new hire with another veteran within the company or even someone with a deep connection to the military in some way. There are paths in.”
David Mills Master Sergeant, U.S. Air Force 624th Operations Center, Lackland, Texas 1999-2019
David isn’t your average new Google employee. He’s an Air Force veteran with a 20-year career in cybersecurity.
He received a promotion to the position of master sergeant in 2018, but a year later, he retired. His wife and colleagues were stunned. And to a certain extent, he was too. But he knew it was the right decision.
“There were a series of ‘ahas’ amidst an almost existential feeling that ‘this is your moment … a chance to rewrite the ending for yourself.’ Like, maybe I was made to do something even more, you know?”
Like most new Googlers, he has a heartfelt enthusiasm for his job. For him, it represents a new, different “call to service.” But to understand that, one has to get to know the person behind the uniform.
“This is your moment … a chance to rewrite the ending for yourself.”
David began his career as a security forces officer in the Air Force. From there, he moved up and retrained in Computer Systems Operations and spent his time working within the intelligence and cyber warfare community. He then became a systems engineer, where he learned the ins and outs of program/project management and cybersecurity. By the time he retired, he was leading the training program for Air Force Cyber and Joint Task Force Cyber, which deal with advanced cyber threats and the application of cyber weapon systems.
His journey into a tech career took off in January of 2019, when he went to Austin, Texas, to attend a VetNet hiring event co-hosted by Grow with Google, USO Fort Hood, and USO San Antonio. It was there that he received person-to-person resume and interviewing training, and learned from VetNet members who had also made the transition to the tech world. David engaged with every resource that was made available to him, but one thing stood out about his time spent in the Google workshop: “The whole thing was about, ‘How can we get you hired?’ Not, ‘How can we get you to work for Google,’ but seriously just, ‘How can we help you get a job?’ Just that. Without that event, and everything I learned from it, I couldn’t have landed my dream job.”
Samantha Snabes Captain, Air National Guard Key Field, Meridian, Mississippi 2010-Present
Samantha Snabes is an officer in the Air National Guard and the co-founder and CEO of Re:3D. Her company aims to create and distribute affordable, portable 3D printers so that anyone, anywhere can print what they need.
Samantha and her co-founder, Matthew Fiedler, met while working at NASA. They were part of NASA Johnson Space Center’s Engineers Without Borders volunteer program, traveling to places like Nicaragua and Uganda to help engineers solve local issues. Samantha and Matthew saw a lot of plastic waste and high unemployment in these areas, but what they really took note of was the locals’ frustration about their dependence on foreign aid and reliance on imported goods.
The people they met were incredibly innovative. Samantha and Matthew thought that if they had access to their own tools, they could potentially solve their problems without outside support. They decided to create a 3D printer the size of a portable toilet that cost less than $10,000 and could use recycled plastic. The result? Gigabot.
The project was viable, but it would require more than just a working prototype to launch. Samantha decided to seek support by searching “military networking, Austin,” and found a breakfast meetup for military and veteran business founders run by Bunker Labs.
“I’ve been prepared my whole military career to do this, and I’m bringing all these things with me into this new opportunity.”
Bunker Labs was founded by Navy veteran Todd Connor to promote entrepreneurship in the military community. The organization offers free programs for veterans and military spouses at every stage of entrepreneurship, including online programs, networking events, residencies, and a group for veteran CEOs. Its partnership with Google for Startups offers access to Google resources and employees across the U.S. Samantha was an early participant.
“At the time, I was the only person active,” says Samantha, “but they had a lot of momentum.” Now Austin is a hub for innovative startups, “so there’s been tons of military people moving in and Bunker has really embraced them and helped them get connected. Now people on active duty are starting companies.”
To Todd, this makes perfect sense. He believes that veterans are uniquely suited to entrepreneurship, which is not just about “having a brilliant idea,” but also “working hard, being focused, listening to customers … and being a great leader,” all qualities that military service develops. Samantha is a prime example.
Re:3D now has a staff of 24. Their biggest clients are universities, federal agencies (FAA and NASA), and manufacturers. They opened a showroom in Houston that offers tours for local schools, businesses, and officials. They’ve also started work on building a dryer and grinder for plastics so people can easily print with plastic waste.
Samantha is still an active reserve member, which can be a challenge when running a business. “I was there [Puerto Rico] for re:3D when Hurricane Irma hit, and then I got activated in the middle of the storm. And the next day I was putting on my uniform and actually supporting, doing disaster response with people that we worked with in civilian life. That’s when I think it all came to a head.”
Samantha now works with new veteran entrepreneurs as a Bunker Labs mentor. She reminds potential small business owners to remember their strengths. “You kind of have to say, ‘I’ve been prepared my whole military career to do this, and I’m bringing all these things with me into this new opportunity.’”
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