Throughout the week, we're posting stories from veterans who’ve made strides in the technology industry on our blog and on Medium. You can also find them all here and follow the conversation about how to support more veterans in this growing industry at #VetsWhoTech.
When RaeAnne, an intel officer in the Army, got out of the military in 2012, she never envisioned herself working at a tech company like Facebook. During her time in the Army, she had been a company commander managing 100 people, and deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq where she analyzed data to inform operations on the ground. Up until that point, Facebook had played a different, but crucial, role in her day-to-day life: while she was deployed in Afghanistan, it was the lifeline between RaeAnne and her husband, who was serving in Iraq.
After leaving the Army, she and her husband made the move from Kentucky to New York City, where he could attend business school using his GI benefits. RaeAnne started at an event marketing job at the New York Stock Exchange. As she worked with client companies going public, she was particularly excited by her tech startup clients, such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
When she and her husband moved to Silicon Valley in 2014 for his new job at LinkedIn, her next career move wasn’t clear, but she came across an exciting opportunity. The COMMIT Foundation, a non-profit that helps veterans transition to the civilian workforce, offered to cover the $12,000 tuition for an immersive training program for people who want to work in startups. She took the opportunity as a chance to build relationships with employers in the tech industry, understand startup culture, and strengthen her skills in sales and business development. However, “Without the scholarship, I couldn’t have afforded paying $12,000 and not earning an income for 12 weeks,” she says.
The Tradecraft program gave RaeAnne the foundational skills she needed, but it also took a friend championing her from the inside, some coaching sessions on the Facebook sales pitch and business, as well as several exchanges with multiple recruiters at Facebook to finally land a position. It wasn’t easy: “Not a ton of vets were being hired at the time.” Many recruiters don’t know how to translate a veteran’s resume, and they may not want to take a risk on a candidate. Her friend at the company had to work hard behind the scenes to interpret RaeAnne’s military background for recruiters and hiring managers in terms, skills, and experience they could understand and translate into a sales role.
Now she is in a position that draws on her experience old and new. In the military, RaeAnne was required to analyze data, paint the current landscape, and infer appropriate decisions for senior commanders. Facebook requires that she fulfill similar responsibilities, but with a focus on optimizing advertising campaigns and advising decisions for startup clients to help grow their business—emphasizing, as the military did, the importance of teamwork and camaraderie along the way.