A New Look at Veteran Careers in Information Technology

Intelligence

US Air Force photo

For many military service members transitioning from active duty to veteran status, finding the right job, or any job, may be a challenge. According to PBS Newshour columnist Eileen Trauth, the bad news is that veterans face a number of challenges diminishing their chances for a smoother transition. The good news is that overcoming these challenges may simply be a better understanding of the job market. Here are some highlights from Trauth’s column.

STEREOTYPES about new veterans

Too often, according to Trauth, employers harbor misguided stereotypes about new Veterans. Indeed, with headlines often reporting on Veteran suicide rates and crimes associated with PTSD crises—real problems that demand attention from local to federal levels—some may believe that today’s young Veterans are broken. Nothing could be further from the truth, and up and coming veterans organizations like Got Your 6 are working hard to shatter those stereotypes. Many of today’s veterans are anxious to re-cast American veterans as service-oriented, community conscious, self-starters both anxious and uniquely equipped to contribute, in extraordinary ways, to the companies—both profit and non-profit—that they join.

No doubt, with their worldwide experience and demonstrated and redundant successes in some of the harshest, most demanding environments most can begin to imagine, veterans are a known quantity: they succeed. They’re tech savvy. And they help organizations succeed, too. “Research I conducted with K.D. Joshi from Washington State University,” writes Trauth, “found that many veterans are well-qualified for work in the information technology sector – a wide and diverse range of computer- and communications-related jobs.”

is the it industry too boring for vets?

Aside from challenges on the employer side, Trauth highlights the challenges on the veteran side more prominently. Perhaps the largest challenge for new veterans is misconceptions. That is, misconceptions about what the job market really offers. For instance, in spite of veterans’ IT strengths, Trauth’s research found that “large numbers of veterans hold stereotypes that discourage them from seeking IT employment, depriving companies of skilled employees and veterans of meaningful and rewarding work.” Understandable. I have the same misconception. When I think IT, I think cubicle. I smell hot solder. I feel dead inside. I’m wrong.

For some veterans careers in IT are exactly what’s right for them,. Veterans with cyber experience naturally migrate to the IT sector. And Trauth reports that some Veterans who are challenged with hearing loss, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and the like find the IT field very attractive. Some veterans told Trauth, “’It is a good field for people with hearing disability,’ ‘I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder with panic. It is easier to interact with a computer than with people,’ and ‘It is less strenuous than [my former job of] being a construction electrician.’” All great points (now I’m thinking IT might be right for me).

However, Trauth found that some veterans simply misunderstand what an IT career really is. Trauth explains that it’s a misperception that “IT professionals sit in front of computer screens all day and do not interact with people.” She concedes, “That is true of some jobs, but not all of them.” Additionally, some veterans with experience in logistics, with strengths in leadership skills, with deep experience in management of small and large numbers of people fail to see that the IT industry needs leaders, logistics, and managers.

bridging the failure to communicate

Trauth argues that both employers and Veteran job prospects need to work together to solve these stereotypes and misconceptions. To be sure, Veterans are known quantities readily available to bring a host of experiences and hard skills to IT teams, and IT jobs are stepping stones to much broader careers across disciplines. Now, it’s just a matter of getting these two together.

Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.