"With no superior officer telling you how to spend your time, you become incredibly self-motivated. That awareness of personal responsibility serves you well in the tech industry."David Sison, Adzerk Senior Software Engineer
The tech industry attracts a wide range of engineering talent, from those with years of advanced training to those who turned a programming hobby into a new career.
For two of us (David Sison and I) at Adzerk, the background that led us to ad tech engineering was military experience. We’re both Senior Software Engineers, as well as Army veterans. David completed Arabic language training at DLI in Monterey, California before being discharged on disability. I served with the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, was deployed to locations across the U.S. and Chile, and did a tour of Iraq.
We wanted to share our thoughts on how our military training supports and informs our daily engineering work. We’re admittedly biased, but we’ll explain why we think veterans make great engineers.
The diversity of the armed forces offers great basic training for today’s workplaces. For example, before we joined the Army (and eventually Adzerk), we had very different experiences. I was already a programmer, whereas David was a Blockbuster store manager who built his computer and did some minor OS administration in his spare time.
Once you’re in uniform, and on the job, though, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what’s on your resume. Most tasks require teamwork, clear communication, and a commitment to common goals. Working with and trusting your fellow soldiers prepares you to do the same with your future colleagues.
That team mentality is also valuable when resources are scarce and must be pooled together — including human resources when a teammate is out and quick responses are needed.
Unique life skills
While we no longer follow the Army’s strict daily regimens, David continues to pack (and save on baggage fees) using the Ranger Roll method that’s become popular with civilian travelers as well.
We also continue to ask open-ended questions when seeking information, such as, “How do you pack your clothes?” rather than the presumptive, “Do you pack your clothes Ranger Roll-style?”
These open-ended questions prove more helpful — and result in more insightful responses — when we’re troubleshooting issues with our teammates and clients.
Discipline and motivation
The military instills and rewards self-discipline:
- Showing up early and prepared
- Communicating clearly and unambiguously
- Taking ownership and avoiding excuses
- Taking care of others before yourself
- Identifying where work needs to be done and doing it responsibly
These traits have given us an advantage over job candidates who are motivated to do the engineering work but lack self-discipline.
Once you leave the military, you’re now at the top of the chain of command for your daily life. You’re forced to make all of your own decisions (and meals) and deal with the consequences.
Life in the armed forces also teaches you how to stretch incomes and resources, which can make vets particularly adaptable to changing market conditions and limited budgets.
Additionally, military operations (particularly combat operations) require a great deal of initiative and improvisation, which gives veterans more confidence in their own abilities — a needed trait for a programmer.
The Army trained us to approach situations by gathering all the necessary information and leaving as few unknowns as possible — which certainly helps to solve engineering problems.
For instance, my existing computer skills contributed to my success in the Army. Every unit and workplace needs a discreet, sleeper IT guy to get them out of a pinch.
Thinking about your post-military prospects?
Whether you’re considering an engineering career — or a tech company considering engineering candidates — we hope we’ve made a case for veterans.
As we continue to apply the skills and discipline we acquired in the Army to our work at Adzerk, we’d love to learn more about your experiences.
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