Veterans Who Code Spotlight
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Each year, about 200,000 individuals leave the military and chart a new path in the civilian workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans and their families face many possible changes in those first months after leaving the military, including moving, changing schools, and finding a new job.
In 2020, veterans faced higher unemployment rates due to the pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that unemployment of veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Services since September 2001 rose to 7.3%.
Veterans often face challenges translating their military skills to civilian employment, but the tech field offers an opportunity for veterans who code to find exciting new careers. The BLS projects 22% growth in employment of software developers from 2019 through 2029, for example.
Veterans can often use their military education benefits, such as the GI Bill®; transition programs like the VA's VET TEC program; or resources from nonprofit organizations like Vets Who Code to gain technical skills in coding, user design, and other popular career tracks.
The VA also expanded its Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program to address the needs of veterans unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program includes several careers in tech.
Meet a Veteran Who Codes
Tyler Pinckard is a Silicon Valley veteran who has worked in the trenches of technology companies of all sizes and all stages (from seed start-up to series A to late stage through IPO). He’s a former U.S. Army Intelligence Officer and blockchain architect. Pinckard earned an MSE in Computer Engineering from UCLA and a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Tyler Pinckard has worked with Silicon Valley tech companies of all sizes, from start-ups to late-stage IPOs.
Tyler served 12 years in the California National Guard, working as a military intelligence officer and leading troops before venturing into the tech field. He was always interested in computers and entrepreneurship. In high school, he started a small business offering computer repair.
The military provided him funds to pay for his college education. He pursued his interest in computer engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and later earned a master's degree in computer engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Entering the Tech Industry After Serving in the Military
When Tyler left the military, he had the technical skills companies needed, but he also had something more. The military helped him develop skills in time management, communication, and interpersonal relationships.
"The skills I learned in the military are indispensable in the tech world," he said. Tyler brought decisiveness and skills in "getting the mission accomplished," in addition to other talents, to his new career.
Professional Challenges Encountered by Veterans
Transitioning from the military to Silicon Valley was not without its challenges, Tyler said.
"There was quite a bit of curiosity on the part of hiring managers," he explained. He fielded questions on what it was like to serve in the military, his job responsibilities while in the military, and why he decided to leave.
Individuals preparing to leave the military often have access to Transition Assistance Program workshops, which provide career exploration opportunities and help servicemembers craft resumes and prepare for interviews. Tyler recommends considering how the skills gained through your service transfer to the job you are seeking.
"It's important to translate the role you had in the military into terms that are understandable by civilian employers by avoiding military jargon and using general terms."
Tyler recommends considering how the skills gained through your service transfer to the job you are seeking.
For example, he would say he led a team of 12 people rather than identifying himself as a "squad leader." There can be other changes, as well, like remembering to use civilian time.
"I have to demonstrate that I can operate well not only in the military, but also in the civilian/tech world," Tyler added.
Your military service may also provide educational and training benefits, including tuition-free programs, scholarships, and housing allowances. Check with the VA for more resources to help you access high-quality programs to build tech skills.
Tyler said some positions offered a hiring preference for veterans who code. His employer also recognizes his service with support in his day-to-day activities and perks like taking Veterans Day off.
Transferable Tech Skills
Tyler also found a way to embrace his entrepreneurial spirit and his desire for social justice by founding Coffee Shift. Using his tech skills as a blockchain architect, Tyler partnered with Colombian coffee farmers to build a direct-to-consumer marketplace, allowing them to keep a greater share of the profits.
"This has a huge impact on those farmers who often struggle to make a living," he said.
Insight and Advice From a Veteran Who Codes
Technology is always moving forward, says Tyler, so veterans in tech need to quickly learn new toolsets and deliver results for their employer.
"Every post-military job I've had uses a different stack, so I'm never not learning!"
For veterans considering a tech career, Tyler says, "Go for it! There is a huge demand for developers, and it's an exciting place to be."
Frequently Asked Questions About Transitioning Into Tech
You don't necessarily need a college degree to launch a successful career in the tech industry. Coding bootcamps offer streamlined instruction in essential skills to help veterans pursue a tech job in just a few months. However, many veterans may want to consider a computer science degree for a more in-depth curriculum than a bootcamp can offer.
While many bootcamps welcome students without a background in coding, you often do need some foundational skills. Bootcamp prep programs, which last a few weeks to a month or more, can help build the foundational skills necessary for success in an intensive bootcamp. Some companies offer prep classes for free, while others may charge.
Veterans who code can pursue multiple career paths in tech. Popular careers include full-stack web or software development, data analysis, and user experience design. The BLS projects that overall employment in computer and technology fields is likely to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average projected growth rate of 4% for all occupations.
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GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/index.asp.