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 Vets Get Technical

Veterans and organizations show how tech talent and military expertise go hand in hand.
Military expertise is increasingly recruited by companies and federal agencies alike, but, it seems, the technical talents of veterans don’t seem to be matching up as easily, according to Karen Ross, CEO of New York, NY-headquartered Sharp Decisions, sharpdecisions.com.
“Veterans are the technology sector’s most available - but completely ignored - talent resource. They’re capable of filling critical technology project gaps throughout every industry in the most efficient ways I’ve ever seen,” asserts Ross.
Ross and Sharp Decisions are now five years into their industry-first veteran training and deployment program aimed at tackling this issue. The Vocation, Education and Training for Service Members (VETS) Program hires, trains and deploys veterans to Sharp Decision’s Fortune 1,000 clients in areas such as program management, quality assurance, network assessment, business analysis and DevOps, among others.
During the past five years, with the help of their more than two dozen high-profile VETS Program clients across various industries, Ross has helped debunk the theory that veterans don’t have the requisite skill set, are unable to handle the rigors and pressures, and aren’t up to the task.
Helping veterans shed these misconceptions - that they cannot succeed in corporate America -has become a mission for Ross and the company. It’s because of this success that Sharp Decisions was able to expand its program to include cyber and network infrastructure security to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the program a few months ago.
Organizations such as Major League Baseball, Sandia National Laboratories, Tenneco Inc. and G4S Secure Solutions also debunk the notion that veterans cannot succeed in corporate America. Employees such as Ethan Israel, David Torres, Paul Caston and Benjamin Gutierrez are proof-positive that success in the military can well carry over to the business world. Read their stories here.
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MLB’s Israel Shares His Tech Talent with America’s National Pastime
Having participated in the VETS training program at Sharp Decisions, Ethan Israel, like many veterans, credits the military with providing opportunities to both experience leadership roles and work with diverse groups of individuals toward a common goal.
And, it is with those acquired skills, that he’s been able to carve out a great career for himself in the IT world.
“The six years I spent in the Army National Guard have been invaluable in my current career at Major League Baseball (MLB) as a senior test engineer,” Israel says.
Israel’s current work with New York, NY-headquartered Major League Baseball Advanced Media, MLB’s digital arm, includes leading a team of three software testers who plan, implement, and execute manual and automated testing of several enterprise applications that assist in the operation of the 30-team MLB, the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.
“Although it was something I studied a bit in college, I did not take a serious interest in IT until I participated in the Sharp Decisions VETS Training program,” says Israel. “It was through this program that I acquired five years of industry experience in software testing that resulted in a consultant position at MLB. Two years later, I was hired full time.”
According to Israel, IT is a sector with tremendous growth potential, especially as technology becomes an ever-bigger part of our lives.
“In the future I see this trend continuing - even exponentially - with big advancements made in automation that will change the industry and lead to even more opportunities for skilled individuals with a passion for innovation,” he believes.
If you ask Israel, however, his response would be that U.S. veterans could very well be the future of the industry.
“I believe companies have to realize how much of an untapped resource veterans are,” he states, stressing the need for companies to be willing to take a chance, and invest in training and entry-level opportunities for those who may or may not have relevant experience from their time in service.
Additionally, increasing awareness among veterans in all programs and incentives that already exist would be a huge help. “If it was not for companies like Sharp Decisions taking a chance on me, and so many other veterans, I would not be in my position today,” Israel points out.
Israel further asserts that it’s also about more than getting a chance. Those able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and self-motivate to achieve goals they set for themselves can find significant success in the IT sector.
“This is actually something the military does a great job of teaching, and I advise veterans to know that even if their service time did not involve a lot of technology work, they still have acquired skills that are invaluable to an IT career,” counsels Israel, who finds it highly rewarding to be a contributing member of a great team of people.
For more information about MLB, visit mlb.com, mlb.mlb.com/careers/index.jsp and social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.
Torres’ Tech Talent Supports Sandia’s Engineering Activities
As a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), multimission Sandia National Laboratories is operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Sandia Labs supports numerous federal, state and local government agencies, companies and organizations, and has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness.
And, for the past two and a half years, U.S. Army veteran David Torres has been an integral part of the tech team at this Albuquerque, NM-headquartered facility, where he’s a senior engineering support technologist. A recipient of a Bachelor of Science in technology management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, he’s now furthering his education by studying for a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering at the University of New Mexico.
While in the Army, Torres was an AH-64 armament/electrical/avionic systems repair sergeant and worked as a subject matter expert. While his military duties differed from his current civilian responsibilities, his transition to his current career field was made possible via Sandia’s Wounded Warrior Career Development Program (WWCDP), where he received training and mentorship as an engineering support technologist.
Now working on the computer side of Sandia, Torres works in cybersecurity focusing on hardware security. Introduced to the hardware side of computer technology and electrical engineering, he says his desire to become an engineer was buoyed by his work on the engineering designs of Apache helicopters.
“I chose Sandia because of the WWCDP and the opportunity to earn my engineering degree on a part-time basis at an organization that allows for flexible work hours,” he states.
Today Torres’ duties involve facilitating operations for scientific research and development research testing at several labs. In this capacity he’s responsible for conducting electrical and software circuit analysis experiments, as well as developing tests in hardware descriptive languages for use by engineers on field programmable gate arrays.
Torres operates on the philosophy that if he’s not challenged by his work, then he’s wasting his time. This isn’t the case at Sandia.
“At Sandia I’m excited to be part of a fast-paced sector that’s extremely rewarding,” he notes. “As technology advances, so do the challenges. Working for a national laboratory allows me to be surrounded by others who are the best in their fields - a good fit for a lab that has, for more than 60 years, delivered essential science and technology designed to resolve our nation’s most challenging security issues.”
As for the skills he identifies as vitally important, Torres cites determination, tenacity, patience and an affinity for the technical aspects of the job. What he most enjoys about his work are the challenges it presents.
“The most satisfying part is seeing results after putting something together,” remarks Torres, who’s still a member of WWCDP where he mentors newly hired veterans and serves as a guest speaker at events sponsored by Sandia’s Military Support Committee.
For service members newly transitioning to the civilian sector, he stresses the many opportunities that are available for veterans who are persistent and determined to excel.
For more information about Sandia National Laboratories, check out sandia.gov, sandia.gov/careers, Twitter, Facebook, DVIDS, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Giphy, Google+ and the company’s RSS feed.
Tenneco’s Caston Leads & Encourages Fellow Vets in Their Civilian Career Pursuit
With academic and professional experience that includes a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago, 25 years in IT and nine years in the Illinois Army National Guard culminating with the rank of Sergeant E5, Paul Caston is well-suited for his role as IT director, global infrastructure and operations, enterprise business systems at Lake Forest, IL-headquartered Tenneco Inc.
Caston describes how the military prepared him for his job at Tenneco, a diversified global employer of a 32,000-employee workforce and a global manufacturer of ride performance and clean air products, and tech solutions for light vehicles, commercial trucks, off-highway equipment and the aftermarket.
“During my time with the military, I was charged with leading and providing support to different people from different backgrounds, providing support to infantry, as well as being deployed nationally to address local disaster recovery. This experience provided outstanding preparation for my current job in the civilian sector,” he states.
As for what drew him to the IT/computing industry, Caston credits his early interest in math.
“I got my first dose of computers in grade school, and it stuck with me all the way through college and into my career,” Caston details.
“Eight and a half years ago, after working in managing consulting and banking IT for several years, my love of technology led me to Tenneco. I felt a need to move to a more traditional and global, infrastructure leadership role.”
In his present capacity Caston is responsible for hosting global infrastructure services and data center strategy, which includes servers, databases, storage, backup and disaster recovery.
His take on careers in the IT/computing industry in all sectors is positive. “There are many opportunities. Within the automotive arena, as with all businesses intent on modernizing and increasing cost-effectiveness, keeping up with technology is imperative for both leadership and customers,” he maintains.
With this in mind Caston encourages veterans with an interest in IT and computing to pursue careers in those fields.
“Not only will such veterans have the full support of the military, they’ll also have the advantage of participating in challenging and fulfilling careers,” he points out, identifying excellent communication, organization, planning and solid technical skills as important attributes.
At Tenneco Caston particularly enjoys being able to provide leadership and direction to a global organization. Outside of work, he remains a long-term community volunteer dedicated to helping children increase their self-confidence through sports.
For more information about Tenneco, visit tenneco.com and tenneco.com/careers, and the company’s LinkedIn and Twitter pages.
Gutierrez Leads Tech Team Supporting North American G4S Business Units
With automation totaling 90% of his job during his 15 years in the U.S. Army, Benjamin Gutierrez took advantage of the opportunity to complete his Microsoft certification while in the service.
“This was a military requirement for those with the rank of SSG/E6, 56 NCOIC and HQ PLT. SGT.,” says Gutierrez, who served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and is now IT team leader at G4S Secure Solutions, which has North American headquarters in Jupiter, FL with offices throughout the country and the world.
For Gutierrez, working with computers was always an interest, but it was in the military that his full potential was reached in this field.
“Upon retiring from the service, many job opportunities presented themselves, given my work experience and security clearance,” he reports.
He also credits the many programs and services offered by the military to outgoing personnel that were instrumental in helping him develop a professional career path in civilian life.
After separating from the military, and interviewing with several employers, Gutierrez found that G4S stood out as his employer of choice.
“G4S is not only recognized as a company that takes pride in hiring and retaining veterans, it also offers great opportunities for advancement. For me, that was a particular appeal,” he states.
“Starting as a senior IT support staffer, within eight months I transitioned to my current management position at a company with approximately 60,000 employees.”
Now in his third year, Gutierrez is on board with his company’s goal of securing people, property and assets by mitigating security risks and delivering innovative solutions that span an entire organization.
Charged with providing support within his business unit and other G4S organizations across North America, Gutierrez’s team of nine highly motivated and knowledgeable individuals run a trouble ticketing system for all IT-related issues.
“We manage everything from account creations for our domain and email accounts, computer imaging processes and inventory that includes management of all licensed software. Our help desk is available 24/7 to deal with any problems that may arise from hardware issues to software applications to basic know-how instructions,” remarks the IT manager.
According to Gutierrez, the IT arena is ever-changing with new technological breakthroughs occurring constantly. “Updating one’s knowledge is both essential and a requirement for all businesses that expect to grow,” he contends.
Recommending that soldiers take advantage of the free IT/computing training and experience offered by the military, he notes how “the potential for high-demand careers within the civilian sector is immense.”
He additionally mentions that the IT/computing sector often requires prior experience beyond entry-level, and that individuals well-versed in several areas are sought as opposed to those who focus on one specific space.
“Veterans have a clear advantage in the hiring process as they possess significant knowledge, skill sets, experience and expertise that provide an abundant amount of resources in the transition from military to civilian life,” says Gutierrez, who finds G4S a great company for which to work, who thoroughly enjoys the challenges of his profession, and who adds, “Army Strong - Hooah!”
For more information about G4S, visit g4s.us, g4s.us/en/careers, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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