Honoring Veterans at Solstice

For Solstice, 2019 has been a landmark year as we have intentionally worked to attract, hire, and serve more individuals who have served. Our number of Solstie veterans has grown from the two that were a part of our team a few years ago to the ten Solstie veterans who teach us all about servant leadership today — Brendan O’Brien, Carl Grin, Chris Gahol, Daman Singh, Jeremy Sumpter, Mark Overstreet, Mark Sage, Shalom Shushan, Steve Richardson, and Willie Hernandez.

At Solstice, we feel an incredible amount of both respect and gratitude for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who defend our freedom. 

To honor that respect, in the US this year we implemented a robust military leave policy which protects Solsties who continue to serve in the National Guard or Reserves. We’ve also partnered with Hiring Our Heroes to welcome two fellows into Solstice, helping to bridge the gap between their military service and their civilian careers. Finally, we’ll be sponsoring our first Code Platoon class in December as another great path for military transitions. 

This Veterans Day, we wanted to take a moment to honor the past and present of our Solstie veterans — not only to learn more about them, but to give them an opportunity to share insights for transitioning military members looking to start a new career in technology.

 

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Our Solstie Veterans span across all disciplines within the firm. Here's Jeremy, Brendan, Shalom, Willie, and Mark O. who met us for a quick photo last week.

 

What does Veteran’s Day mean to you?

Carl Grin: Veteran’s Day for me is a reminder that the freedoms and quality of life we enjoy is because brave men and women volunteer to serve and protect our country from an ever-changing and dangerous world.  

Chris Gahol: It’s the day I’m reminded about my other family. I think about my past and all the veterans I’ve met. It is also the day after the Marine Corps birthday so I’m usually spending the day recovering after the Marine Corps Ball.

Jeremy Sumpter: Veteran’s Day is all about showing your support to the veterans that sacrifice day in and day out to protect the country’s greater interest.

Mark Overstreet: Mainly it is an opportunity to think about the people with whom I’ve served and people I know who have served, like my grandfather (WWII) and uncle (Vietnam). I also appreciate the opportunity to go to local schools through the VFW to represent veterans, give a short speech, etc.

Mark Sage: It is a time to honor those that have served in combat, given their lives or health in service of the United States.

 

Are there any assumptions about veterans in the US that you would like to change?

Brendan O’Brien: I serve on the Veterans Leadership Council, a professional networking organization for veterans. We are shifting the narrative for businesses, large and small. Veterans are not a population in need, veterans are a population in demand. Veterans are outcome-driven and they know how to manage scarce resources with discipline and focus to achieve those outcomes. Find me a single employer who wouldn’t love that person on their team!

Chris Gahol: Veterans are not unstable. We are trained to protect and will go to extreme lengths to do so. We might go a bit overboard on how we react to everyday life but we were trained that if anything goes wrong it usually means someone dies. It’s hard to adjust, even though for me it’s been years since active duty.

Daman Singh: People tend to have a preconceived notion that all military personnel are in the combat arms jobs. The truth is that the diversity in opportunities provided by the US military are unmatched. To continue being the best fighting force in the world, our military requires a plethora of skills and backgrounds. The bottom line is that if you’re skilled, you can find an MOS aligned with your background.

Jeremy Sumpter: Veterans are not all type A, aggressive people — at least not in the way that Hollywood would make them seem. Veterans are just like anyone else except that they have a strong, compelling feeling to serve in the military in service to the nation.

 

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Carl, Brendan, and Mark S. after this month's Solstice Veteran's Lunch — something the team coordinates on their own as a way to support one another.

 

What are some unique challenges you’ve faced as a veteran in the workplace throughout your career?

Carl Grin: In the military you are often driven to a common goal as a team. In the workplace, you will experience more differences between your priorities and other’s which can be fine, it can just be different.

Daman Singh: My prior military experience has only enabled me in the workplace. I’ve been lucky to not face any challenges due to my military background.

Shalom Shushan: As an IDF veteran, unique challenge comes from the fact that we are still on reserve until our late 40s meaning that we can be called at anytime. It can be difficult to find a workplace that understands this. When called you could potentially be away for a few months, and when your service is over you’re not always ready to go back to work. A lot of us need time to process some experiences from battles, and it’s challenging coming back to a workplace that’s moved forward. It can feel like walking into the future in terms of project progress and relearning your role. Not all work places are understanding so there are laws in-place to try and help employees who are veterans.

 

How has your experience as a veteran translated to working at Solstice?

Daman Singh: Solstice not only instantly recognized my military background, but also made sure that I was connected with other veterans in the company. Being able to create relationships and learn from fellow Solstie veterans has made my transition into Solstice a complete breeze.

Mark Overstreet: Servant leadership is the core of all leadership trainings, formal and informal, that I’ve received in the Navy. In addition, I have developed the skill to provide candid, constructive feedback (good and bad), which I think has benefited me and my team.

Steve Richardson: I think one of the things I have most enjoyed at Solstice has been the focus on interpersonal communication and adaptive responses to challenges. As a Marine Corps Officer these skills are an absolute must in leading within complex and chaotic environments. I easily see myself and others relating this commonality and making these skills a center of gravity during the transition.

Willie Hernandez: My experience as a veteran has taught me how to improvise, be resilient, and have a “mission first, people always” mentality.  The ability to improvise allows me to analyze a situation, create a solution, and take the initiative to implement it. My resiliency enables me to undertake daunting tasks and to see them through, because I know that I will persevere. Finally, my “mission first, people always” mentality allows me to stay focused on the goal at hand, while understanding that the people you work with are the key to accomplishing that goal.

 

How did you become interested in a career in technology?

Brendan O’Brien: I was still on active duty when USAA came out with mobile check deposit. They were the first to enable customers to deposit checks with a smartphone which is now table-stakes. After this, I switched banks very quickly because this “mobile moment” simplified my life in a small way. In aggregate, all these digital developments greatly impact our lives, for better or worse. I wanted to be part of a team that was making it for the better.

Chris Gahol: I played a lot of video games growing up so after I started playing PC games, an uncle of mine told me that computers are easy to put together. I taught myself about computers and started building my own since I was 18. Now, seeing how technology has advanced so quickly, it’s made me more interested in how technology can improve our daily lives.

Shalom Shushan: My interest in technology started at a young age. My brother took programming in high school and I learned coding by watching him (because when I was a kid a household would only have one computer :) ) Working in IT just seemed natural to me, since I grew up spending most of my time in front of a computer screen.

 

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Chris, Steve, Carl, Mark S., and Daman who met us for a quick photo after attending a Leadership Luncheon event last week.

 

What advice would you give US military members looking to transition into technology consulting?

Brendan O’Brien: If you’re clear that technology is the sector for you, try to figure out what type of role you want — engineer, project manager, etc. From there, start networking about 12-18 months out from separation. Leverage LinkedIn to find fellow veterans or alumni who are in that role within technology and then ask them for a 15-minute informational interview. You’ll be surprised how many times you get a yes and how much people will go out of their way to help. Just remember to be grateful and then pay it forward.

Mark Sage: To get into technology consulting, college isn’t a requirement. You can get a start in the field with a high interest in technology, fantastic self-study habits, and some quality boot camps.

Steve Richardson: Start early. Set a date for your transition that allows you to reach your goals and then move it to the left six months. Find and read books and articles based in corporate America on strategic initiatives, tactical implementation, emotional intelligence, interviewing skills, and technology trends. Begin your certification process as soon as you can. There are a lot of programs out there to assist service members in this challenging transition. Build your brand — there are plenty of resources to help you build, refine, and adjust it as necessary. Build your Linkedin profile to be an asset for your transition not another “social” media platform to spend time on. Then network online and in person at every moment you have available. 

Willie Hernandez: I would tell Soldiers that want to start a career as a technology consultant that the job is extremely rewarding and that the challenges they will face are similar to the problems they faced in the military. If they need help transitioning, there are a couple of veteran groups that can help. One group that was very helpful was Operation Code — a group of veterans that are currently working in the technology industry who are willing to help as much as they can. There are also code camps meant for veterans, which you can use your education benefits to go to. If you are still having issues, feel free to contact me and I will do what I can to help.

 

Honoring the past and present of our Solsties is not just important to us, it’s at the core of our culture. Sending a big thank you from Solstice to all veterans across the world today!