What Local Companies Can Do to Increase Veterans in Tech

Janey Zitomer
November 11, 2020
Toastmasters
toastmasters

In 2013, Microsoft founded its software and systems academy program, otherwise known as MSSA. The initiative provides transitioning service members and veterans with career skills often required in the tech industry. 

In Colorado, a handful of companies are similarly stepping up to the plate, offering opportunities for those who served to build their skill sets and ultimately, find jobs they truly love. At business software platform Workiva, for example, Senior Delivery Manager Carl Beck completed a fellowship as a delivery manager — which led to a full-time offer — the day after he separated from the Army. 

But the work isn’t done once veterans walk through the door. Companies interested in diversifying their talent pool must support employees throughout their professional journeys. 

That’s why Toastmasters International incorporates mental health first aid training in its employee wellness plan, which it offers to all team members. They also provide professional development resources, including ongoing leadership training, through the Toastmasters intranet. 

“Such classes build upon the company’s values,” Talent Management Specialist Chyanne Cardarella said. 

Those values? Integrity, respect, service and excellence.
 

Carl Beck
Senior Delivery Manager

“Inclusion” is a Workiva core value, which is important to Senior Delivery Manager Carl Beck. As an Army veteran, Beck received hands-on training experience for his current role through the Hiring Our Heroes fellowship program. 

These days, he enjoys being able to connect with other veterans through the company’s Veterans in Tech employee resource group.

 

What brought you to Workiva, and what made you want to work there after the Army?

I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. as a field artillery officer when I decided to separate from the U.S. Army. I learned of the Hiring Our Heroes corporate fellowship program, which allowed me to spend the last 12 weeks of my time in the Army in a business fellowship. 

Workiva was one of the companies that participated in the program, and I was excited by their mission to solve complex business problems through innovative software. I began working with the Workiva talent acquisition team and continued as a delivery manager, which led to a full-time offer. The talent acquisition team involves me in their pursuit of veterans through CSPs and other programs.

I’m able to connect with other veterans, share stories and continue to bond over similar experiences.’’ 

 

What internal resources do you have in place to support and empower the veterans on your team? 

As a veteran, Workiva supports and empowers me by leading with values and leadership principles. Inclusion is one of those core values. We foster a culture where differences are celebrated and everyone can be themselves. 

I am a member of one of our seven employee resources groups called Veterans in Tech. In this group, I’m able to connect with other veterans, share stories and continue to bond over similar experiences. Workiva also honors veterans by giving all of us a paid day off on Veteran’s Day.

 

Programs for Veterans in Tech

Service 2 Software provides active duty service members with training and tools to become self-employed or employed within the technology sector. Soldiers receive certifications, hands-on training skills and networking opportunities. Woz U, a company founded by Steve Wozniak, focuses on technical education for independent students.

 

What external initiatives do you support or have in place that help bring more veterans into the tech industry?

Workiva attends veteran career fairs and partners with Service 2 Software. We are also exploring partnerships with Hiring Our Heroes and Woz U.

 

Chyanne Cardarella
Talent Management Specialist

At Toastmasters International, all staff receive a monthly newsletter with updates regarding new learning opportunities available within the organization. Talent Management Specialist Chyanne Cardarella said the monthly learning challenge for October was meant to help employees focus on their personal growth by building their professional brand. That initiative, as well as updates regarding free and reduced-cost community training programs for veterans and family of veterans, is part of the company’s larger and ongoing virtual events and training landscape. 

 

What steps has your company taken to hire more veterans? 

Toastmasters International participates in veteran and spouse networking events and targeted job fairs by partnering with Martin Bangert, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s regional veterans’ employment representative. About 10 employers and 20 jobseekers attend the in-person or virtual events, as well as supportive services and training providers to help jobseekers become more marketable. Employers share information about their opportunities and provide jobseekers with examples of elevator pitches. Then candidates take turns sharing their experience and what kind of opportunities they are looking for. Employers ask questions and give feedback, participating in one-on-one meet and greets.

As a result of the event’s ongoing success, the model was presented at the National Association of State Workforce Agencies and is being expanded to other states. In addition, the assistant secretary for veterans employment and training was briefed about it at a listening session with employment representatives from across the U.S.

As a result of the event’s ongoing success, the model is being expanded to other states.’’ 

 

What internal resources do you have in place to support and empower the veterans on your team?

We value employee wellness. Several team members were recently certified in mental health first aid by participating in independent and live virtual training sessions.

To increase employee engagement, the company provides team members with customized training and resources. For example, employees can create a professional development plan on the Toastmasters intranet. Ongoing leadership training classes are also available for current and aspiring leaders in the organization. Such classes build upon the company’s values.

 

What external initiatives do you support or have in place that help bring more veterans into the tech industry?

Toastmasters International partners with a variety of local organizations, training providers and resource providers to notify them of open positions. We ask them to encourage job seekers from a variety of backgrounds to apply. Building those relationships now creates a talent pipeline for future opportunities as they become available. 

Toastmasters shares information about free and reduced-cost training programs available in the community for veterans and family of veterans for hard-to-fill positions, like those in the information technology field. 

Finally, Toastmasters team members participate in a variety of IT networking and learning opportunities. Employees hear from industry groups like the Colorado Technology Association to stay informed of the latest local trends and challenges.

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