How to Apply Your Military Skills and Experience to Tech

“It is often undersold how much experience military members have with technology when, in reality, it really comes with the territory of being in the Air Force.”
Written by Michael Hines
November 12, 2021Updated: March 26, 2024

The Department of Defense estimates that some 200,000 veterans transition to civilian life every year. And according to a study from people intelligence platform Findem, many take jobs with technology companies. The study, which analyzed publicly available employment data, found that the tech workforce is made up of 32 percent veterans. This tracks, as many veterans have years of experience working with technology and leading teams. 

That said, the military speaks a completely different language than the civilian world and uses specialized technology. When interviewing or even submitting a resume, the onus is on vets to translate their bonafides for hiring managers and department heads, as Brian Baumgarten, an Air Force veteran and project engineer at BAE Systems, told Built In. 

“It is often undersold how much experience military members have with technology when, in reality, it really comes with the territory of being in the Air Force or the military in general,” Baumgarten said. “You ultimately have to get creative with what you did in the service and how that can translate to help bridge the gap and build a career.” 

In addition to hard skills, Sharon Romes, a Navy veteran and senior channel operations manager at Name.com, noted that the military also teaches soft skills that are universally valued.

“What I’m doing now is literally a world away from fixing the radar on a ship in Japan, but the skills I learned while enlisted — communication, organization, work ethic and high service standards — are applicable anywhere,” Romes said.

Built In Colorado recently spoke with both Baumgarten and Romes to learn more about how the military set them up to find success in a new industry along with their advice for the portion of this year’s 200,000 transitioning service members seeking a career in tech.

 

Brian Baumgarten
Project Engineer • BAE Systems, Inc.

The tech industry is full of people who turned an internship into a full-time role. That said, very few interns are also active duty officers in the United States Air Force. This was the case of Brian Baumgarten, a project engineer who joined Ball Aerospace near the end of his enlistment through the Department of Defense’s “SkillBridge” program, which offers work placement for active duty service members in civilian companies. In addition to SkillBridge, Baumgarten attributes his transition from the military to tech to his willingness to network and get creative when thinking about his existing skill set.

How and where did you serve your country? What is your current role, and what are you working on right now?

I served in the United States Air Force for nearly 12 years, which included four major deployments overseas as an instructor pilot and most recently in a scheduling and leadership role. As a lead scheduler, I was responsible for coordinating a lot of moving parts, from flights to people and resources. That work translated very well into my current role at BAE Systems as a project engineer.

Right now, I’m working with electro-optical payloads, satellite payloads and tests to support BAE Systems' national defense strategic business unit. It’s my job to coordinate how various elements piece together, such as resources for a program, engineers, budget and ensuring everything’s kept on schedule.

The BAE Systems SkillBridge Program helped ease a lot of the pressure that can come with an approaching separation date from the military.


What aspects of your military service have helped you build a career in tech, and what are some new skills you’ve developed since you left the service?

The Air Force prepared me to work in high-pressure environments and be comfortable with deadlines, risk management and taking care of people. It’s important to empower team members to get the job done, make decisions and thrive. All of that translates into the civilian workforce. For example, at BAE Systems, our culture emphasizes helping others and making sure team members have what they need to be successful.

The BAE Systems “SkillBridge Program” helped ease a lot of the pressure that can come with an approaching separation date from the military. It gives transitioning military members the opportunity to gain work experience through specific industry training and development. 

I began participating in the program with six months left in my service agreement, which meant six months of building skills and relationships with the BAE Systems team before I was eventually hired full-time. Going through the program really helped me refine my skills in terms of civilian mindset versus military mindset.

What advice would you give to fellow veterans who are looking to build a career in the tech sector?

Networking is key. Start early and work many paths to get your name out there. I knew my resume didn’t exactly match up with the job requisition because it can be tough to translate your military skills to a job on the outside. It is often undersold how much experience military members have with technology when, in reality, it really comes with the territory of being in the Air Force or the military in general.

Understanding how equipment works together and how systems interact is a huge foundation in working in the tech sector. You ultimately have to get creative with what you did in the service and how that can translate to help bridge the gap and build a career.

 

Sharon Romes
Sr. Channel Operations Manager • Name.com

Sharon Romes has worked in the tech industry for over 15 years, a little under half of which has been spent at Donuts Inc., the parent company of domain registrar Name.com. Romes, a senior channel operations manager, credits her tech career longevity to being adaptable and finding the links between the skills she gained serving in the United States Navy and those that are highly sought-after in the civilian work world.

 

How and where did you serve your country? What is your current role, and what are you working on right now?

I was in the U.S. Navy from 1990 to 1996. I was in boot camp in Orlando, Florida, and then had training in Great Lakes, Illinois, and San Diego, California. I served as an electronics technician, specializing in radar systems in Alameda, California, and then on the USS Blue Ridge stationed out of Yokosuka, Japan, which was part of the 7th Fleet and visited ports all around the Pacific. 

I’m currently working as senior channel operation manager and have been at Donuts for six years. I’m part of a team supporting all aspects of internal operations for the company and our channel partners. I love my job because I am able to work and interact with people across the company and am involved in a variety of projects. It’s never boring!
 

Foster connections with other veterans and highlight your military service when looking for a job.


What aspects of your military service have helped you build a career in tech, and what are some new skills you’ve developed since you left the service?

In the military I lived and worked with people from many different backgrounds and was lucky enough to experience many different cultures. I’ve lived in Europe and Japan and all over the United States. I worked in different environments and had to learn new things constantly, especially on the ship where you always have duties above and beyond your “day job.” Flexibility, learning with an open mind and recognizing the importance of empathy in service are all things the military taught me. 

Maintaining adaptability and applying what I learned in the Navy and college to real-world situations and jobs that didn’t exactly fit my Naval training or college degree has been key to becoming a valuable employee wherever I’ve worked. What I’m doing now is literally a world away from fixing the radar on a ship in Japan, but the skills I learned while enlisted — communication, organization, work ethic and high service standards — are applicable anywhere.

 

What advice would you give to fellow veterans who are looking to build a career in the tech sector?

Make sure you’re taking advantage of your VA resources! Everyone I’ve talked to has been helpful and knowledgeable, and sometimes you don’t even know what’s available until you ask. Also, foster connections with other veterans and highlight your military service when looking for a job. It’s definitely a mark in your favor and you never know when you’ll come across another veteran or someone with military connections in your job search.

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