Military Appreciation Month, officially designated by Congress in 1999, takes place every year throughout the month of May. This May, three veterans working in the channel share their paths to the IT industry with ChannelPro, discuss why it’s been a good career fit for them, and explain why hiring veterans who bring skills to the table such as discipline and team work can be a winning strategy for the channel as it looks to fill the hiring gap.
For Craig Fulton, chief customer officer at IT management vendor ConnectWise, technology was an interest that started at a young age. The library in his small hometown in Ohio, where his mother was a librarian, got an Apple II computer, and he was hooked. He joined the Marines after high school, and a major who recognized his aptitude encouraged him to test for a new field called Small Computer Systems Repair, so he did. Armed with those skills when he completed his time with the Marines in 1998, he landed a job on a help desk, then launched his own IT services business in 2006, and in 2007 joined ConnectWise, where he says the culture is a welcoming one for veterans.
“”One of the core values that ConnectWise has is ‘play as a team,’ and obviously the military is all about team, especially in the Marine Corps,”” he says.
When he first joined ConnectWise, Fulton says the founders, Arnie and David Bellini, “”really had a lot of admiration for the military. And even when we were a small company, I was surprised how many veterans were there.””
Today, vets at ConnectWise actively support each other. “”There’s like a WebEx channel we chat on,”” Fulton says. “”We get together, we meet, share stories.””
Military training, he says, makes vets particularly suitable for high-stress jobs like cybersecurity.
“”In the Marines you’re given a standard operational procedure manual. You know, when you run into this situation, here’s how you do it. And that’s basically how security works. You have an incident, you follow these guidelines. I think that’s why it works so well with military just because the military is a system, everything is a system. … It’s a constant preparing you for high-stress situations.””
Dave Wisz, executive vice president of operations at US Signal, also had a knack for electronics, which he pursued in the Air Force in the 1990s. Through his work in voice and data communications and surveillance and by taking advantage of educational opportunties the Air Force offered, he gained skills applicable to working in technology and IT. And when he was ready to enter the civilian workforce, he took advantage of a transitioning program the Air Force provided.
“”You do have to be self-motivated, like I was to, to kind of determine the career trajectory you want to take outside the military and try to fill some of those gaps in, to make your resume more robust,”” he says.
His military training provided “”the soft skills, the interpersonal skills,”” to be a team player, and instilled a work ethic. For potential employers, Wisz says, “”all those types of things really assist in making the candidates come to the table very well-rounded.””
US Signal, he says, employs dozens of military veterans and has a culture where vets feel comfortable. “”I’ve had quite a number of different positions, but all really under the same ownership umbrella since I got out of the military. … [U.S. Signal has] a little bit more of a family atmosphere, which is respective to kind of that experience in say, a squadron in the Air Force or potentially a platoon in the Army or Marines.””
Air Force training also served Keith Buswell well. A senior sales engineer at Exabeam, he spent four years in the Air Force as an F-16 mechanic. When he got out in 2003, he continued to work on jet engines while pursuing an EMT program, with an eye on becoming a firefighter.
Around that time he bought a Dell computer, and “”completely tore apart every piece of it and figured out how it worked, put it back together, and that kind of kick-started my fascination and getting in the IT industry,”” a profession his father, a Navy vet, had pursued. Buswell took a loan, got a Microsoft certificate, and by 2008 had his first IT job doing Tier 1 support at a law firm. “”And from there I got promoted pretty quickly after that.””
In 2010, his military and IT background afforded him another opportunity. “”I was approached to go fly drones as a civilian in Afghanistan,”” he says. “”Because of my military background and computer background, it was just this perfect fit for flying drones.””
Still, he’d only had one IT job, and when he started sending his resume out to companies in 2014 to get back into the tech industry, he got a response from one IT director who called him and said, “”Here’s the thing. I don’t like your resume.””
Buswell says that even though he didn’t have the background the IT director was looking for, and another candidate he was considering had a master’s degree in IT and cybersecurity, he hired Buswell because of his military service and record of promotion. “”He goes, ‘I know you’re not going to let yourself fail.’ I thought that was really awesome. … my military background has never let me down. It’s always opened up a door for me.””
He rose quickly through the ranks at that employer, and in 2019 went to Exabeam as a senior sales engineer. “”I didn’t know this at the time because I didn’t have a whole lot of technical background, but found out that sales engineer is a highly desired position, especially in the tech industry.”” He credits his military training, instilling a work ethic and traits like punctuality, with helping him achieve that status so quickly. “”It definitely suited me very well to be a sales engineer and be successful at it.””
Buswell, Wisz, and Fulton all found their way to the channel via different paths. Today, there are several industry organizations actively looking to help and recruit veterans. These include Fulton’s company. Following Continuum’s acquisition by ConnectWise last fall, The ConnectWise Foundation merged and expanded legacy ConnectWise charitable efforts with the Continuum Veterans Foundation, which provides financial support to organizations to help veterans find jobs in in the IT industry.
VetsinTech, a leading national nonprofit dedicated to advancing career opportunities for veterans in the tech industry, recently teamed with Google Cloud to offer veterans and their spouses an opportunity to participate in the “”Google Cloud Certification challenge,”” a free training program focused on preparing them for the Google Cloud Associate Cloud Engineer certification exam.
Military Hire, a military hiring network and a Metisentry company, announced in April it has signed a training and certification partnership agreement with CompTIA.
And in February, this column covered the collaboration between Fortinet’s FortiVet program and Train Our Troops, which provides U.S. veterans, and their spouses, with advanced online training and certification in business solutions.
The country owes Fulton, Wisz, and Buswell a debt of gratitude for their service, and the channel stands as the beneficiary of their and other vets’ talents.
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