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The Military IT

With Troop Drawdown, IT Looks To Hire More Vets 212

Posted by timothy
from the but-what-about-the-animals? dept.
Lucas123 writes "The military's a great place to learn how to kill people and break things, but many also consider it one of the best training grounds for high-tech skills. 'If you're working on a ship or a plane or tank, you've got responsibility for large, complex, extremely expensive equipment run by highly sophisticated IT platforms and software,' said Mike Brown, senior director of talent acquisition at Siemens. But, just how well do military tech skills translate to private-sector IT? Computerworld spoke to veterans to find out just what they learned during their tours of duty and how hard it was to transition to the civilian workforce."
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With Troop Drawdown, IT Looks To Hire More Vets

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @12:59PM (#38013734)

    I like to brag that, when I walk into the server room, Danger Zone starts blaring in the background.

    My life in this hell-hole is extreme. Can't tell you how many times a server blade has nicked me. We go through bandages like coffee at Google around here!

    /.... highway to, the, Danger Zone ....

  • by AdamJS (2466928) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:01PM (#38013750)

    Therefor it will not succeed.

    • by zoloto (586738)
      This is going to make it even harder for me to find or keep work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sunderland56 (621843)
      Wouldn't it be smarter to reward the troops with decent employment, instead of hiring them into mind-numbing dead end jobs?

      Besides, I'm slightly worried about hiring people who are completely comfortable with guns in the workplace into high-stress positions.
      • by Bardwick (696376) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:34PM (#38014686)
        Two things.. You are much less likely to experience work place violence from a Vet. 'Nother thing. I was Navy Air Traffic Controller, USS Theodore Roosevelt (Carrier).. Just curious, how do you define high-stress? Can't print?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I served on Teddy a long long time ago as a Desert Storm Vet. Great ship, great crew and although a different era, had no issue transitioning from working in the Reactor as a MM to IT life. As the above poster noted, in the military you learn to deal with stress in a calm = success fashion. No amount of issue down time can equate to life a threatening event.

        • by istartedi (132515)

          how do you define high-stress? Can't print?

          Am I the only one who immediately thought of what a carrier battle group would do to the "PC LOAD LETTER" printer from Office Space? They used a baseball bat in the movie. You've got "The Big Stick".

        • by atamido (1020905)

          You are much less likely to experience work place violence from a Vet.

          I'm curious if you have a citation for this, or if it's just your perspective.

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:58PM (#38015668) Homepage

        High stress? Are you serious?
         

        • Being [mumble] feet under the North Atlantic with an up angle, throttles at the stops, and still going *down* - that's stressful.
           
        • So is watching a crane lifting an 72,000 pound solid fueled missile (essentially 72,000 pounds of explosive) suddenly stop operating - with a thunderstorm spitting lightning a mile away. (Thank $Diety is was a test bird, I.E. no live warheads.)
           
        • Or try working topside at sea in near hurricane conditions and green water washing over the deck....
           

        IT 'stress' is a walk in the park in gentle spring sunshine after a couple of years in the military - and that's *without* spending any time in a combat zone.

      • Seriously? I'm trying to see how that even makes sense,
      • by xaoslaad (590527)
        After 4 years in the USMC you think anything in IT stresses me out? And I never saw combat. My betters are probably the calm little center of the universe you and I will NEVER know. Another thing; my company is very vet friendly. After all the duty, watch standing, and other crap to make them go 24+ hours at a time with no sleep, comp time, extra pay or anything else but another full day of work, you don't really see vets complaining about having to work the occassional weekend or evening. There's a line in
      • Dumbest post ever. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Friday November 11, 2011 @07:47AM (#38021614) Homepage

        Wouldn't it be smarter to reward the troops with decent employment, instead of hiring them into mind-numbing dead end jobs? Besides, I'm slightly worried about hiring people who are completely comfortable with guns in the workplace into high-stress positions.

        When you are talking about vets or people in the service, people who have actually had to perform professionally and methodically while other people are actually trying to fucking kill you with bullets or IEDs, don't call the nuances of cubicle politics and IT services "high-stress positions." As someone who has done tier II/III IT support getting angry calls at 3AM, yeah, it's stressing... like any other job with a lot responsibilities.

        But to call it "high-stressing" specially when referring to military vets (of any country), wondering whether they can keep their cool in the face of your typical office monkey business, that's a little self-masturbatory, e-tarded and disturbing no matter how you cut it.

  • yes sir! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:05PM (#38013792)

    We've hired a few of these folks. Technical skills tend to be shallow, but we are willing to train the right candidate. Worse is their yes man attitude. You can't get these guys to provide any useful input, when they think their input might conflict with that from somebody "above them". It doesn't seem like these guys can overcome that part of their military training.

    • by bsDaemon (87307)

      I guess it depends on the industry you're in and what type of military people you are attracting. My company is in the network security arena. We have many ex military people, especially in professional services. When you have large military/government contracts, having people who know the inner workings of your customer and can look at your own products/solutions from the perspective of their experiences with it as a user in that environment is incredibly helpful. The active or easily renewed security

    • by j-pimp (177072)

      Worse is their yes man attitude. You can't get these guys to provide any useful input, when they think their input might conflict with that from somebody "above them". It doesn't seem like these guys can overcome that part of their military training.

      Some bosses will like that. I dropped out of school and had to work my way through a few years of hell desk and system administration before I ended up being a programmer. While my ability to question orders and think outside of the box got me off helpdesk, it got me in a lot of trouble at first. I still keep in contact with that company, and I can tell you for sure that I would not be able to survive in that particular NOC the way its run today, but an ex-military guy would do great there.

    • by Forbman (794277)

      but that could come from anyone who has worked in an environment for very long where sticking too far up above the board is going to get you (and probably some of those around you) hammered down, and hard (in the military, it's called "non-judicial punishment" or Article 15). This goes most for enlisteds, O1-O3, or warrant officers, at least with regards to the US military, especially if they never were in a significant leadership position. It's just part of the culture.
      As far as the "yes man" nature, if th

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Military so-called IT skills are often shallow, especially when they were lower level troops. Military IT at those levels is mostly desktop user support and sorting out Powerpoint presentations for meetings.

    • Yes man attitudes? Stop hiring privates. My company hires almost exclusively from the military and I find it hard to come up with any complaints. I'm going to assume that you actually have an interview process in place? The military produces leaders, not "Yes Men". I will admit that tech skills can be shallow at first, but with the right aptitude and attitude, I see the vets I have hired exceed all of my expectations. I could not be happier.
    • Having the skill to drive a tank in a mine field without being blown up is a job skill for heavy construction. In my case, repair and service of crypto equipment with the appropriate background checks, is appealing to companies dealing with sensitive information. The background, the intelligence clearance, and the electronics training were valuable. Not all recruits get the same opportunities. A history of legal problems, drug or alcohol abuse, running with the wrong friends, etc, would have disqualified

  • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:07PM (#38013798)

    Not doing at least 20 years is a questionable call since you can retire after that, but going contract after you eject (early or late) is a good way to leverage any skillset you acquire.

    Find a system that will outlive you (the first folks to work on C-130s are now long dead!) and get in as early as possible.

    I've never met anyone who regretted serving until retirement, self included.

    If you don't like your job, crosstrain. If you don't like your service, get smart and go Air Force. :)

    • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:25PM (#38014008) Homepage

      Depends on where and how you serve. I was a National Guardsman. Turns out that no matter how many times they send me to Iraq, I still get "reserved retirement" which means that you get jack shit till you're 65. You can still retire at 20 years, and the years of active duty increase the amount you get in retirement pay; but reservist don't get any benefits until age 65. So you serve from say age 18-38 and retire. In that time you spend 5 years on deployment. Those 5 years add to the percentage of your salary you'll see from retirement payments, but you don't see the first payment for 27 years.

      • I don't know the current rules, but when my dad retired from the Government, he was able to apply his 4 years in the Army to his retirement package.
        • It's a little weird for reservists. If we switch to active duty or go GSA then we get credit toward retirement for time spent on active duty during our reserve time. So in my case I served ten years in the Guard, of which between deployments, training and other stuff about 2.5 years were on active duty. So if I switched to active duty (or GSA) I would get 2.5 years towards retirement. If I then served another 17.5 years on AD and retired, I'd get a normal 20 year retirement (though I really served 27.5

    • by Forbman (794277)

      The US Air Force: closest thing to being in the military!

  • by GAATTC (870216) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:07PM (#38013802)
    In our Biology department we have a high end confocal microscope. This is a very expensive, sophisticated and complicated microscope with complex optical, mechanical, and control systems. The technician who services it and keeps it running was a sonar technician in a submarine for many years before he got a job working on microscopes. He is very good - logical, careful, and responsible. Obviously this is a small sample size but if his training in the navy has anything to do with his performance in his current job then this is a nice example of military training actually translating well into a civilian technology position.
    • by k6mfw (1182893) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:16PM (#38013932)

      s. The technician who services it and keeps it running was a sonar technician in a submarine for many years before he got a job working on microscopes. He is very good - logical, careful, and responsible.

      I've known couple others that been in the sub service and they are very good. Getting sub service experience means they had to pass courses and examinations, besides weeding out nutzoids they also want best techie talent on board when you are weeks (months?) under the water.

      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:35PM (#38014128)
        I have to agree. Submarine sailors often are more technically inclined and generally smarter than your average sailor as they had to qualify for those posts. From what I remember these sailors are often recruited to be placed on submarines from the start. Also there are mental aspects of being underwater for months on end as well as living under an unconventional daily cycle.
      • I was eligible for sub service when I enlisted many years ago, but due to acne, the high humidity high oxygen environment was not a good match so I went into cryptology instead. It is also a good field with highly sought after skills.

        Basic rule of thumb is go for advanced fields, avoid student loans, get hired after your service, and enjoy the benefits of not being in debt. When the high student loan guys have to turn down jobs as they can't make ends meet, you remain employed and in demand during high un

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:31PM (#38014078) Homepage Journal

      Submariners tend to be very good on the average. It comes down to the fact that they live in roughly a 1000' long steel pipe under water with a nuclear reactor, high explosives, and on SSBNs a hundred plus nuclear war heads sitting on 24 big honking rockets. Mistakes are very costly in that environment :)

      • Well, no sub is even close to being 1000' long.... ;)

        But an oft overlooked factor is the small size of the crews. We operated my weapons system (sixteen Tridents and their control, launching, testing and support equipment) with just eighteen people. There was just no room for anyone that wasn't at least above average. The Missile Techs (which generally came from the bottom third of the rankings in school) even called themselves the "scum of the cream".
         
        The schools were brutal. When I attended SWSEA, the drop rate (I.E. people kicked out of the school) *averaged* thirty percent. My class started with 18 people, and graduated with 12. I was the only person in the class who had never been 'dropped back' (failed a block, and been transferred to a class behind you in the cycle to repeat it), and with a 99.988 average was the *number two* man in the class. Of the 18 people I started with, only 7 of us eventually completed the school and graduated.

  • by quangdog (1002624) <quangdogNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:08PM (#38013812)
    I've had the opportunity in the past to work closely with people who learned their IT skills in the military. Without exception they were very competent and a pleasure to work with. If I were hiring today, a candidate who learned IT skills in the military would get a closer look than the guy with the degree from the local community college.

    I'm not saying that everyone who learns IT skills in the military is awesome, but the ones I've met have been.
    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:22PM (#38013986)

      I'm not saying that everyone who learns IT skills in the military is awesome, but the ones I've met have been.

      In the end you need to carefully examine all job candidates, even ex-military. My experience (I am a vet) is that there are a few saints, a few monsters, and a vast middle of decent but flawed people, just like the general populace.

    • Well, 4 years experience trumps the degree most of the time. The experience versus degree question is more of a question of experience or talent. Higher degrees tend to select for slightly higher IQ's; even SAT is effectively a bit of an IQ test. Then there is the question of work ethic, which of course none of what we discussed so far gives you much insight.

    • by adamchou (993073)
      I don't know what the military was like back then, but I can tell you right now that the Army's technicians are by and large crap. I went through 52 weeks of training for my job and now that I'm at a duty station, they don't let us do a damn thing. They hire a bunch of overpaid contractors that don't really know all that much and they're the only ones authorized to get really technical with the systems. I'm literally a glorified restart button. All I do is restart services, restart workstations, and restart
  • Logistics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:12PM (#38013858)

    Military logistics is some of the most advanced out there.

    When I was working shipping at Dell I would say almost all of the logistics management was ex-military. At least all the useful ones were ex-military.

    FedEx being another good example of military logistics making its way to the civilian world.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "FedEx being another good example of military logistics making its way to the civilian world."

      Considering how much DoD depends on FedEx "civilian logistics" support to keep the military world running, its a good symbiotic relationship.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:14PM (#38013894) Homepage
    of military veterans in IT my experience is limited to managers or techies, all can vary wildly.

    the manager I had at one company was from the navy. not very intelligent but he knew enough about how to lead a team
    that he could tell when we needed help and he knew when to stay out of the way. great guy to work with.
    but the helpdesk manager im told was a complete asshole. he alientated the seasoned pro's by treating them like kids
    and before we knew it, they had all quit.

    the NOC tech i work with now is coming out of retirement from the airforce. hes not brilliant by any stretch, and he doesnt appear motivated to
    any great feats of knowlege. probably a bad example

    the guy we just promoted is from the army. he isnt smart, and he chews up most of our time asking questions about code, but hes at least very motivated
    to learn. i guess thats a plus.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:16PM (#38013926)

    During the tech bubble burst of 2002, I went from being a full time Perl programmer to working part-time at a super market in the meat section. One of my coworkers was a tech lead in the Army working on avionics in attack helicopters. When the attack copter wings were cut, he left with them, only to discover his high-tech skills in attack helicopter avionics were completely useless in the private sector. Clearly advanced technology, clearly without a direct compliment in the civilian world.

    I eventually found another Perl/PHP job, but as far as I know hes still at the super market. So I think it really depends on what you're high tech skills are, as to how successfully you can make the transition.

    • by Nexzus (673421)

      Was there no option for him to go to Lockheed or Boeing or McDonnel or any other military hardware contractor?

      • by jittles (1613415)
        Boeing and McDonald Douglas are the same entity now. As for Boeing/Lockheed, those are highly coveted positions that often go to people in positions of power, authority, or with the right connections to have friends involved in the purchasing of training, or other hardware. Most retired personnel would do better looking for a smaller company that provides services to the military.
    • by jittles (1613415)
      Which army attack helicopter was he on? If he's a good 15Y, then I could probably land him a job right now!
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      One of my coworkers was a tech lead in the Army working on avionics in attack helicopters. When the attack copter wings were cut, he left with them, only to discover his high-tech skills in attack helicopter avionics were completely useless in the private sector. Clearly advanced technology, clearly without a direct compliment in the civilian world.

      Not to disparage our soldiers' skills, but working on helicopters and planes in the military is almost entirely a matter of following the manual.
      Obviously you want intelligent and competent people taking your airplanes/helos apart,
      but everything they do has a manual with step by step instructions.

      Even if you know what the problem is, you have to follow the manual and document that you did so.
      It's a process designed for the lowest common denominator.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Wise are those who get civilian Avionics and/or aircraft mech certs before bailing. Use the G.I. bill at a civilian school now that you know how to learn.

      I was Avionics (OV-10/F-4) engines and later crew chief (F-16) and much of what you learn is how to work on and learn new systems. I got my A&P (now AMT) while I was in, but that would still be entry-level on civilian birds.

      Knowing how to transition between airframes means you can pick different aircraft up quickly, but you still need fam training on S

  • by sirdude (578412) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:29PM (#38014054)

    What is common between the /. editorial department & the USPTO? They don't bother to check what they rubber-stamp :S

    The post links to the last page of the article instead of the first [computerworld.com].

  • by CPTreese (2114124) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:32PM (#38014086) Journal

    I'm a prior Army Officer that has transitioned into the civilian workforce. The Army taught me many things, but the primary benefit was the amount of money the Army was willing to risk on me. Not many people can say that their first job out of college was managing 55 people and 8 million dollars in physical assets. Fortunately I did very well and had more command positions after with ever increasing responsibilities. I have what I consider to be an above average intelligence, but I'm certainly not anything special (certainly not genius level, I've met geniuses, I can't understand half of what to them is simple). I've faced combat and been under extreme pressure situations. I currently work in programming and find it moderately boring and frustrating with almost no correlation to my military service. Currently I'm working on getting back into some sort of operational role.

    The point is, just because their military does not mean they will be uniquely gifted to do a job. The talent to shut up and listen I have found is what differentiates the good from the bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CPTreese (2114124)

      *they're (some intelligence I can't even spell)

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      certainly not genius level, I've met geniuses, I can't understand half of what to them is simple

      A genius enjoys making something that looks hard easy to understand - that takes insight, even a "stroke of genius". I think what you encountered wasn't genius, but BROs (Bipedal Rectal Orifices a.k.a. walking ass-holes - cf: "Don't taze me BRO!") (okay, that example was a backronym, but it works!).

  • We've created about 6 positions at my employer over the past 2 to 3 years and interviewed a few vets each time. Typically somewhat older gentlemen, which could also be a factor here. But every time their skill set was a little obscure, and their personality was really hard to acclimate to, even in an interview session where everyone is trying to be as happy and jovial as possible.

    That's not to say that they're bad guys, just that they might have a difficult time figuring out how to fit into a civilian IT en

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:24PM (#38014594)
    I had a good friend that went into the Navy. When he went in, he was far from thoughtful and responsible. When he got out, he worked his way through a Physics degree, and we hired him where I worked.

    The military really can transform people.
  • by sco_robinso (749990) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:51PM (#38014888)
    I work in IT (sys admin), having spent a bit of time in the military. Military experience is certainly no stone-cold guarantee that you've got a quality person on your hands, but it does increase the probability significantly. Technical skills aside, the military tends to instill a fairly healthy amount of discipline, teamwork, and the ability to think/act under pressure. As my Dad puts it (formerly in the military for 12 years) - the ability to think and chew bubble gum at the same time.

    You can have shitty people in the military, too, but the military is generally not an environment that lends itself to extreme incompitence, advancement out of nepotism, etc.

    If I'm looking at a pile of resumes or interviewing candidates, I generally assume that if someone has military experience, they won't have too many issues coming in late, being poorly dressed, being disrespectful to team mates, etc.
    • by idontgno (624372)

      I work in IT (sys admin), having spent a bit of time in the military. Military experience is certainly no stone-cold guarantee that you've got a quality person on your hands, but it does increase the probability significantly. Technical skills aside, the military tends to instill a fairly healthy amount of discipline, teamwork, and the ability to think/act under pressure. As my Dad puts it (formerly in the military for 12 years) - the ability to think and chew bubble gum at the same time.

      As a former mil

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:58PM (#38014962) Homepage
    I have visited a few Canadian Navy ships and I saw some pretty old crap. Lots of RS232 and whatnot. The newest tech was all in the private hands of the sailors in the form of iPads to keep themselves sane. The main tech skills that the sailors seemed to have developed was how to select computers that won't die in the harsh environment and how to run cables through this nasty environment. So if you are wiring a building where you have a magnitude 5.5 earthquake 9 times a day and your server room has a salt water swimming pool then these Navy Guys might be for you.
    Also looking at how the various systems were wired together I could see layer upon layer of upgrades where various proprietary systems had been hacked into the older systems. So if you need your sonar system upgraded then the Navy could provide you with a guy who understands what all the pins do in that 183 pin plug that someone thoughtfully painted gray.
  • Years ago, when I was a headhunter, I proposed a newly retired Marine Captain for a Lotus Notes assignment. I got a lot of pushback from both our client rep and the client simply because he was a vet. I told them to actually read his resume. He'd implemented Notes across the entire Marine Corp. They gave in and he excelled. The military is bigger than corporation. And some men and woman who've served are the best.
  • by Taelron (1046946) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#38015530)
    I did computer networking in the Marines, was on the spearhead of a lot of new technologies back in that time. Yet when I got out in 1999 a lot of companies didn't want the Military guy with 9 years experience, they wanted the recent college graduate with a piece of paper. Time and Time again i was told they could get the college grad cheaper than my 9 years of Experience. I kept telling the prospective employeers that I was coming from a job where I effectively made $1.67/hr. They could pay me the same as a college grad and I'd be happy. But it was always, "HR wont let us"...

    I finally gave up and went into consulting and made a good living through. Ironically 3 of the 10 or so companies I applied for later hired me as a contractor for 1 to 3 months to come in and fix up what the college grads screwed up or to show their teams how to update their technology.

    The problem is, as I learned from a former client that was a head hunter, most HR people don't know how to relate military experiance to real world applications and training. The Military gives you a stack of papers with how your various training relates to the real world, but even those definitions fall short of anything a civilian world HR person will understand.

    • Well, that's strange. 1999 would have been a great year to get a cleared job in the DoD community, and the DoD community tends not to have the same biases as commerce. There is the little issue that we separate internal positions into "systems administration" versus "systems engineering," the latter of which requires either a degree or an army of professional certificates, but this shouldn't have stopped you from getting a job in DoD-related IT at all. Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, etc, all

  • seems like a logical progression to me. it makes sense that the US military would counteract its relative manpower shortage with lots of hightech equipment. (conversely, some military forces counteract a relative equipment shortage with lots of manpower)

  • I'm not ex-military, but I work with a bunch of people who either are in the services or have been; as in many things, there is much variability. I've worked with some extremely competent people, and some that are just there to collect a check. I've worked with specialists who can look at a hexdump and decode frame, packet, protocol, and payload - but who couldn't write SQL to save their lives (they may indeed have the ability to learn that). I've worked with some who give lip service to the rules when "The
  • I encourage everyone out there disillusioned with their employment to check out the world of industrial maintenance. I'm a veteran who has used my experience to work in IT (about 15 years) but about three years ago I ditched IT and went after robots that shoot fire. If you want to be a lump, it doesn't pay as well, but if you're good you can make a fortune on six months a year work. The first time I saw an industrial heat treat furnace open its maw I nearly screamed with joy.

    I think most IT folk, especia

  • Just about everywhere else expects to get somebody fully trained from somewhere else instead of having a training program.

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