The Military Skills and Experience That Give Vets an Edge in Tech

Veterans who work in Chicago tech share the military skills that helped them make the transition.
Michael Hines
Written by Michael Hines
November 12, 2021Updated: November 17, 2021

The tech industry and military have a long history. It dates back to the Korean War when IBM built a scientific computer, the 701, to aid the war effort. That bond has only strengthened in the decades since. Massive technology companies like Microsoft and Google have taken on military contracts and the United States Army and Air Force have their own venture capital firms. In addition to these high-level tie-ups, the military has also served as a steady source of talent for the tech industry.

The Department of Defense estimates that 200,000 veterans transition from the military to civilian life each year, many with years or even decades of experience working with technology, leading teams in high-pressure situations and managing high-value projects. Yes, building a ship isn’t the same as leading a development team, but the skill gap isn’t as wide at it might seem. In fact, there’s actually a lot of overlap, as Eric Mireles, a 12-year Navy veteran and agile delivery lead at Capital One, told Built In.

“During my time as a senior logistician and Navy shipbuilder, I was assigned to lead many high-profile projects that required me to keep detailed timelines and remain focused on maintaining key relationships,” Mireles said. “When building out our software and data science teams [at Capital One], I relied heavily on these skills to ensure the team met critical deadlines and scaled appropriately.”

Veterans like Mireles who start careers in tech after leaving the service do so in large part because of their ability to show how their military skills and experience translate to the tech industry. Built In recently sat down with Mireles and four other veterans currently working for Chicago tech companies to learn more about the specific skills employers value most along with the advice they have for those planning to start a post-military tech career.

 

Andrew Faraca
Director of Box Consulting (Central Region)

Andrew Faraca is an Air Force veteran who has worked in the tech industry for over two decades, in which time he co-founded a company and held various high-level leadership roles. Faraca, the director of Box consulting for the central region, has some practical advice for veterans looking to follow in his footsteps: find a career you’re passionate so that it’s easier to keep pace with the breakneck speed the tech industry evolves at.

 

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 from 1993 until my honorable discharge in 1997. I was assigned to the 90th Communications Squadron out of F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as a strategic air command digital networks engineer and missile communications engineer. In short, I was a computer engineer who worked on the launch and communication technology for our nuclear missile systems. Today, I am the director of Box Consulting for the central region. 

My team is made up of six managers and 35 individual contributors. We are the professional services arm of Box and are responsible for enabling customers to better use the Box platform with a wide range of tailored solutions such as using e+ credits as accelerators or facilitating structured migrations of data with Box Shuttle, as well as creating custom solutions like a branded Box portal or integrating AI into their Box environment.
 

Although the military vernacular is different, there are many activities with a direct correlation to civilian skills that can be used on your resume.
 

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?

Perspective, teamwork, confidence and influencing culture. We’ve all had to deal with high-priority issues, but those issues in the military could be the difference between life and death. In the civilian sector, I am able to use this experience to build a healthy perspective on handling urgent issues. The ability to work as a team regardless of who I was working with and under any circumstance taught me that teamwork is necessary and achievable with anyone. That experience has allowed me to effectively work with any team I have joined as a civilian. 

Since leaving the military, I’ve been fortunate to have a substantial set of experiences with many technology companies, and I’ve learned as much, if not more, from my civilian occupations as my time in the military. Culture is one of the most important aspects for me at work. I feel as a civilian working in technology it is important to build an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, are inspired to deliver quality results and encouraged to try new things.

 

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

It does not have to be intimidating, and it can be a smooth transition. My first suggestion is to look for an occupation in the technology space that is of strong interest to you. Technology-centric jobs typically require a level of passion and dedication to be successful. Technology will continuously evolve, and it takes a level of commitment and love for the type of work you do to continue to keep your skills up to date with the persistent climate of change. 

My second suggestion is to invest in yourself, to take classes or new training in technical and non-technical subjects. Third, translate what you learned in the military to the skills that are sought after in the civilian market, such as leadership to management, field logistics to project management and mission successes to results-oriented. Although the military vernacular is different, there are many activities with a direct correlation to civilian skills that can be used on your resume.

 

Eric Mireles
Agile Delivery Lead

One of the most difficult things for a veteran to do is translate their military experience to the civilian world. After all, what does building a warship have to do with working in tech? As it turns out, a whole heck of a lot, actually. Eric Mireles, a Navy vet and agile delivery lead at Capital One, gave Built In a miniature master class on how vets can take the skills and experience they gained in the service and apply them to tech.

 

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

I was a Navy logistics specialist, project manager and shipbuilder in the Atlantic, European and Middle East theaters. Currently, I am the primary agile delivery lead and release train engineer responsible for all delivery efforts for a machine learning and data science team within our tech automation and optimization organization. Shortly after joining Capital One, I assisted in the creation of two teams responsible for building out a brand new and very unique enterprise product.

This new product utilizes machine learning to track down anomalous activity and abnormal transactions within Capital One’s vast enterprise architecture. This product was the first of its kind and helps development and site reliability engineering teams to reduce and resolve customer-facing outages that can impact our overall customer experience and Capital One’s reputation.
 

By admitting I need assistance and additional training, I’ve been able to better contribute to my team.


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?

To start, attention to detail and prioritization. During my time as a senior logistician and Navy shipbuilder, I was assigned to lead many high-profile projects that required me to keep detailed timelines and remain focused on maintaining key relationships. When building out our software and data science teams, I relied heavily on these skills to ensure the team met critical deadlines and scaled appropriately. Not only was I required to prioritize my own tasks but also to prioritize joint deliverables across the teams. 

In addition, communication and collaboration are also key skills. As an agile delivery lead and facilitator, it is my responsibility to ensure key players and executors are working together. The communication skills I learned in the Navy help me ensure all players are on the same page and understand their responsibilities. I love this aspect of my company culture and my newly acquired mission after my time in uniform.

With regard to the skills I’ve gained after the service, being humble and asking for help has been important. Admitting you need help in the service was not widely accepted during my time in uniform. At Capital One, I have learned many new things within my two years simply reaching out and asking for help, and the culture of learning and support is unmatched. By admitting I need assistance and additional training, I’ve been able to better contribute to my team and achieve some really great milestones with our product.

 

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

Go for it! When I left the service, I was intrigued by the idea of working in a growing field and completely changing course from my original military career. I quickly discovered that tech companies need project managers and facilitators to lead their software development teams and deliver cutting-edge products. In turn, these jobs give military leaders and project managers like myself a brand new audience and another mission worth standing behind.

I am extremely proud of my time in uniform, as well as my contributions to building products that help our customers and tech as a whole. I am continually amazed by the accomplishments of my teams and marveled by Capital One’s forward-thinking mentality. The entire company is great at rallying together to deliver the best products to our customers. I am glad to call Capital One my employer and look forward to seeing what campaign we will launch next.

 

Chaise Wallace
Support Engineer

When it comes to building a career in tech, sometimes it helps if veterans think like civilians. For example, Chaise Wallace, a support engineer at SpotOn and Air Force veteran, said that when he transitioned from the service to tech, he made sure to network and get advice from those who did the same and to build his technical skills by utilizing free resources, including YouTube videos.

 

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

I served primarily as a member of the 94th OSS as an aircrew flight equipment technician supporting C-130 aircrew and am currently a member of the Air Force Reserves. In my current role, I’m working as a support engineer for SpotOn Serve and SpotOn Counter. I help identify any potential bugs or issues with the product as well as provide support to our merchants.

 

Since fully transitioning into civilian work I feel like I’m constantly learning and building new skills.


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?

Serving in the military taught me how to work in dynamic, ever-changing environments. Military service also helped me build leadership and communication skills through courses like the Airman Leadership School and Noncommissioned Officer Academy. The skills that I’ve gained from the civilian sector are mostly technical skills that come from working with various technologies. Since fully transitioning into civilian work I feel like I’m constantly learning and building new skills.

 

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

Don’t be afraid or intimidated by the civilian sector. And find an online community of veterans who have or who are transitioning into tech. This helped me a lot as I was able to get great tips and study advice from individuals who made the transition. Finally, always work on developing your technical skills. The earlier you start the better, and there are a lot of free resources available online. Even YouTube helps immensely when trying to learn technical skills.

 

Mike Daniel
Senior Marketing Operations Manager

Some technical skills soldiers learn in the military cannot be transferred wholesale to the tech world. Of course, that doesn’t mean operators of sophisticated military equipment don’t pick up skills that tech companies crave. For example, Mike Daniel, senior marketing operations manager at Buildout, said that his time serving on an Army artillery crew helped him learn what it takes to be part of a strong and successful team and how to successfully prioritize tasks during moments of intense pressure.

 

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

I served six years in the New Hampshire Army National Guard where I was a cannon crew member in Alpha Battery, 1/172nd Field Artillery Battalion. I completed basic combat training and advanced individual training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, graduating the day that combat operations began in Iraq. In November 2003 I deployed to the Al-Basrah province of Iraq where we were tasked with various area security, quick reaction force, convoy security and internment facility security operations. Stateside, I’ve deployed to New Orleans as part of Joint Task Force Katrina relief and recovery efforts, as well as a handful of local disaster relief operations. 

Following my time in the National Guard, I served an additional two years in the U.S. Army Reserve. During and after my time in service, I pursued a career in B2B tech marketing, ultimately gravitating toward marketing operations roles. I joined Buildout in October 2021 as a senior marketing operations manager where I manage the marketing tech stack, maintain integrations between business platforms and help our marketing and sales teams measure and analyze the results of our marketing programs and campaigns.
 

I’ve learned how to be more human in my communications. Cut-and-dry Army-speak can get some strange looks in staff meetings!


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?

My time in service showed me what it was to be a member of a team that was greater than the sum of its parts. On the gun line, there’s no room for ego; the gun crews that got the first rounds downrange and on target were those where everyone looked out for one another and helped others succeed. I was lucky enough to serve in a unit whose leadership genuinely cared about their soldiers. I also learned how to effectively prioritize competing tasks and to not lose sight of the bigger objective, even when things got tough. 

Since leaving the service, I’ve developed a skill set suited for marketing ops roles. On the “hard skills” side, I’ve immersed myself in whatever technologies are in use — or could potentially be — to ensure that we’re maximizing our ROI and giving our sales teams the most actionable data possible. In terms of soft skills, I’ve learned how to “be more human” in my communications. Cut-and-dry “Army-speak” is great when radio traffic is busy, but can get some strange looks in staff meetings!

 

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

Be a sponge! Take advantage of any training, formal, on the job or otherwise, available to you. The tech space is a dynamic, ever-changing world, so strive to keep current and always look for opportunities to cross-train and pick up new skills, even if they may not perfectly align to your current role or position.

 

Korey Rebello
Product Sales Specialist

One of the most difficult aspects of transitioning from the military to civilian world is having to start over again as a professional. It’s important to note that starting over doesn’t mean starting from scratch, though. Korey Rebello is a product sales specialist at Cisco Meraki and an Air Force veteran who notes that the military provided him with the foundational skills on which to build a career in tech.

 

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 U.S. Air Force as a tech controller assigned to a combat communication squadron. I was deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. At Cisco Meraki, I am currently working as a product sales specialist supporting the U.S. commercial west team.
 

The Air Force taught me electronics, communications and leadership principles. It was a strong foundation.
 

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 taught me electronics, communications and leadership principles. It was a strong foundation that allowed me to continue to grow both professionally and personally and helped instill a passion for ensuring networking systems are functioning adequately under pressure.

Since leaving the military and beginning my civilian career, I have had a chance to focus on helping others design and maintain these systems. As a result, I have gained the ability to communicate complex theories and systems in a simple fashion to ensure folks of all levels can understand the benefits.

 

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

Build off your passion and experience. Use the foundational knowledge the military helped you foster along with the leadership and integrity principles we hold closely. Do not be afraid to continue to learn and grow as a professional. There is a strong veteran core here at Cisco Meraki, so do not hesitate to tap into that network to help you along the way!

Jobs from companies in this blog188 open jobs
All Jobs
Finance
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Dev + Engineer
HR + Recruiting
Legal
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
HR + Recruiting
new
Box
Remote
Sales
new
Box
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Operations
new
Box
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
SpotOn
Remote
Operations
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
HR + Recruiting
new
Box
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Product
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Product
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Product
new
Box
Remote
Operations
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Product
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Sales
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Operations
new
Box
Chicago
Design + UX
new
SpotOn
Remote
Design + UX
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Operations
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Product
new
SpotOn
Remote
Design + UX
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Chicago
Sales
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Design + UX
new
SpotOn
Remote
Design + UX
new
Box
Remote
Project Mgmt
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Data + Analytics
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Box
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Sales
new
Capital One
Chicago
Operations
new
Capital One
Chicago
Product
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Sales
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Design + UX
new
SpotOn
Remote
Finance
new
Capital One
Chicago
HR + Recruiting
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Operations
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Operations
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Finance
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Remote
Product
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
HR + Recruiting
new
Box
Remote
Finance
new
Capital One
Chicago
Finance
new
Capital One
Chicago
Finance
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Chicago
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Sales
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Product
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Operations
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Operations
new
Box
Remote
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Remote
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Remote
Project Mgmt
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Product
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Operations
new
SpotOn
Remote
Data + Analytics
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Design + UX
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Remote
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Operations
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Sales
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Operations
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Operations
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Operations
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Product
new
Box
Remote
Product
new
Box
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Product
new
SpotOn
Remote
Product
new
Box
Remote
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Chicago
Product
new
Box
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Box
Chicago
Product
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Product
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Operations
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Capital One
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Chicago
Developer
new
Box
Remote
Developer
new
Box
Chicago
Sales
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago
Operations
new
Cisco Meraki
Chicago

Chicago startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Women in Chicago Tech