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November 09, 2021

Transitioning to Tech

Transitioning Service Members and Veteran Perceptions Regarding a Career in the Technology Sector

By Dr. Jason Dempsey, Katherine L. Kuzminski, Nathalie Grogan and Cody Kennedy

Introduction

Military experience provides service members with a range of technical and soft skills that can prepare them for meaningful employment in the private sector. Unfortunately, perceptions about the differences between military service and civilian employment can hinder the transition process, leading some veterans to believe they are unqualified for certain roles, or unaware of the steps they can take to gain meaningful employment in positions that seem vastly different from the work they did in uniform. This can be particularly true in the technology sector, where stereotypes and misperceptions—on both sides—can make the gap between military service and employment in a place like Silicon Valley seem insurmountable. However, as many have demonstrated, veterans can successfully make the leap to meaningful employment in the technology sector, and the firms that hire them can benefit from the skills and experience transitioning service members bring to the field. Understanding veteran perceptions about opportunities in technology is therefore an important first step in identifying the hurdles, both real and perceived, to expanding this pathway and getting more military veterans into meaningful employment in this sector.

This white paper uses a mixed-methods approach to examine veteran opportunities and perceptions of opportunities in the technology sector. It begins with an overview of current support efforts specific to employment and education in the technology sector provided by the government’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), technology companies, and veteran-serving nonprofit organizations. The paper then examines the attitudes of veterans in transition with a focus on perceptions of employment opportunities in the technology sector and perceived gaps between the skills transitioning service members have and the skills they believe are necessary to pursue a career in technology. The white paper concludes with recommendations for relevant departments, agencies, programs, employers, veteran-serving organizations, transitioning service members, and veterans.

For the purposes of this paper, employment in “technology” is broadly defined to include both jobs that require specific technological skills and general employment in companies that produce technology products. Technology companies range from small startups to large software and e-commerce corporations with a myriad of job titles and a variety of roles requiring different skill sets. The span of technological expertise can cross industries, including technological support and information management for large brick-and-mortar businesses and the medical and financial industries.

The analysis provided in this white paper is informed by a survey that CNAS and VetsinTech, a veteran-serving nonprofit, performed from August 31, 2021, through September 18, 2021. The survey yielded over 1,000 responses from veterans, transitioning service members, and active-duty service members. The analysis also incorporates feedback from interviews with action officers at the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Labor (DoL), as well as veterans currently employed in the technology sector and those who seek to hire veterans in the technology sector.

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Authors

  • Dr. Jason Dempsey

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Jason Dempsey is an Adjunct Senior Fellow of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Dr. Dempsey has written extensively ...

  • Katherine L. Kuzminski

    Senior Fellow and Director, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Katherine L. Kuzminski (formerly Kidder) is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society (MVS) Program at CNAS. Her research specializations include Dep...

  • Nathalie Grogan

    Former Research Associate, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Nathalie Grogan is a former Research Associate for the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at CNAS. Her research focused on the National Guard and military families. Groga...

  • Cody Kennedy

    Former Intern, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Cody Kennedy is a former Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Intern for the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Cody recently graduated fr...

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