I found the transition out of the Marines and into the technology sector to be more stressful than I anticipated. To navigate this undertaking, I depended heavily on my network of friends, family, and coworkers. While I relied on my existing network, I was most surprised by the graciousness and selflessness of the many veterans I ended up connecting with during this process who shared their perspective, experiences, and lessons learned.
I organized the notes based on when each resource would be of the most value, but feel free to adjust as needed. This is a fairly comprehensive list and was unique to my background and the opportunities I was seeking. Still, I think a lot of the resources apply broadly to anyone else in a similar transitioning position.
One Year Out
During this period, my goal was to better understand fundamental business contacts, expand my professional network, get current on industry trends and topics, and refine my resume.
- The Lean Startup: The Build-Measure-Learn cycle from Eric Ries will be familiar to military members who have studied John Boyd’s Observe-Orient-Decide-Act loop.
- The Personal MBA: A basic and fairly comprehensive overview of business topics by Josh Kaufman.
- Venture Deals: If you are interested in startups or investing in startups, this book by Brad Feld is a handy reference. My review is here.
- Good to Great: Identifies some common characteristics from successful companies independent of industry.
- The Founder’s Dilemma: The pitfalls described can be used to judge the quality of a startup opportunity.
- Books such as “The Everything Store”, “How Google Works”, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, and “Elon Musk” provide good insight into the culture at technology companies or startups.
- Tyler Matthews also compiled a transition to tech reading list that I referenced.
- I’ve also compiled a more comprehensive reading list which goes beyond entrepreneurship.
- Beyond the Uniform: Justin is a prior Navy veteran who interviews veterans of every rank, from every branch, and in every industry.
- This Week in Startups: jason discusses everything from current events, to investing strategies, to recorded sessions of startup pitch competitions.
- This Week in Tech: Leo Laporte hosts each week with a rotating panel of technology journalists covering the weeks current events.
- The Tim Ferris Show: Tim Ferriss interviews successful individuals to try to identify the habits and routines that made them successful.
- The Exponent Podcast: The hosts Ben Thompson and James Allworth provide provide detailed analysis and insight compared to typical news headlines and articles.
- The a16z Podcast: Members of Andreessen Horowitz host panel discussions discussing technology topics from a variety of different angles.
Newsletters & Blogs:
- Stratechery:Ben‘s perspective and the level of depth of his analysis is impressive and always a good read.
- Inside: Regular email newsletters consisting of short blurbs about current events and trends that will help you get up to speed and stay current with topics in your future prospective industry.
- Medium: Create a weekly roll-up of stories to stay on top of current events or the thoughts of specific influencers.
- Google Alerts: Set up alerts based on your custom list of keywords and Google will notify you of anything that aligns with your keywords as it crawls the internet.
- Jim Rabuck: Jim compiled all of his notes after a year of entrepreneurship into a great blog post. If you are looking to start your own company, this is a great resource.
- Start with enabling the free 1 year Premium subscription that LinkedIn offers to veterans and enabling the “Open Candidates” feature on LinkedIn to let recruiters know you are open to future employment opportunities.
- Update your security settings so your profile is discoverable and tailor your summary, experience, skills, certifications, and profile picture for the opportunity you are looking for.
- Lastly, continue to expand your connections on LinkedIn since you never know which connections will make a crucial introduction for you in the future.
- Meetup is a platform that allows groups of people in a geographic area to organize meet ups based on shared interests. This is a good way to expand your network or learn more about industries or skills you are interested in.
Six Months Out
At this point, I was starting the administrative tasks of checking out while narrowing down my search to specific companies and industries I was most interested in.
DoD TAP Class
- It’s required so you might as well make the most of it. I found several sections of the Department of Labor Employment Workshop guide to be especially useful (STAR method, common interview questions, a list of action verbs for resume writing, lists of questions to ask during an interview).
- Also, the benefits brief to the VA is useful although it crams a lot of information into a single day. If you aren’t planning on using your GI Bill for a degree, you can use it for industry licenses and certifications. The VA maintains a list of currently approved training programs.
Service Academy Career Conference
- I went to the SACC in DC and found it helpful for receiving feedback on my resume, answering interview style questions in person, and connecting face-to-face with hiring managers at technology companies.
The COMMIT Foundation
- I attended one of The COMMIT Foundation mentoring workshops and really enjoyed my experience. They had multiple panels consisting of partners at VC firms, tech company CEOs, and veterans currently working in the technology industry. My peers were also a great future resource.
- Veterati is a free mentorship platform that provides veterans with a database of potential mentors.
- The BreakLine Tech program combines panels with industry leaders, classroom instruction, and visits to technology companies.
- The Stanford Ignite! program is a full-time program exclusively for veterans interested in entrepreneurship. The cost is graciously subsidized by alumni and the program includes classroom instruction, visits to tech companies, and career assistance services.
- Shift sends out a weekly email with the top 3 career opportunities that may align with the background of a veteran. Shift also supports the Military Fellows Program.
Once I identified opportunities, I leveraged my network to get personal introductions when possible. I struggled with translating my military experience into terms a civilian interviewer would understand but these resources helped me prepare for those interviews.
- Glassdoor is an aggregator of employee reviews on a company. I found the interview section and salary estimator to be helpful.
- Quora is a question and answer platform. Searching around, you can find some example interview questions and answers.
Cracking the Tech Career
- This book is an overview of processes and recommended best practices for landing an offer at a tech company. I found the sample resumes helpful as well as the behavioral interview grid. I used the grid as a framework to organize and refine my anecdotes for interview questions. The author also provides a slideshow on LinkedIn and several cheat sheet resources for free on her website.
Behavioral Interview Questions
- Wayne State University compiled a comprehensive list of behavioral interview questions. I used this list and the framework referenced above to avoid surprises during the interview process.
Decode and Conquer
- This book is specific to Product Management, but it provides both questions and sample answers to interview questions. The frameworks for case study, estimation, and design questions were helpful to prepare for those types of questions, if you anticipate receiving them.
- Arguably of most value was the time and feedback I received from everyone I interacted with as I prepared. Thanks to everyone who helped me out including but not limited to: Bethany Coates and her team at BreakLine, Anne Meree Craig and her team at COMMIT, Keith David, Josh Kristoff, Beau Laskey, Bryant Skarda, Garrett Smith, Matt Oberhardt, Najeeb Ahmed, Tara Chang, Jameel Khalfan, Adam Fullerton, Christian Rodriguez, and Dustin Dolginow.
Negotiating An Offer
Negotiating a salary and compensation package isn’t a common experience for military professionals. It’s even more complicated if you have to compare the value of equity at a startup to equity at a larger, publicly traded company. These resources helped me determine my value and respond to offers accordingly.
Michelle Wetzler’s Blog Post
- Michelle has a great article on how she negotiated her startup offer. It includes links to these additional resources which are worth reading:
- Equity for Early Employees in Early Stage Startups
- Paul Graham’s Equity Equation
- How to Think About Cash vs. Equity Compensation
- Startup Equity for Early Employees
NYTimes Rent vs. Buy calculator
- I thought this was handy when trying to determine future living expenses and calculating my minimum slurry requirements.
- This is a good calculator to estimate your future expenses due to standard deductions like taxes, Social Security, Medicare, etc. The output is similar to your military Leave and Earning Statement which helps for comparisons.
I Will Teach You to Be Rich
- Ramit Sethi offers a lot of advice on personal finance and negotiations. I thought this video was a good overview but he has others that you can explore as well.
Preparing For The New Role
Once I knew my future role and responsibilities, I used my free time and terminal leave to brush up on some of the skills I hadn’t used in a while and to learn new skills for the new role.
Training the Street
- For those interested in learning about corporate finance and accounting, I found this program to be useful. They offer in-person courses but I used the self-study courses. The workbooks have a lot of examples with solutions, which I found useful, as well as Excel templates. These also serve as good references for the future.
Massively Open Online Courses
- I relied on a combination of Udacity, Alison, Udemy, Lynda, Master of Project Academy, and Coursera for classes on project management fundamentals/methodologies/software, deep learning, machine learning, and robotics. Unique to my interests but there is a ton out there for free or a small fee.
- Intercom compiled their blog posts on product management and operating a startup into several free e-books that are worth reading. On Starting Up and On Product Management were useful to me.
Onward to Opportunity
- Syracuse University and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families run this program which provides veterans access to test prep materials and covers the cost of one exam. This is a good way to get a certification without using your GI Bill.
Thanks again to everyone who has helped me through this process. If I missed any other valuable resources, please let me know (@wilselby). I’ll continue to pay it forward.