12 May 2016by Koda
Perspective – From Marine to Developer
A Lesson on Opportunity
The following is a true story, abridged and distilled to demonstrate the points I found meaningful.
This article is about what happens when walls are placed around those who may have otherwise been perfectly positioned for upward mobility both socially and professionally. This is about tragically trapped potential…ultimately unleashed purely by chance, and with immeasurable gain.
A boy enlists; exits the relative safety of a broken home, a crime ridden neighborhood, an absentee mother, a regimented albeit neglected education. A flawed structure, but a structure nonetheless… a network he can leverage and navigate with a clear set of dangers and expectations, but one that presents limited avenues and predictable outcomes.
A man leaves the Marines, successfully completing the grueling boot camp experience, several tours of active duty, surviving the most kinetic firefight since Vietnam, embracing a new structure, developing a set of skills that his brothers have found indispensable.
He returns aware that his former structure has eroded. His friends have done several tours themselves; some in county, some places far worse. He’s not looking to return, he’s looking to move forward.
He talks to other vets, guys heading home, he hears that security is the only gig out there. He picks up 20 hours a week doing security… part time saves employers benefits… so he shares a full work week with 2 other retired marines… He goes to the office of veteran affairs, department of employment services seeking another option, literally anything that gets him the 40 hours at minimum wage he needs to scrape by.
He’s asked how long he’s out… his psychological status with the military. He’s given some poignant advice; to apply for unemployment and disability… there is no job, there are no 40 hours… there is a hand out. A hand out for a man that traded his entire life, sacrificed his values, his body and his mental state for an enviable set of skills honed by the toughest training program on this planet. A set of skills that now affords him the luxury of 20 hours a week walking desolate hallways.
It has been said and repeated, throughout history and literature that greatness comes from scrapping for opportunities. That those in corner offices, born with silver spoons should watch for the clever and hungry have-nots in the mail room.
However, it is not simply lack of social opportunity, it’s also the absence of limitations… the perception of absolute freedom. The belief that anything is attainable.
Today, this man no longer patrols hallways, expected to place himself in peril for far less than his beliefs, nor did he join the terrifying statistic of 18 daily souls taken by their own hand following a lonely, shameful and ultimately fatal drop upon reentry to society.
He didn’t collapse inward and lose himself, he reached out to a fellow marine, a young man I proudly call my business partner.
He was hired on the spot as an intern, endured coding and design training nearly for free, travelling hours to and from work each day or sleeping on the conference room floor, putting in hours others might consider inhuman without so much as a whimper.
In less then a year he has become a skilled and resourceful developer; spearheading initiatives, delegating and escalating as appropriate to accelerate completion, all the while conducting himself with a reserved confidence… never with ego.
It’s all about the team, the mission…his personal and professional development are paramount, after all, the team is counting on him being a solid and reliable resource.
He’s grateful for every project assigned, every task doled out. He knows that the vote of confidence is not to be taken lightly.
In this short interval he has seen his work showcased on NBC, watched it skyrocket to #2 on the apple app store, he has seen his leadership and decision making shape platforms used by household names.
Every time a project is launched successfully, when others might be celebrating, he is undoubtedly at his desk or on a couch; headphones in, laptop running, with renewed energy and focus.
Catalyzed by an absence of options and with the help a brother not so long ago in a similar position he has once again developed specialized skills critical to the advancement of his unit, forged by a man leading from the front of the column.
He is once again part of a structure he can embrace and navigate, one within which he is a crucial component, and with a much more attractive set of potential outcomes.
He was the first of a team now comprised of 3 marine core veterans and a young man who’s father was a 23 yr Marine Corp Vet, in addition to our ‘civilian’ staff.
Whether the military attracts people with these qualities or manufactures them as a by-product of active duty they are not security guards or welfare recipients.
They may be battered, they may be bruised, but they’re looking for the next fight… and they don’t lose.
A noticeable overtone of pride, support, camaraderie, clear values, dedication, enthusiasm, focus, and commitment to ourselves and one another in our pursuit of growth as individual contributors as well as a top flight development studio permeates our organization as a result of their presence.
I’m proud and grateful every morning when I walk in and see them already at their desks.
I know that I can call anytime of day or night and they will answer, very likely already at a terminal, very likely together.
I count on them to do what needs to be done whether trained to do it or not.
I count on them to win.
Because there simply is no such thing as an Ex-Marine.