07 Jun 2016by Leah Wald
You’d be Lucky to Hire a Veteran
Military veterans are starting to apply their skill set to the world of tech and entrepreneurship, enriching it with their experience and bringing the lessons they learned to the corporate table. The necessity of high-tech training and problem-solving in more and more military operations translates to a lot of potential in the civilian market and I’ve been lucky enough to help a lot of amazing veterans make that transition.
Unfortunately, there’s sometimes a lot of difficulty from the other direction. Many employers are unsure of how to integrate veterans into their company culture, and the military isn’t always great at preparing its members for life out of uniform. Quite simply, civilians are not military and veterans can have a hard time learning how to be civilians. Add in the physical and psychological issues that veterans can pick up on duty and it’s not surprising that there are clashes.
“Holy Shit. I have a great idea but I don’t know how to make it work?”
Toss that problem to a Vet and see the success. Veterans are able to take that leap of faith, make productive use of their given resources, and get the job done.
Employers are not understanding the unique value that a veteran employee brings. An employer should understand the immense value of veterans’ ability to fearlessly dig into a problem with immense curiosity and capability to be resourceful in finding a solution. You’re looking at a potential hire who is already eager and ready to be on a team, is conditioned that they will be trained to do a certain job, is a problem-solver, resourceful, dedicated, and resilient. What more could you ask for?
On my mom’s side, most of my Iowa farm family are veterans, as is my boyfriend, and I’ve worked with veterans in all capacities over the course of my career. I even co-founded a startup called Veterati specifically in response to the employment challenges facing the 1.5 million veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. I got involved in various veteran service organizations and eventually started dating a Marine, Nick, who runs a mobile app development company, Koda Labs. His company is a living example of how the corporate world could embrace the transitioning veteran community and successfully integrate them into productive teams.
Koda Labs is rooted in the belief that in the battlefield you have to have the highest quality of teamwork and therefore they have designed their company to operate as a united team of dedicated marines who know how to work together as brothers. Veterans share a common language, are trained problem-solvers with the ability to comfortably and accurately follow operating processes. This is a recipe to create a productive environment to produce powerful products.
A Green Beret explained to me that in the elite Special Forces teams, ten soldiers work together, building up their own mythology and tribal identity. Each of those teams is part of a larger unit, and so on up the chain. The teams are famously cohesive, thanks in no small part to the shared history, insignia and myths that make the unit what it is. Creating that morale that lets the teams work together on very dangerous missions is as important as any other training.
Nick uses a small-unit leadership model in operating his company, Koda Labs, day-to-day. They have Koda gear, they do a daily Stand-Up, and use titles to maintain roles in a more formal, military way than the usual office. It keeps employees cohesive and productive.
Being in the military, Veterans are taught that part of their assignment is to learn. Koda, with its standard procedures of training, is a natural fit for military vets to successfully and comfortably transition. Veterans will come to a new job with the desire to be taught a particular skill-set. Therefore, no need to deal with petty office politics; they truly want and will appreciate the opportunity to learn. Nick, as a strong leader that is admired by his team, is tapping into the understanding that they can and will learn a skill and be successful if they follow their training.
Esprit De Corps
Veterans, in their element, possess a beautiful appreciation of an esprit de corps. Koda is giving an opportunity to train veterans that have qualities that the business world really admires and values. Koda is then teaching a particular high-value skill set and knowledge base that is translated directly into what the business world already admires, values, and has a demand for. In return, Koda’s employees exemplify the classic definition of group spirit by expressing their loyalty, enthusiasm and complete devotion to their team. If “Corporate America” could understand get more employees with a veterans’ love of teamwork, they’d save a lot of money on fancy team-building retreats.
Koda Labs is a paragon of the kind of success I think all veterans can have. It depends on the leadership and team of course, but the main thing is giving new veterans the chance they might not normally get. Paying our debt to them forward isn’t just a good deed, it’s good business tactics. And as Nick might say, tactics are half the battle.
Koda Labs (the cast of characters):
AND THE BROTHERHOOD:
The Koda Labs Team Hard at Work