I found my fresh start in life at a job fair that catered to Army veterans, where I was invited to apply for a job training program run by Work Opportunity Solutions and sponsored by Diversant. Here’s the story of how I made the transition from military to civilian life, learning many things in combat and along the way.
US Army. In 2003, just a few days after my high school graduation, I followed my life-long dream and joined the United States Army. Stationed in Italy, I rotated between there and Germany for training and combat deployments in Afghanistan after an initial deployment to Iraq.
It was my first deployment to Afghanistan that opened my eyes to the physical and emotional toll combat can have on a unit. We spent much of our time isolated from the main force and operated in a very large area of responsibility. But if that was eye-opening, my final deployment several years later was more so. We were sent to the infamous Korengal Valley; there was fighting almost daily, and casualties were very high on both sides. It is here that I learned how to operate in the present — and under extreme pressure.
Although I had always wanted to make a career of the military, and was proud to have reached the rank of sergeant, my goals shifted, and I wanted to challenge myself in different ways and attend college.
College. I returned to the States and began my college career. I admit I assumed college would be easier than the military, but education turned out to be a different challenge altogether, requiring a different part of my mind to obtain knowledge, comprehend that knowledge, and apply it. I rose to the challenge, though, and made the Dean’s List after my second semester, and remained there for the duration of my college career.
Return to service with tech. My involvement with the military was not over yet, as it turns out. There was quite a lot of money to be made as a civilian contractor, and for a broke college student with combat experience, such an opportunity was hard to resist. So again I found myself overseas in support of the global War on Terror.
This time, I would learn about software and hardware that was being utilized by soldiers to give them a tactical advantage on the battlefield. The tech support we provided was extremely important. I was learning information technology, a concept I never dreamed of understanding.
But as lucrative as civilian contracting can be, it offers almost no security and limited opportunity for individual growth — both of which I wanted. So, on US soil once again, I interviewed at places like Verizon, Xfinity and even the Philadelphia Navy Yard — where I figured being a veteran with some IT experience would make me an ideal candidate — to no avail.
New horizons. The job training program run by Work Opportunity Solutions and sponsored by Diversant gave me the opportunity I was looking for. How it worked: For a week, 50 applicants would be introduced to the discipline of project management and tested on their aptitude; 10 would be selected to continue for formal training and would ultimately become IT project management consultants. I was among the 10 chosen to report to Penn State in Abington, Pennsylvania.
Benefits of consulting. My path to consulting was indirect; I certainly never set out with the goal to end up where I am currently. I got here by expanding my horizons, taking risks and working extremely hard. I have been with the same client for the past six years and I can honestly say this is my proudest achievement in life. I give a great deal of credit to those who gave me a chance, taught me what it takes to succeed, and supported me every step of the way.
Being an IT consultant has taught me more about myself than I had ever hoped to understand. It’s not combat, but every day is a new challenge, and it is a challenge I am willing to accept.