Cloudflare TV

Transitioning from Vet to Tech

Presented by Trent Wooton, Cherie McKinney
Originally aired on 

Transitioning from Vet to Tech offers practical tips for veterans interested in transitioning from a career of service to a career in the tech industry.

Vets in Tech

Transcript (Beta)

We are live. Thanks for joining everybody for the final segment or final installment where Vetflare takes over some Cloudflare TV, giving some light to veterans in the tech industry, kind of sharing some tips and tricks on how to navigate, what are some best practices.

Today I'm here with Cherie McKinney. She is a technical resourcer from Micron Technologies.

Take it away, I'd love to hear a little introduction.

Hi. So yes, again, thank you so much Trent for having me in Cloudflare and Vetflare.

I'm happy to be here. I am a diversity sourcer at Micron Technologies. I just started there.

I'm so excited about the role and all the work that Micron is doing in the diversity space.

So I get to work with some executives, find some good data scientists, SSD, ASIC engineers.

I know it's like, what are all those terms? You know, as military folks, we love acronyms, right?

So just get to find some good folks and some diverse talent.

My background, I was in the Navy. I did seven years in the Navy.

I was in IT and got out, went to school full time, got my master's degree.

Then I went back to work. I worked for a local county government because I was on the West Coast, got out in Hawaii.

It was beautiful there. And then settled in Atlanta.

So I worked for local county government here in Atlanta, did a lot of great work there, started a lot of projects and programs, and then went back for my executive MBA.

So was excited about that, thinking I was going to take over the world in the IT space and decided, hey, I want to be involved in change for an organization, and what better way than with the people?

And that's what got me into recruiting a couple years ago.

I got to plug my veteran recruiting agency because without them, I wouldn't even be here right now.

So, you know, shout out to Sharif and the veteran recruiting agency that helped me out at Facebook that got us all these social development roles.

I'm so, so, so grateful to them.

Facebook was a phenomenal program, and that's what got me into recruiting, and that's kind of what got me to where I'm at now.

Nice. That was kind of a lead into one of my next questions because you kind of just mentioned you've had, from the time that we've met, you've been able to navigate pretty successfully throughout a number of technology companies.

You just mentioned that you're with Facebook.

When we first met, you were with SurveyMonkey, and then now you're at Micron Technologies.

I guess it sounds like the Facebook program was a pretty good, a pretty big catalyst for a lot of the kind of driving momentum going forward.

I guess, what are some of the tips and tricks that you learn kind of navigating through the industry, kind of through the various roles?

One of the key parts is stay connected.

Stay connected to your veteran agencies. Once you get into a company, or even before you get into a company, try to do your research and figure out where the veteran agency is, what are the point of contacts.

It was kind of difficult when I first got to Facebook because I didn't know that they had such a veteran organization until Veterans Week, and then once I got connected, that's how I was able to continue to network.

Networking is key. Stay connected to those people.

Follow those folks through all the different social medias.

LinkedIn is key. I connect with all the veteran key players at every organization that I'm at, and I attend a lot of the local events because sometimes at these local veteran events, there's a lot of agencies that come and represent as well, and you can find a lot of good partners, a lot of good agencies that are doing just special programming for veterans.

So, those are the things that kept me connected.

I mean, I am on a list for, I think I was telling you today, Trent, I'm on a list for all types of agencies and events and different things that just keeps you connected.

So, networking is key. Cool, and I think in a previous conversation, you've shared with me some of the extended networks that you're a part of, and that's kind of one of the biggest points that I like to share is like, while we are a community of vets, vets does cover a broad range of communities, and so, I mean, I would love to hear some of those other organizations that you're involved in or groups.

Groups, I mean, the groups list, long, especially for maybe the short list. Yeah, I'll give you the short list, but I'm just saying from a recruiting perspective, I'm involved in a ton of groups, all different types of women in technology, women in product, women in data scientists, Blacks in tech, Latin in tech, in LGBTQ communities, obviously in lots of veterans communities, and a lot of vets have disabilities, and that's such a huge stigma, right, for a lot of workplaces because there's not a lot of safe havens in a lot of these workplaces.

So, the problem there is that vets don't self-identify, right, with some of their service-connected disabilities, and we all have them, some visible, some not, and so, I love the huge push that a lot of organizations are doing with regards to disabilities and making it less taboo to talk about these things.

There's a lot of more mental health awareness groups and things like that that I'm a part of, but again, I didn't plug the name yet, and I did that on purpose, but I want to mention Bellator Recruiting.

They are huge. They are attached to such amazing organizations, and I held that on purpose because I knew we were going to get to this point to say how key it is to stay connected to an agency, and whenever you get a chance, like, people always talk about getting up or moving out and moving forward, always reach back.

Those are the ways that veterans are going to continue to flourish.

Those are the ways that veterans are going to continue to prosper. Different organizations like Wounded Warrior, Vets in Tech, I'm connected to those.

Yeah, just lots of those different organizations.

They have Slack groups. They have email lists, and then, of course, all my diverse groups because I've been such a DEI pioneer.

Even though it wasn't primarily my role until now, I've always stayed connected to all the various ERGs.

In the Bay Area, we have a coalition of Black Excellence, and they have a whole week.

At first, it was like a day, but now they have a whole week, and they integrate all the different types of programming or different types of awareness that we should have.

They start talking about mental health awareness.

They start talking about vets, so those different types of groups are key to stay connected to.

Nice. Yeah, I love the network, love kind of growing the community, and that's definitely probably the biggest proponent of kind of how to stay connected, but kind of getting to the final product, which is basically us or veterans as they kind of are navigating through their careers or the industry.

I think a lot of times, we start to think of what is the value or what is the value add that veterans bring to the tables.

We'd love to see kind of some of the trends that you've seen vets making as you watch them navigate either into some of the companies that you're with or as you see them kind of applying or maybe some shortcomings.

So I'll do the shortcomings first because those are the ones that I'm most adamant about.

I'm most adamant about how veterans are not utilizing their transferable skills on their resumes because, as you know, Trent, there's a lot of stuff that we do that is outside the scope of our job description in the military, right?

We do supply, we do inventory. There's a lot of different things.

Those are the things that I would target if any ERG, any company or anyone watching that's like, what can we do to help our veterans or what can we do to help more veterans get in the door?

Help them translate those transferable skills, okay?

And then the other part to that that I think I've seen done well is the companies that have set up these mothership-type programs and say, hey, we're going to make sure that we hit this target and funnel this amount of veterans in, but also we need our veterans to reach back and make sure that there's awareness and make sure that these ERGs are connecting to Wounded Warrior Project, et cetera, et cetera.

So those are some of the things that I've seen that go really, really well.

The other part is you got to connect with veterans the way they want to be connected.

We are always just ushered in rooms and told to wait. That's kind of like the basis of our military career.

Find another way to engage us. A beer works, right?


You tell a bunch of Marines and Army men, they're going to have a beer and let's have a chat.

It works, right? There was a great conference that happens in the Bay Area, a vets in tech conference, and they segment it.

So they do a general broad one.

They do a women's vets in tech. They do vets in tech events for specific branches so that all of this different awareness gets out.

Those are some of the things that I've seen work really, really well.

And then the ERGs, the ERGs are doing a much better job these days than when I started just a couple of years ago, right?

Because there was a lot of organizations that didn't have veteran -specific ERGs.

And these are key. I attended an ERG conference in the Bay Area.

And one of the main things that I got out of there is how to build this programming.

So you got to see what the end game is before you can actually really truly develop programming that is going to suit our veterans and you need veterans to do it.

You really do. Yeah. And I guess needing the veterans and finding them is sometimes the hard part.

Well, I guess this is probably for my knowledge. What would be some kind of successful ways that you've seen to identify vets?

Because obviously, like you mentioned, they don't always self-identify and sometimes they might not always be readily kind of available.

What have you seen organizations use to help vets kind of come forward maybe a little bit with a little bit more discretion?

Um, other vets. Um, I'm very, you know, I'm very, you're the same, Trent.

We share veteran information. We share information about being a vet and being proud to be that.

And I think that there is starting to be a bigger trend, like, okay, well, this person is a vet.

Let me make sure I share or disclose and we can have that sort of connection there.

So that that's key. The other part that is to add is to your point, they don't self-identify.

So it's not until they get in, if they've done all the other steps that I mentioned before, right, those transferable skills, they show up, they know how to interview things like that.

And then it's at that point, then we say, okay, now these vets, we have more vets, we have more vets.

But some of the things that I've seen work is just boots on the ground.

Like, I know it's going to sound really cliche, but folks have to get into these spaces where, where vets are, where they feel comfortable.

And sadly enough, a couple of years ago, there wasn't enough of that.

Um, a lot of companies shied away from veterans because maybe they were too rigor and they were just too, too, you know, hard to control things like that.

And a lot of these companies don't realize there's so much value in these vets.

They are the get up at seven o'clock, go down at midnight type of folks.

They work hard. They have good structure.

Their attention to detail is amazing. Um, and I've always been an advocate for veterans.

Um, not only because I am one, but because I know how hard it is in the workspace to be one, especially coming out of the military and sometimes shaking that military life is so difficult.

So I've, I've seen a lot of leaders as, as well as myself, especially when I was managing, managing before I came back into recruiting.

And I've been really adamant, like, Hey, I'll take them. Hey, I've grown them.

Hey, I'll, I will be that, you know, middle person or that voice to reason, or I'll be that leader.

And we need more of that. I will say that we need more of that in all spaces and every company that I'll say, Hey, I'll take the, some say risk, but I'll take the responsibility, right.

To continue to groom these vets and get them poised for the corporate world.

Cause it is very, very different.

Um, I tell people all the time, like, unless you're in the military space, you definitely have no idea what it's like.

Um, not even being a military spouse or a military child, you get a small glimpse, but it's not the same as being an actual member.

So, yeah. Yeah. I mean, there, there is, there is that difference.

Um, but I also think that, um, um, recruiting or, or kind of human resource departments also, uh, see sometimes have a hard time understanding the resume of say like a male spouse, uh, somebody that, uh, whether it's husband or wife, that's the male spouse.

They travel a lot. They travel around just as much as the, the re-stationed servicemen or, uh, service person.

And so what are, I guess, some thoughts for, for HR teams or male spouses that are trying to navigate?

What, what are some suggestions you might make or have comments around that?

So I think in tandem with the companies that are setting up these veteran ERGs or these veteran resources, they need to really consider their spouse.

Um, so I'm going to plug my company for a second.

Um, one of the great things that Micron is doing is they're creating an advocate for our, um, not only military spouses, but just for spouses in general.

So that when these folks relocate, they have a person or a point of contact at the company, because it's not always just the person working that's uprooting, right.

And relocating it is the kids, it is the spouse. And I've seen this at some of the larger companies.

So I would behoove them to set up this type of programming and say, Hey, let's make sure that we've covered all bases.

Let's make sure the spouse has an advocate to find work, to find childcare, to find simple things like where the kid's going to play baseball at again, where the, where the, what park can we go to, um, where are the local dance clubs so that we can have places to work out and things like that.

So some of those, um, um, I've seen work really, really well, certain companies.

And again, I'm so grateful to Micron because they have set up a program like this, not necessarily just for military spouses, but for all spouses that they can have an advocate for when they transfer or change.

So this type of program is something that's super, super key.

Um, I know that some of the veteran org organizations, they have special recruiting events just for military spouses and caregivers.

That's one that we forget a lot, right.

Um, as our veterans begin to age, our caregivers are key. Um, so they need to find work as well, or find other resources that, so that they can support their veterans and continue to support their veterans.

So having some sort of programming like that is, it will be awesome.

I mean, and every organization just for transitionings period.

Yeah, I completely agree. And then kind of getting back to a point, I almost forgot.

So I definitely wanted to get back to this because it comes to kind of back to the topic of some of the value that veterans are, are adding.

Um, you, you started to mention that we love acronyms and of course, so, so does the military.

Um, I mean, whether it's the MOS, the NEC or the AFSC for the air force, whatever, um, what a lot of times that's end up having a hard time connecting the dots.

What are, what are, what are some, some suggestions that you might make, uh, for, for vets are just like, Hey, I did this.

I don't know how to get, I don't know how to communicate this to my resume.

Um, there are a lot, there is a lot of software and programming.

I just found the other day, like this huge document of like, that'll help you wordsmith, find that there are some on usa .gov that'll help transfer your skills.

Um, and then get with some of your recruiters, reach out to, let's say you want to work at a company like Micron.

I guarantee if you find another veteran that works there, right.

And you reach out, they will help you.

Um, there I've met so many recruiters, sourcers as well, um, HR partners that are willing and ready to help you re reword this thing.

I know I say all the time, I have a bunch of other folks that I work with and they will just help you wordsmith this.

Um, because again, no one knows what an MOS is, but another military person, right?

No one knows what an NAM is except another Navy person, right?

And everyone puts, I got a NAM on my resume. Exactly. What did you achieve in the Navy?

Right. What did you achieve with that NAM or what does that get you?

You know, how does that affect and how does it affect your job? Um, so the key thing there is just ask, um, I, I use the source.

I mean, I use Google. I mean, it sounds really, really simple, but it's so key to just run that information by and especially the recruiter.

We do this every day, all day. We look at resumes in seconds and can, and can just really dial in and know what we're looking for.

And here's another tip. Um, and in terms of resume, you put all your key information, just like a Z.

So top left, we're going to read across, we're going to read down and then we're going to read across.

Right. So remember that if we're looking at your resume, you want to get hit all your high points at the top.

You want to get your experience, your education at the top, not too many bullets, not a lot of words.

It's just too much for us to read that quick. We need data points, qualitative and quantitative data, right?

So all of the things that you do that you can't really put a number or figure to detail it so we can actually see it.

So one of the things that I learned in my executive MBA is like, what does that look like?

Yeah, you may have done X, Y, Z supply work, but what does that look like for me?

And how does that impact my organization? If I want to bring you on, right?

So those are all things that are key in terms of not only wordsmithing, but making sure your resume is viewable and it's on point within seconds.

Cause we'll, we'll keep skipping.

We'll say, Oh yeah, this person's a veteran. We might go back and look again.

We're like, Oh, they don't have what we're looking for. Right. And a lot of these companies use AI and machine learning and tools to help pull out keywords.

And if you don't have those keywords, especially that pertains to your job, you won't even get a look.

That was kind of going to be one of my next kind of questions is like, what kind of software or are, is being used or is our, our resumes automatically being scrubbed?

Like what are key points that, what are, I guess, what would be words and key points to avoid?

To avoid acronyms. And if you want to use acronyms, because we do use both, like let's say, for instance, we're looking for a data scientist.

We'll, we'll use like data scientists and DS, right. Avoid acronyms.

You want to avoid a lot of the buzzwords. Lead this, develop this, you know, without any qualitative data.

Leave that stuff out.

And the types of software, all different types of software, every company at this point is using AI and machine learning to, to scrub.

LinkedIn is huge. Make sure your LinkedIn is updated all the time.

If you have any publications, any certifications, any, any other things that are specialized to your job, make sure that stuff is on LinkedIn.

They are looking there first. Most companies looking there first, or we have these ATSs.

So these are our applicant tracking systems that are automatically scrubbing the web on a daily basis and pulling this information in for us.

So those are some of the things that we're using as well to find talent.

There's a whole bunch of different software and ATSs, as I mentioned, but no one really would know except other recruiters, but just know that once you put your information out there, make sure that there's no punctuation.

I mean, I've seen a lot of resumes, especially from veterans, punctuation, things misspelled, things like that.

Make sure you run your resume through these little key things, but it is the difference maker.

It is really the deal breaker with regards to how these resumes come across because they already know they're like, all right, these military, they have attention to detail.

How did they miss this?

They're going to be critical. They're going to be critical. So just be cognizant of that, be cognizant of the fact that they are going to run your resume through all these different tools, and sometimes it will be a machine first, but you also want to make sure that you have done your due diligence to make sure that everything looks nice and pretty.

Perfect. Now I'll just need to make sure it's polished and looks great.

So how about this? Here's one question. It's always a yes or a no.

Picture or no picture? Depends on the role, and I say that because if you have anything that's in graphics or designs, that thing needs to be pretty.

I will say maybe save some of that for your portfolio, but for the most part, no picture on your resume, but definitely picture on your LinkedIn.

Okay. Cool.

And then the resume and all that, all basically positions you for the transition, and hopefully it's dialed in so that the transition is successful.

So I guess what additionally that maybe we haven't noted could be done to ensure that there's a successful transition?

Just remember you're not in the military anymore.

That's super simple. A lot of times people don't even realize I'm in the military.

Sorry about that. A lot of people don't even realize I'm in the military because I have separated the two, and I know a lot of times that's hard to do, but you have to really just separate the two, and remember that you're not talking to folks that are going to automatically understand, so you have to break things down.

So if you talk about this cruise that you went on, they're going to think that you went on the Carnival Cruise Line, and that is nothing close to what we've done, right?

Yeah, missing a boat, missing a pool, missing a few cocktails.

Yeah, missing some wild nights that you don't want to remember, or maybe adding a few, but you just got to remember that, and just be yourself.

Who you are and how you show up is how you want to be every time, right?

And you may be a little rough around the edges at times, right, as you transition, especially those folks that are fresh out after they've done 10, 15, 20 years, but you have to be yourself because that is now a part of who you are, and that's the one thing that I make sure everybody understands, is while I'm not in the military anymore, and I may not even come across or represent like I'm in the military, it will always be who I am.

Get me around some other sailors, and we start talking about duty stations and ships, and some conversations will start flying, and people are like, what are they talking about?

And be okay with that. The conversation might get a little bit livelier, more colorful.

Yes, for sure, and that's okay, right? But always remember your audience.

Always remember that these things are just a part of who you are, and they're not everything you are, and that's okay.

That's okay. Cool. Now, we are coming up to kind of our final few minutes together, but I do want to kind of leave the floor open to any final parting advice or words of wisdom that you would like to impart to any viewers that might be watching.

They might be making the transition, contemplating making an industry change, or contemplating getting out.

What are your thoughts for them? I think all of those things are great. I think they're all very pivotal in the next phase or next cycle of each person's life.

We all go through it.

Even after I got in the military, I decided to change careers after I was tower lead for the state of Georgia.

That was yesterday. Today is today, and be comfortable and proud of that because you have to sometimes remember all the ground that you've covered, and so I'll say one of the key things that I struggled with until I went and got my executive MBA was asking for help.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not be afraid to look for resources, and then even when you can't ask for help, have someone else ask for you if you need to.

It's going to be key. Even when I got the opportunity with Bellator, it was probably one of the hardest times in my life because my brother was murdered at that time.

Literally, I got off the call and boom, all of these things would happen, and when I tell you the type of support that I had from Bellator and the one thing that allowed me to be sitting where I am right now is he said, Sharif Wabi, he said, Sharif, do this for him.

He would be so proud of you. He would be just so mad if you didn't go through with this, and I knew that every step of the way and even now that he's a part of that.

Remember those key things are a part of what makes you who you are.

No matter if they end up being negative or positive, they are always who you are, and keep going.

We were not a part of this special secret society as veterans because we were for the faint at heart.

We are strong. We are tough, Army strong, Marine, Navy, Coast, everything, Air Force, all of it.

We were all strong and take pride in this special, special, special brotherhood and sisterhood that we're all a part of because that's one thing I tell people all the time.

Once you're a vet, you're always a vet, and know that your brothers and sisters in arms are there to help you.

That's why I get so excited. I'm like literally hot right now because I get so excited about talking about, one, dispelling the myths of veterans because, again, I don't look like a veteran, right?

You don't look like a veteran, Trent.

Not anymore. My hair used to be a lot higher and tighter.

Right, right, right. Definitely none of that on your face. No way.

I love being a change maker, a wave maker, and a person that also leads the way for others.

Just know that, trust me, there are companies that want people that look like you.

There are companies that want your skills. There are companies that don't even realize how great and awesome and how wonderful you're going to be to, one, the morale, the makeup of the company, the product that's going to be put out.

Just do it. Sorry, Nike, but I stole it from them for a second, but just do it.

Go for it. There will be a ton of no's, but all you need is one yes. Don't let the no's get to you.

That's probably one of the hardest parts, and I think everybody deals with that.

Anyone trying to make the industry change or career change always deals with now, and it's one of those facts of life that you got to get beyond it because you only need one yes to change your life.

Yeah, I like the no's because in my mind the no's are maybes, so I'm like, okay, it's no right now.

I'll be back.

I'll be back. Give me two more no's, and then maybe I'll leave you alone. Maybe I'll leave you.

Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. So, yeah, that's it. Just keep pushing, and remember, stay connected.

That is going to be key. Again, shout out to Trent.

Thank you so much, and Bellator Recruiting Academy for getting me into recruiting, and thank you for today.

Hey, thank you, Cherie. I definitely appreciate the time.

Always love seeing you. Hopefully, we can do a little bit more of this again in the future.

Yes, love it. Cool. Thank you so much for the time, and enjoy your weekend.

You do the same. Thanks. Bye.

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