Vets in Tech: Fireside Chat
Trent Wooton, lead of Vetflare, Cloudflare's employee resource group that supports veterans at Cloudflare and throughout the tech industry, hosts a fireside chat with Jay Garcia, Global Veterans Program Manager at Fortinet.
All right, and I think we're live. Welcome everybody to another segment with Vetflare and a fireside chat.
Definitely excited and honored to have my guest Jay Garcia, Global Head of Veteran Programs at Fortinet.
Jay and I have had a lengthy relationship now that I've been with Cloudflare.
He's actually been one of the inspirations for how I'd like to see Vetflare grow into in the future.
But before I get along too far, Jay, I'd love to get a little background.
Where are you from?
Where did you serve? No, thanks, Trent. You know, I do appreciate you having me here.
And, you know, first and foremost, right, it's we just had Veterans Day.
So, you know, I'll be remiss if we don't recognize the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices of our veterans and also their families, right?
I mean, we wouldn't we wouldn't be able to go to Starbucks and have our favorite drink, right, without all the sacrifices that our veterans have made.
So, you know, thanks and happy Veterans Day.
I served 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. And, you know, the most of that time in the military, I spent it on recruiting duty.
I did human resources, talent acquisition, sourcing, and just simply recruiting for the military.
So, yeah, that was 20 years. I recently retired, you know, three years ago back in 2017.
And I'm fortunate to be leading this effort here at Fortinet, Trent.
Nice. Well, congratulations on the 20-year career and also happy birthday, Marines.
Right. That was a couple days ago. And thanks for your service. Cool. And I guess kind of jumping into some of the some of the meat before we do that, I would love to hear a little bit of the transition story.
I know you mentioned that you were in recruiting a majority of time while you're in, which directly kind of correlates to kind of what you're doing now at Fortinet.
But if there was any sort of transition story, I'd love to hear.
No, perfect, Trent. So, you know, I always tell service members and, you know, the military spouses, right, I know this is focused towards veterans, but we cannot forget the military spouses as well.
It's very important that we start that transition early on in our careers.
And I often share with a lot of my peers when I was recruiting for the Marine Corps, I would start that there with the candidates as far as the jobs that they wanted to pursue, what jobs in the military led to careers after the military.
So I always share that with these candidates and a lot of my peers.
When I was on recruiting duty, for the most part, a lot of the hiring events at the military bases, the employers that they bring on board, they're focused to guide us towards careers in physical security.
And that's something that I study for. My goal at the end of my retirement, my end of the military career was to go on some type of law enforcement or join some type of three -letter agency, focusing again on physical security.
And it wasn't towards the end of my last enlistment that I got word of the cybersecurity industry.
And I found out that there was various jobs, aside from just straight technical, that somebody can pursue in this industry, whether it's marketing, whether it's human resources, whether it's sales.
And at the same time, obviously, they do have that need for the technical roles.
So I went to school, I got some training, I got some certifications through various nonprofit organizations.
And then I was connected to Fortinet through the veterans program that we have at Fortinet.
I ended up getting hired to run the program. And three and a half years later, we continue to help those transitioning service members through our program.
And that's my transition story, right? It's taking advantage of all the resources that were available that connected me with this opportunity.
And now that's what I do day in, day out, is I share those resources with veterans that are trying to get into this industry.
Nice. And some of the original introductions to Fortinet, and it sounds like it was pretty easy to reach out to another vet since they already had the vet program.
What did starting that conversation look like?
No, that is correct, right? So when I was connected to this program, it was through a nonprofit organization that was called Work for Warriors.
And Work for Warriors, what they do is they connect transitioning service members with industry, whether somebody wants to be a security guard, or whether somebody wants to work in the retail industry, or whether somebody wants to work in the cybersecurity industry.
And that nonprofit, I'm sorry, that state-run organization connected me to Fortinet, the veterans program lead at that time, my predecessor.
Part of this program, what they do is that they connect these service members, these veterans, these candidates with resources, mentorship, coaching, training.
And those are some of the things that we can speak later on that a lot of the service members can take advantage of as well, Trent.
Nice. Cool. I mean, that's, I think one of the biggest shortfalls that a lot of vets see whenever they're looking at a transition or trying to understand what to do is getting a hold of, it's just finding that information.
Who knows what resources are available? And it's cool that a state-run organization put you in touch with such a great program.
But I would love to hear a little bit more about the veteran program at Fortinet.
You guys have a great, great moniker, FortiVet, which is kind of what I drew the vet flair from.
But I guess in a 10,000 foot view, or kind of in your own words, what is the FortiVet veteran program at Fortinet?
No, not perfect. And that's a great question, Trent.
There's a skills gap that we're currently facing. Colleges and universities, they're not producing enough qualified talent to fill the roles that we currently have.
And the veterans, I mean, we have over 250,000 service members exiting the military every year.
Our goal is to connect the service members with opportunities in this industry.
And those opportunities are, Trent, it's the training, the certifications, the networking piece, that a lot of service members often have challenging and difficult times with.
We are working in a military base.
We're in an installation. We really don't know industry.
Plenty of times, a lot of conversations are had where a service member connects with myself and they're like, Jay, how can I get into this industry?
And then I start asking some basic questions. What's an MSSP? Who are the heavy hitters in the cybersecurity space?
Who are the heavy hitters in the networking space?
So that's something that we focus on the veterans program, Fortinet veterans program, is to connect these service members with the knowledge, with the network.
And then we also provide training through our network security expert certifications through our training institute so that these service members can actually work in organizations that use our technology.
And I guess in regards to kind of connecting the dots, a lot of times people have kind of a difficult time navigating around kind of the various MOS, NECs, AFSCs, or these various job classifications.
To someone trying to understand kind of the direct relation or how to best articulate that, what would you recommend?
So, you know, that's, again, right, it's a great question.
A lot of the service members, right, we're used to, you know, saying MOS, you know, and a lot of times, we really don't know what is that MOS, Military Occupational Specialty, you know, equate to in the civilian sector.
Whether it's recruiting, we're looking at human resources. We talk about communications, network security, those careers in the military can prepare somebody for a career in the cybersecurity IT industry.
With our military becoming highly digital nowadays, they actually can walk away with a lot of training and a lot of certifications that we need out here.
You know, we do cybersecurity, which, again, part of our program is that we go to the military installations, and we speak to these cyber commands, communication commands.
And a lot of times, the marine or the sailor or airman, they really don't understand and they don't realize how valuable they are to this industry, not just on the technical side, but also on the, you know, the soft skills, the leadership, the discipline, the confidence, the things that we need from a worker out here in this industry.
And for the most part, and I always say this, a veteran transitioning out of the military, finding a job in this industry, when they're faced with difficult challenges and tasks at hand, they're not going to curl into a fetal position when something goes wrong.
So there's definitely those things that a service member can add value, a veteran, and also a military spouse to the industry out here.
And there's plenty of resources that can help somebody to be able to translate what an MOS is.
You can simply Google it. If you're a career recruiter in the Marine Corps, and you Google, what does 84-12 career recruiter MOS equate to out here in industry, they're going to be able to get the answer just like that training.
And I guess, to another point that you're starting to bring up with regard to like certifications and kind of the mission critical kind of certifications or requirements, like knowledge requirements, what are some paths either through the FortiVet program or whatnot that vets can take to either go to the appropriate schools or get the appropriate certifications?
And what are some of those key certifications that people are getting that are leading to opportunities?
No, that's, you know, again, right.
It's another... I know there's a million. Right.
So there's plenty of certifications out there. And one of the things that I always share with a transitioning service member, you know, let me just say a job seeker is to find out what they want to do, what type of industry they want to pursue, what type of career they want to pursue.
And is it something that they really, really are in love with?
And once that happens, then, you know, there's information out there that can give us that, you know, for example, for somebody that wants to pursue a career in cybersecurity, I always connect veterans and candidates, right, with the great website, CyberSeek.org.
Somebody can go on CyberSeek.org under career pathway, a tool, and they can break down, you know, what is needed to be a SOC analyst, a network engineer, right, a systems engineer.
And also in there, it's going to break down to what type of certifications the industry is recommending.
So once that is done, there's plenty of organizations, non-profit, that are helping those service members.
A prime organization that Fortinet, we partner with is Onward to Opportunity.
So any service member within six months of getting out, any veteran, guard, and reserve, and their military spouses can utilize their services.
Onward to Opportunity is the IVMF through Syracuse University.
Some of the certifications that they offered are a PMP for project management, an SPHR for human resources, or a CISSP, obviously, if they want to get into the IT cybersecurity industry, or the COMTIA certification.
So there's a lot of non-profits out there that offer these training opportunities so that that service member can upskill themselves or re-skill to be able to access the industry.
And that's just one out of the, I believe there's about 44,000 non-profit organizations that are out there.
And then obviously through our Fortinet veterans program, we do offer the Fortinet network security expert certifications for free to our candidates, along with certificate vouchers through those partnerships that we have with over right now, I believe 20 non-profit organizations.
Nice. And I guess my guess, and some of what I've drawn from looking into the Fortinet program is that you aid veterans in obtaining some of these certifications, and at the same time have developed a network of kind of extended companies within tech to not only provide valuable talent for, but also kind of foster and facilitate that talent base kind of in general.
I guess I kind of explained what I was about to ask you about, but there is an example that you recently shared on LinkedIn where, what is it, Martinez was previously in the Air Force, went through your program and was actually picked up as an SDR for one of our partners, Splunk.
And I just would love to hear that story kind of from start to finish if you remember.
No, absolutely Trent. So, you know, our, again, the Fortinet veterans program is to bridge the cybersecurity skills gap and to help the transitioning service member or military spouse get into the industry.
However, you know, we would love to hire every candidate.
It's impossible. We cannot hire everyone due to many factors, whether it's location or they're not qualified for a certain role.
So then what we do is we connect the veterans that we don't hire, we connect them to an employer partner ecosystem.
Right now there's over 300 different organizations throughout the globe that receive the candidate feeds, their resumes.
We call them battle cards, a visual resume that showcases the candidate's skills, their experience, their certifications.
So what we do is we distribute these candidates to these employer partners.
And then from there, the employer partners, they get a snapshot of the candidate.
They're able to bring him in, interview him, put him through their hiring processes.
And that's how, you know, this candidate was able to secure employment.
From the program itself, we do hire a large portion of candidates.
However, we also share them with the employer partner ecosystem.
And that is something that, you know, Cloudflare has definitely access to that as well.
Nice. And I guess how, if you do have a number in mind, like how often do our veterans or kind of the talent like male spouses taking advantage of programs like yours?
No, so there's a, you know, it's funny you ask that, right?
There's a lot of programs out there in veterans, you know, with becoming aware of them and military spouses, they are applying for them.
They are taking advantage of them. Earlier on, I had a conversation with a service member and he knew about Onward to Opportunity.
He knew about the Microsoft MSSA program.
So there's a lot of programs that are out there. And with doing events like, you know, for example, this, you know, this chat that we're having here, now service members and other spouses, they're finding out about the 400 Veterans Program.
So it is something that, you know, I get excited. I, you know, I love talking about our program because we're able to get this information to a lot of service members that are out there.
And I really couldn't put a number of how many are actually going through the various programs, but I know for us at Fortinet, we just hit our thousand mark of service members and military spouses that have benefited from our program.
Nice. Congrats. I mean, that is quite the And so I love to, I would love to hear more kind of about those individual stories of you can continue sharing them on LinkedIn.
Love, love to see little wins across the industry.
No, perfect. And kind of looking at, kind of looking at all these people taking advantage of kind of the programs that are available and making inroads.
And if you were to set up a step-by-step process or a procedure to what successful transition either out of the military or into industry from other industries, what, what does that typical roadmap look like?
You know, I guess a successful, what does a successful military transfer look like?
I guess that's a better question. No, no, no.
Perfect. Right. And, you know, for, for, for me, I always, I always preach to start early, as early as possible for, for a lot of the service members that are still in uniform.
I always, I always, you know, suggest for them to find their replacement as soon as possible.
And what that's going to do is going to allow them the time to do the research and to participate in the various programs that are available out there and to connect with different organizations.
A prime example that, that I always, you know, I always share this with service members is to connect with as many nonprofit organizations as they can possibly connect with.
Why is that? When somebody connects with the nonprofit organizations, such as Blue Star Families, who's another nonprofit organization partner of ours, they just don't get access to additional training opportunities.
They get access to additional career coaches, additional mentors, as well as additional employer partners that those organizations have.
So for me, I always say start early with that transition process, identify the industry, identify the roles, seek and get the proper training.
And then lastly, which it goes throughout the steps is to network with individuals and those companies that you are interested in joining.
That's what my career plan looks like as far as, you know, suggestions for somebody transitioning.
I mean the, I totally agree. I think I'll probably piggyback on one of the points you made, which was kind of taking advantage of the network.
And I know I've, I basically am repeating myself in segments at this point, but I truly believe that that is probably one of the biggest impact, like impacting factors to taking advantage of the veteran network is simply reaching out to support organizations, personnel that you, even if you're not sure they'll point you in the right direction, it's just trying because they may know somebody, they may know somebody who knows somebody.
And it's really just kind of starting the conversation, getting the information and getting as much info so you can make the best next step.
No, I absolutely try. And I always, I always say, right, it's kind of funny, but a closed mouth don't get fed.
I mean, that's just how it is. Ask whether you're connecting with somebody on LinkedIn for the first time.
Obviously you're not going to request for a job interview as soon as you connect with somebody.
Build some rapport at first and then later ask, ask for that informational interview, ask for, you know, a virtual cup of coffee, right?
And just learn from those organizations, because if you don't ask, you're going to miss out on that opportunity.
And again, I'm so grateful for this program at Fortinet because I was a candidate of this program.
I came through the program. I received the mentorship.
I was able to take advantage of the training. I received the coaching and the networking opportunity was huge.
I mean, I still remember, right, the founder of our Fortinet veterans program here, Stephen Tallent, when he sat down with myself doing the actual interview for this role, the opportunities that he was able to share and provide and knowledge and feedback.
I think that individual, every time I see him, because, you know, it's the network.
There's always this saying out there that the network is going to be your net worth.
The more you network with individuals, the more opportunities that you're going to see down the road.
And at the same time, don't just always ask.
Always get back to the community. And this is something that I do day in, day out, because I was blessed to be able to get this role, this position.
I'm in a position where I can help those individuals that are transitioning out of the service or other service members and military spouses to find careers in this industry.
And you brought up another kind of point, which is kind of on the employer, the recruiting, the organization looking for this talent base.
And it is around the topic of mentorship. How can we, as kind of people looking for this talent or looking to facilitate the bad, the most talented, the most diverse workforces, how do you think mentorship can play a role into kind of bringing on some of this talent or facilitating it from within?
Well, it's, you know, this is huge, right? And I think we can do that through our employer resource groups.
Most of the members of the ERGs, you know, they're going to be veterans for the most part.
We do have some allies that are not veterans.
They know veterans that are out there looking for work. They know of military spouses that are looking for work.
So the number one thing that I always say to industry is make sure that you're standing up your employer resource groups, because they have access to a lot of these candidates.
Plenty of your employees out there, they're still in the military, they're reservists.
So they have access to the military installations.
They have access to these candidates. And that is huge.
And then after that is obviously, you know, maintaining the events, whether you're helping out in the community, whether you're visiting military installations, whether you're participating in, you know, Toys for Tots, Marine Corps-led program, great organization, where these ERGs are able to give back to the community, but at the same time to attract the military and veteran talent.
You know, for the job seekers, I always say, right, is stay ready and stay relevant.
For the employers, my message to them is that, you know, at the end of the day, if you're looking for a more diverse, inclusive, equitable workforce, look at the military candidates that are coming out.
Look at the military spouses.
Take a look at that pool and don't miss the opportunity to one, identify them, but also give them a chance to get into this industry.
Cool. I totally agree.
I think it is an under tapped resource to kind of hit a lot of these other goals that these organizations, especially Cloudflare and Fortinet, I mean, as our name gets bigger, we should be able to provide a whole lot more opportunity.
And if we're looking for qualified opportunity, that's probably the best spot to start looking.
Definitely. Cool. Now we are coming up on our last few minutes, and I did want to kind of leave a few moments for kind of the advisory segment.
So for really anyone looking to kind of make the transition or transition either from out of the military into civilian life, or even from other industry into tech, what are some takeaways or some advice that you'd recommend for the job seeker?
So for those, right, it's number one, I always say, you know, identify the type of role that you want to pursue.
When I was attending those hiring events at the military installations, I will walk past the tech boots because I did not think or knew at that time that they had something to offer.
All that I believed was that they had technical jobs available.
IT, cybersecurity, that was not my focus. So one, identify what you want to do and then learn from those within the industry.
And that's going to come with the network, network with individuals.
There's various programs that are out there that focus specifically in IT and cybersecurity.
You know, we have one at Fortinet.
Our competitors also have their programs where they're able to take somebody from the ground up, provide the training, the mentorship, the coaching, and then connect them with opportunities.
So seek that knowledge.
Seek those programs that are out there. Take advantage of them. Because we always say, right, cybersecurity industry, zero percent unemployment rate.
There's going to be about four million openings projected here by the end of next year.
If you're looking to land a great career with the great industry, there's, you know, this saying that, you know, it's out there, right?
There's, you know, such thing as security than cybersecurity.
You know, there's definitely job security in this industry.
Get trained, get into this industry, because you're not going to regret it.
And this is not just coming from myself, but a lot of my peers. At Fortinet, 13% of our U.S.
workforce, they're military veterans. And every conversation that I have with them, you know, they're always telling me, Jay, you know, this is a great industry.
Jay, connect this veteran. And they're sending me, you know, candidates for this program.
So that's one thing for them. For the employers that are out there looking to hire military talent, feel free, connect with myself, or email veterans at fortinet .com.
And we can add you to the employer partner ecosystem.
For the veterans, the military spouses that are looking to access this industry, feel free and connect with our veterans program.
Same email, veterans at fortinet.com, or connect with myself.
And we're going to do our best to be able to provide services that can help you with that transition.
You know, we did get a quick last minute question, kind of around the Fortinet program.
It's like, what kind of marketing or promotion does Fortinet do to get the word out to male spouses or transitioning via personnel?
No, that's a great program.
We're actually, we have brochures. We're redoing our webpage, our website.
Our veterans program does include the military spouses as well. So, you know, we can definitely help here at Fortinet.
I believe, you know, I might be getting this number wrong, but I believe we're close to 2% military spouses that work at Fortinet.
So we definitely want to hire more military spouses. And yeah, I mean, please connect with myself and we can definitely get you in the program.
Well, thanks for the time. That's kind of the last question I had about Fortinet.
We got about a minute left. I would love, I ask everyone this, what was your aha moment or what did I sign up for a moment?
You know, you know, I, it's kind of, you know, I can't really answer that without first, you know, I guess sharing why I joined Fortinet, you know, and that was because of the mission.
I spent about 11, 12 years recruiting for the military. And for that, you know, I was enlisting young men and women into the armed forces.
What attracted me to Fortinet was that they have this great program that is able to transition service members back into the industry.
And for me, I kind of took it personal.
I spent so much time putting men and women into harm's way. Now it was my opportunity to pay back and set them up with great careers.
And when I saw that mission statement that Fortinet had, when I saw the peers that I was going to be working with, and then once joining Fortinet, everything was there.
That's kind of when I felt like, you know what, this is, I'm glad I joined this organization.
We have a great purpose. We have a great team. And, you know, I always share this, right.
Is when you do something that you love, you're never going to work a day in your life.
And that's what I want to end it with. Right. Nice.
That's, that's a great statement. It looks like our time is up, but I definitely want to thank you for, for spending a few minutes chatting with me, kind of going over the Fortinet program.
And I definitely look forward to working together in the future.
Perfect friend. Hey, thanks for the time, Jay.