By Ethan Israel
I know firsthand how hard it can be for veterans to find a substantial career opportunity. After six years in the Army National Guard, including a year of active service in eastern Afghanistan, I returned to my native Texas and quickly found out the job market was tight. I had deployed before finishing a business degree from the University of Oklahoma, and my experience as an infantry machine gunner wasn’t helping me find work. I waited tables, grateful for a paycheck, but felt moving to New York City would give me a fresh start. I arrived with no job prospects, no experience, and no idea if I’d even make it six months. I quickly realized that finding gainful employment in New York would also be quite difficult.
The catch-22 for all of the jobs I was seeking was: I couldn’t get the job I wanted without years of experience. But I also couldn’t get those years of experience without getting the job in the first place.
With the serious possibility of having to move back to Texas if I didn’t find something soon, I took to Google. I searched “opportunities for veterans in NYC” and it ended up being the first step in a very rewarding journey. After many of the results ended up being little more than a PR stunt with no actual opportunity for advancement, I stumbled upon one that looked a little different.
This was an advertisement for the Sharp Decisions V.E.T.S. training program. It was offering paid training by people who work in the technology industry and job placement upon graduation from their boot camp. I knew very little about Quality Assurance testing, other than what I knew about management systems from my college business classes, and, after being disappointed by so many other programs, this one sounded too good to be true.
I took a chance, applied, and quickly got a call back for an interview. Before long, I was sitting in the first class of recruits for the program.
After completion of the training course – which surprised me with its depth and technical sophistication – I was ‘deployed’ with a group of other veterans to EmblemHealth to do assignment testing software.
It was at Emblem where I was given the opportunity to work with a diverse team of veterans and civilians on interesting projects and to learn how the business of software development works in a challenging, real-world setting.
The Sharp Decisions V.E.T.S. Program had not only given me training and job placement, they took an active role in helping me get my career jumpstarted. After working with EmblemHealth for a few years, they approached me with a new project to work testing software for Major League Baseball and, as a lifelong baseball fan, I was in IT heaven.
Sharp Decisions went above and beyond to secure the contract, prepare me for the interview and give me all the tools I needed to succeed. After a year working under contract for MLB, I was hired away from the V.E.T.S. Program as a full-time employee with Major League Baseball where I now lead a team of testers working on software that helps to run the day-to-day operations of the league.
I could never have dreamed of this opportunity, and it never would have happened without Sharp Decisions believing in the power of veterans like me.