By Delfino Ballesteros
As a senior enlisted non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, I was trained to overcome any challenge or obstacle thrown my way. I’d seen and been through a lot during my time in the service and, as such, I expected my transition to civilian life would be seamless when I left the military in 2013.
Man, was I wrong.
I knew it would take some time for me to find the “right” job, but I was excited about the opportunities.
That excitement very quickly turned into worry after I posted my resume on every major job site and heard nothing for four months.
Worry quickly turned into panic as my lack of income became a very real issue for me and my wife. After four months of nothing, I bit the bullet and applied for unemployment with the State of California. This was particularly hard for me because I didn’t want “aid” from anyone for fear of becoming a burden; something veterans are very sensitive to. All I wanted was an opportunity to earn my keep and prove my worth.
As I continued applying for jobs, I decided it would be prudent to take advantage of my G.I. Bill benefits in the interim and continue my college education. But as the months went on, I still had no calls and no job. And by the end of the year, my unemployment expired and my G.I. Bill benefits were my only source of income.
Eventually, I was forced to dip into my savings; there wasn’t much, but it was all I had. I was truly desperate.
But fate has a funny way about it.
In my time of desperation, a family friend told me about an IT services company called Sharp Decisions that was hiring veterans, training them in IT skills and then deploying them to clients.
I looked them up and, after watching a few interviews of CEO Karen Ross, I knew I needed to be part of the company and its V.E.T.S. Program. Her dedication to veterans, her passion for what she was doing really inspired me. The next day I made the call to the company and, two days later, I was in front of a recruiter interviewing for a position as a software quality assurance consultant.
After successfully passing the first round of interviews, I waited the longest two weeks of my life for the last round. Not only did I need this job, but I also needed to prove to myself that I could succeed.
As I sat in front of the program’s training manager, John Ciurczak, for my last interview he did something I’ll never forget. He helped me translate some of the military jargon on my resume.
That was an eye-opening moment for me because it was clear the language I used in my resume was a major reason I hadn’t received any call backs for jobs.
It was in that moment I really understood this company truly gave a damn about veterans.
A few days later, I got the call. My long-lasting, personal nightmare was finally over. They hired me.
Four years later I am still part of Sharp Decisions. I am now a senior veteran and my role has expanded to train others in Software Quality Assurance the way I was trained. I’ve been deployed to so many different types of clients around the country, an opportunity I never would have gotten otherwise.
In the four years since joining the company, the management staff has worked with me to ensure I achieve my goals. I have since obtained an associate’s degree in Software Development and I am currently working on obtaining my bachelor’s degree.
Without Sharp Decisions, I have no idea where my family and I would be today. This program, quite literally, saved my life and, for that, I am forever grateful to Karen Ross for everything she has done for me and many other veterans like me. She made it her mission to take on this challenge and she’ll stop at nothing to make sure it continues to succeed.