By Miguel Diaz
Growing up, I’d always heard stories from my grandfathers about their time in the military that always captivated my attention. They made me want to join the military too.
I wanted to be a Marine at first, but, because I was too young to enlist at the time, I went to college instead. As soon as I turned 19 years old, though, I dropped out and joined the Navy because I wanted to travel the world.
As a Navy engineer, I was certainly afforded that opportunity as I was deployed to eight different countries.
I was pretty good at my job – I was fortunate enough to be ranked up four times in three years – and didn’t think I would have much trouble finding work post-deployment.
That proved to be true when I was lucky enough to gain employment with a Navy civilian contractor after my four-year contract was up with the Navy. I was also lucky enough to be able to do the same work as an engineman that I did while deployed.
But something about it all was unfulfilling.
Even though I had this great job in California, I felt the pull to move back home to New Jersey and the longing for a career I could be proud of; not just a job.
I’d always held mechanical jobs that involved long hours and heavy lifting, but I needed to find myself a career that would challenge me intellectually, too. With that in mind, I got a finance degree thinking I could combine my military experience and degree to find a career worth having. Unfortunately, these two accomplishments didn’t mean much to most of the companies where I interviewed; it was a Catch-22. I needed the experience to get the job, but I needed the job to get the experience.
I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, but was determined not to give up because, after all, I had two intangible assets that I knew could help move any business forward.
But since I had a wife now, I needed to find something where I could make some money. In 2013, I was working at Target as an overnight team leader when it seemed like my luck had changed. I got a call from a recruiter at a company I’d never heard of called Sharp Decisions, a technology solutions firm in New York City. They had called to ask me if I’d join their new veterans program called V.E.T.S. They had promised to train me while providing me with a salary and then place me at a client upon the completion of an IT boot camp. I actually thought it was a farce at first, but decided to accept the interview to see what might happen.
When I met with the program director, Ted Ryrie, he provided me with more insight into what the program would cover and how it could advance my career. I was initially very intimidated because I thought a career in IT was for very intellectual, focused people. I’d also taken an IT class in school and it was incredibly difficult. I didn’t think I was cut out for this, but I decided to give it a shot because this was a company that was giving veterans an opportunity for a career in a challenging field.
And I am forever grateful that I did because now, more than five years later, I have plenty to be thankful for. I have been with Sharp Decisions and the V.E.T.S. Program since 2013 and have been afforded the opportunity to be deployed to many different clients ranging from healthcare to financial services to investment banking.
As a direct result of this opportunity, I was able to buy a home and grow my family; I now have, and am able to support, a 3-year-old and 1-year-old.
Sharp Decisions CEO Karen Ross and the other leaders of the V.E.T.S. Program took a chance on me. They forever changed my professional and personal life. So, Karen, my wife and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking a chance on us.
It’s amazing to work for someone like Karen that upholds the same values I uphold – integrity, honor, loyalty, hard work. Her open-door policy makes you forget she’s the CEO of a successful company. She has inspired me and many other veterans in the program to never settle for good enough. She inspires us to keep moving forward and to fight for what we want in life.