By Brian Suscavage
I’ve always had a keen eye for technical things and the inner-workings of technology. So, when I joined the Marines out of high school, and was deployed to Iraq in 2005, I did so as a mechanic.
After combat training, I was taught to repair generators. That was my only job. All I knew was circuit boards. When I got to fleet, the command wanted me to fix engines. It was on-the-job training and, as a result, I had to very quickly learn the ins-and-outs of machinery that someone with twice my experience would usually handle.
It proved to be beneficial when I returned from deployment and left the military. This experience helped me get my foot in the door in the IT sector, but, when I was laid off 2012, I was nervous. While I had five years of QA experience under my belt, lookingfor work in that economy came with a large degree of uncertainty.
Most job postings I came across were looking for individuals with a few years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in a related field. I figured that my five years of experience in the QA space would outweigh my lack of bachelor’s degree; I was wrong.
I couldn’t find anything until finally in mid-February, a recruiter from a technology company called Sharp Decisions called me. They were looking for veterans for this new program the company was starting called V.E.T.S. (Vocation Education and Training for Service members) and I was believed to be an ideal fit. The recruiter told me I would be given free training and education to further develop my career in QA, as well as a salary for training. It sounded too good to be true because most programs out there offer to train me via my military education benefits without a promise for anything else. This program promised me I’d have the chance to make a career for myself if I worked hard and passed the required course material. At the end of the day, that’s all any of us can ask for.
With this new training, I would be launched into a new career that was distinctly different from anything I did in the service. I was going to be trained in much more industry-specific standards and practices and eventually “deployed” to a customer’s location to perform the work all while remaining on salary. Nothing about the company or the program seemed like a sham. Both felt genuine in their desire to help vets like me find work in a highly competitive industry.
Throughout my time with the program – nearly four years – I was always put in a position to thrive. I’ve learned much more about how QA impacts the different areas of a company. I learned about key terms, programs and vital skills but, most importantly, I was never abandoned. Sharp Decisions CEO Karen Ross gave us her word that she would never drop the program, or us, if she could help it.
When the initial launch took longer than expected, she continued to find ways to train us until we started at EmblemHealth. When the Emblem contract came to an end, we began training on new data formats for when we started at MLB.com. When that took longer than expected to start, she kept us on despite not bringing in any income. If that isn’t integrity, I don’t know what is.
Without Karen and the rest of the Sharp Decisions team, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I joined MLBAM (Major League Baseball Advanced Media) in February 2016 and, a year later, they were so impressed with my, and my teammates’, work ethic and capabilities they hired us full time. None of this would be possible if not for Karen Ross taking a chance on us and giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves.
As a result, the V.E.T.S. Program means a great deal to me. I look forward to watching it continue assisting veterans like myself who have the drive and desire to excel in this field. I will always be grateful to Karen, Ted [Ryrie, program director], John [Ciurczak, program manager], and everyone else at Sharp that helped me get to where I am now.