We’re excited to introduce another valued Employer Partner of The Honor Foundation and an Alumni who is now part of their family.
These are companies and organizations who have hired men and women from our program and/or who have generously given us their time, resources and connections in an effort to help build a stronger network for our Fellows after service — a community post community.
Q1: What advice do you have for those who are experiencing transition?
Joe Levy (JL): Whatever you jump into next likely won’t be the last job you take ––take a risk. It’s okay if your post-transition career five years from now looks very different from what you imagine today. That is just the next step in your journey!
Josh Morgan (JM): Networking with people who have gone through the transition can provide helpful insights as you figure out what you want your next step to look like. Once you figure out what that step is and which voices to listen to, I recommend investing in those specific relationships. Oftentimes, you will find yourself with an exhaustive list of individuals that you want to speak with, but will start getting conflicting opinions that may cloud your judgment. So be mindful of who you talk to, and make sure those individuals are just as invested in your growth.
Christopher Blake (CB): Spend some time thinking about what you want to optimize for before you get into the interviewing process. Do you care most about making money? Having flexibility with your schedule? Loving who you work with? Loving what you do? No matter your answer, take a hard look at the organization’s culture, actions, and values and make sure there’s strong alignment between the organization and you. Ask questions about the company during your interview process – remember that interviewing is a two-way conversation! You’ll spend most of your waking hours on the job––make sure that the fit feels right for you.
Andrew Salonen (AS): Start early. Apply the 3 L’s. Challenge Yourself.
Don’t wait until the last 3-6 months to figure out what your life will be like outside of the service. 12-18 months is what I gave myself, and I used every bit of that to evaluate priorities, set goals, explore opportunities, and take action.
Additionally, when evaluating your priorities, you must consider the “3 L’s”: 1. Love where you are 2. Love who you are 3. Love what you do. This simple concept was brought to my attention by Chris Gannon, Founder & CEO of Bolay Restaurant. I applied it throughout my transition as I filtered through the job market.
Lastly, don’t limit yourself by only exploring options within your comfort zone. Challenge yourself and go after opportunities that require you to learn new things. There is no limit to what you can achieve when combining your military experience, a thirst for knowledge, and a positive mental attitude!
Andrew Tiner (AT): Network. I have talked to so many Vets who had transitioned without THF, and their approach to getting a job was to spam 1000 resumes to 1000 different jobs. While this may work in the end, what THF taught me is that there is a better way to find a job. Build your network, talk to people, and then use what you have built to strategically step your way into a job. I ended up in the interview pipeline with Dataminr based on only a few conversations I had with people in my network who were able to put me on a fast track to employment. The other aspect to networking is knowledge acquisition. I had hundreds if not thousands of conversations. Most of those did not and were never meant to necessarily turn into a job. I really enjoyed getting to know people, learning their unique professional experiences, and getting their feedback and advice on my personal employment journey. It helped me define what I wanted to do, and even more importantly what I didn’t want to do. Have conversations. Don’t just angle for jobs. You never know where that conversation might lead or what doors it will open. Maybe you’ll just make a friend, and those are good to have too.
Build a backup plan. Then build another. This is something that I struggled with a lot, but thanks to THF I was able to overcome. I would get a hot job lead and focus all my energy on it, putting all my eggs in that one basket. This left me high and dry a few times when the job opportunity fell through, and I had to start over from scratch. Always assume a job opportunity can fall through right up until they give you an offer. With that, having multiple leads to work on can help keep you moving through the dead space, whether that’s waiting for the next interview, waiting to hear what next steps are, or waiting to actually get the offer. Just having people who are happy to talk to you can greatly help your mental state while you are searching for your job. When it comes time to talk offers, having even just two to choose from will help empower your decision, and keep you from being desperate. The key really is to not get desperate. But if you do get in a bind, and here I speak from deep personal experience, fall back to point one: your network. On at least two occasions during my transition journey, I made the conscious choice to walk away from job offers I felt were not a good fit for me, even though that would mean staying unemployed. I had to trust that by working with my network I would be able to find the right job for me. Fortunately, thanks to THF, I had learned to build a network to be able to fall back on, and was able to pivot and begin new conversations and find new leads. Ultimately, this paid off when I found, interviewed, and was accepted for my new job with Dataminr. I am really happy I waited, even if at the time it was an extremely difficult decision.
Get a coach. I was assigned a coach through THF, and she has become a close friend, advisor, and mentor. It is very hard to go on this journey alone, and you need as many people on your side as you can get. Having a coach who isn’t a pre-existing friend, who has a wealth of professional knowledge, and who’s only skin in the game is your success is a powerful thing. It’s a fresh perspective and wealth of knowledge to help cut through your baggage, help you define your goals, and get you to ask the questions you didn’t know needed to be answered.
Q2: What experience shaped who you are?
CB: My experience with THF helped me to realize that I’m at my best when I’m helping others achieve something meaningful, especially when it involves turning insight into action. It’s what I loved about my time in Naval Intelligence and the SOF community, and it’s what steered me to Dataminr (that, and the incredible people here!). I know that the work I do here on Dataminr’s Public Sector team enables others in critically-important leadership positions to make better decisions and save lives, time, and money.
AS: There are three experiences in my military career that shaped me professionally. The first was failing Navy SEAL training at 18 years of age. The second was failing Navy SEAL training at 21 years of age. The third was graduating at the top of my class in Navy SWCC school at 26. All three experiences drastically impacted how I matured, approached adversity, and led teams. Everything in between these three experiences was affected by the lessons I learned from them.
AT: There are two primary experiences that have shaped me and my life over the past five years, and the first was becoming a father. Every parent you ever talk to says having kids changes how you think about everything, and until I had kids of my own, I always kind of wrote them off. But of course, they were right. Once we had our son, my entire perspective on life trajectory changed. I started asking hard questions about who I was, who I wanted to be, and where I wanted to be in 10 years. Ultimately, asking and answering these questions led to the decision to part ways with the Navy. I was grateful for the experiences, the perspectives, and the much needed structure that was key to my growth from teenager to manhood. At the same time, I was confident that the best path forward for me and my family lay in the freedom to chart my own course and balance my own priorities. Now, on the other side of this particular transition and starting my new career with Dataminr, I am still confident in my decision.
The second experience was serving in support of SOF. Starting off in the intel community, I was fairly isolated within the walls of my classified office spaces. After I screened and came to support SOF, I had the opportunity to engage with people from all across the DOD, IC, and government at large. I worked harder than I ever had before. I deployed several times to overseas locations. I met, worked with, and learned from some of the hardest working and highest caliber people on this planet. The experiences, perspectives, and insights I gained over these past almost five years could not be acquired anywhere else. I truly value these experiences, and know that who I am today—my goals, my perspective, and my drive, are a direct result of my time spent supporting the SOF community.
Q3: What is your favorite interview question?
CB: ‘Tell me about a time when you failed, what you did to recover from it, and what you learned in the process.’
This question is my favorite because I think the way a person handles adversity is a great indicator of the type of teammate and contributor they will be.
AS: My favorite interview question is “Why should we hire a Navy veteran for an Army focused position?”
AT: “What is something that you are good at, that you never want to do again?” I think it’s important to be reflective, to understand where you’ve been, but also where you’re going. Just because you’ve spent a lot of time doing something doesn’t mean it’s who you are or who you have to be. This is one of the key areas of my transition success that I owe a great deal to THF. THF was instrumental in helping me reevaluate my assumptions about what I wanted to do in the civilian sector, what my motivators were, and what possible opportunities I should explore. I began my career looking for analytic jobs, since that was officially what I’d done in one shape or another for ten years. THF helped me realize that what really drove me was helping people solve hard problems, and this led me to start looking at more people focused jobs. I eventually decided that a customer success or client engagement style role would be the best initial fit for me, leading me to engage with and eventually be hired at Dataminr into their customer success team.
Q4: THF Alumni: What similarities did you find between your role at Dataminr and your previous experience in the SOF community?
CB: Above all else, the most impactful similarities are the dedication to mission and the focus on team success above individual accomplishments. The service-centric culture here at Dataminr is really motivating, and having such purpose-driven colleagues has made Dataminr an incredible place to land after transitioning out of the Navy.
AS: Culture, focus and the service are a few of the standout similarities between the SOF community and Dataminr. Much like the SOF community, Dataminr is a large organization that operates as a small team. There is a family-like atmosphere that I quickly recognized and felt at home with the minute I came aboard.
In terms of focus, Dataminr is dedicated to their mission and, like a SOF element, communicates extremely well both internally and externally. At Dataminr, we share feedback and learn from each other in order to constantly improve our product and deliver excellent customer support. Everyone on the team is passionate about supporting our public sector customers which includes first responders. In many ways, for us veterans, our service to this country continues every day as employees of Dataminr.
AT: The mutual trust between people. Everyone has each others’ backs, are willing to help out at a moment’s notice, and place mission and team above personal accolades. This was one of my primary criteria as I searched for a civilian job, and one of the primary reasons for choosing Dataminr. I have always preferred pulling as a team rather than alone and I am very happy to have joined a team that feels the same. The organization is also fairly flat with good working relationships and comradery across all levels. This is also a welcome, familiar dynamic.
Q5: What makes the culture at your company special?
JL: Dataminr is the first place I’ve worked where everyone genuinely wants to help each other. We are all marching in the same direction, and are bought into the mission we’re working towards.
JM: The mission, our core values, and the people are what makes Dataminr’s culture standout.
CB: There’s so much to love about Dataminr’s culture, but the singular focus on helping customers to ‘Know First and Act Faster’ really makes this place special. Everyone approaches their job with a sense of purpose and urgency, all with a focus on making the product and customer experience as good as it can be. Being a part of a purpose-focused, tech-centric, growing company is really exciting!
AS: Dataminr places a premium on its people! Dataminr promotes a very positive working environment and encourages collaboration across all verticals. Employees are motivated to support each other to meet our goals from the company level down to the individual.
AT: While I have only been on board a month, the biggest thing that stands out to me about Dataminr’s culture is the diversity of experience united behind a common cause. There is a large veteran community at Dataminr, and the ability to have immediate connection and common ground with my fellow vets has been fantastic especially as a new guy just starting off with the company. That being said, I have equally enjoyed engaging with all the people who do NOT come from a military background. It is so refreshing to work with people (for the first time in ten years) who have a completely different set of life experiences and perspectives from my own. And the fact that everyone works so well together united in their common motivation to support our customer as well as represent and advocate for our awesome product, is truly motivating. I am very happy to be a part of this team and to be able to lend my own experiences, skills, and perspectives to their fight.
Q6: What question are you asked more than any other?
CB: “How did you know about ‘fill-in-the-blank transition resource’???”
Military transition is a team sport, and it’s impossible for any one transitioning veteran to keep track of the tens of thousands of support programs and opportunities that are out there. During my time as a THF Fellow, I learned first-hand the value of keeping an open mind, sharing information and opportunities freely with others, and asking for help. Over the last 18+ months of transition preparation, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to benefit from and learn about a ton of transition resources out there – and I’m always glad to help others find a way to benefit from them all.
AS: I’m still relatively new to Dataminr; however, one thing I’m frequently asked from my Dataminr colleagues is “How am I doing with the new position, and is there anything they can do to help set me up for success?”
AT: In my case it’s more a question type rather than a specific question. I am constantly asked “in your experience…”, looking for my unique perspective gained through my time in the military. This is a new experience for me as I enter an entirely new field of work, being asked to weigh in based on a perspective not necessarily shared by my coworkers. It’s an asset that you, as a vet and a THF grad, bring to the table that you should absolutely lean into. One of the benefits of attending a THF cohort is that you learn how to articulate and express this as a value add to your new civilian company. You DO have a unique skill, that you spent years working on and developing. Don’t be afraid to maximize it.
Q7: What drives you every day?
CB: Having a sense of purpose beyond self and a team to share the experience with is what drives me. What I do and how I do it needs to be bigger than me for it to mean something, and I’m grateful that I have found that here at Dataminr.
AS: I am driven each day by the dedication and positivity of my team!
AT: Family first. I got out of the Navy because it was the right decision for my family and I’m happy that I have found a role with Dataminr that enables me to be home more with my family. I’m able to strike a better work/life balance and I have more emotional availability at the end of every day.
Q8: What book do you find most valuable?
CB: This is THE HARDEST question for me to answer because I read non-stop! I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one ‘most valuable’ of all time, so instead I’ll share one that’s been really valuable to me as I find my way as a leader and manager in the private sector: ‘What You Do Is Who You Are,’ by Ben Horowitz. Ben’s other book, ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ is a VERY close second!
AS: In terms of preparing for life outside the military, I found the book “Who: The A Method for Hiring” to be helpful. It helped me understand what companies are looking for in a new hire and how best to communicate that I was the team player that they were looking for.
AT: This is a tough call but looking specifically at my transition journey, the book that had the single biggest impact on my mindset is, “Every Tool’s a Hammer” by Adam Savage. This may seem an odd choice but the book focuses on finding your creative passion, being true to yourself, and investing in the things that matter most and give you joy in life. As I weighed the security and familiarity of continuing to serve in the Navy versus moving into the unknown, prioritizing family and my own happiness, this book gave me an important push toward the latter. Whether it’s this book, or another that communicates this message to you, it’s important to know that there is more available to you than what you have been, or what you have done. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself and work towards a future you actually want.
Q9: What is a lesson you learned the hard way?
CB: That I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. The excitement I have for all of the incredible opportunities out there for transitioning veterans led me to take on too much at once at times during my transition, which created stress rather than alleviating it. I learned that time spent focused on setting priorities and objectives trumps frantic effort invested in a ton of different things all at once. Don’t lose the ‘default yes’ mentality, but be prudent.
AS: Preparation is paramount for any interview. The “fake it until you make it” technique is ill advised.
AT: You may have to take an alternate route to achieve your goals. Don’t be too rigid in how you define “success.” When I began my transition journey, I had well-articulated ideas and plans for what success on the other side would look like. I had plans and back up plans. But for a long list of complicated and unrelated reasons, they all fell apart one after the other and I ended up out of the Navy and without work. I had to take a hard pause, start from the ground up, re-engage my network and THF, and most importantly, take a good hard look at what my goals were. Even though my big picture goals of getting out of the Navy and starting a new chapter in my life hadn’t changed, and at that point I was out of the Navy and therefore to a degree successful, I had to challenge many of my expectations about the type of job I was looking for or could actually land. Out of that pause and reassessment rose the opportunity with Dataminr and to this day I’m still a bit taken aback at what a good fit both the company culture and job description are for me. Even though I had used the product for a few years, it hadn’t been a company I had originally considered when I began my journey and I wasn’t sure the first phone call I had would lead anywhere. But only a few months later, I was onboarding and I couldn’t be happier. In short, always have a plan, but don’t be so locked on that you don’t hear opportunity when it knocks.
Q10: What defines a leader?
JL: A leader is someone who inspires others to dream more, do more, and be more.
JM: A good leader does not require an advanced degree or an incredible amount of experience –– they require a people first mentality. A great leader is someone who has not only expertly adopted this mentality, but is also a master communicator. They are able to listen, process, and ask questions to drive meaningful conversations and limitless potential.
CB: A leader is someone who drives action with clear intention, together with others, in support of a higher purpose.
AS: I prescribe to the servant leadership mentality. I believe there must be a foundation of genuine trust within your team in order to be productive long term. A leader is an excellent listener, empathetic, and maintains an acute awareness of the internal and external factors that impact their team. A leader must also be persuasive but does so from a place of credibility and respect.
AT: Honesty. Being honest with your people, calling a spade a spade, and not overindulging in the company kool-aid. Be passionate about what you do but also be real about your limitations, or the limitations of your organization. It’s easy to lead when the goings good, but it’s the tough times where good leaders truly shine. Towing the line of, “Yes, this sucks, but it’s what we have to do and we’re in this together” goes a lot further than trying to sugar-coat failed policy or bad direction.
The other side of this coin is trust. Trust your people and have their backs, even when they make mistakes or are in the wrong. This doesn’t mean to not be accountable or to not hold your people accountable. This means knowing that there will always be a crowd of people standing by to absolutely crush a person (in this case, your person) at the first misstep or screw up. It’s up to you to determine whether your person will have an ally in that crowd. It’s truly amazing what people will do for you, your team, and themselves if they know you have their back.
Q11: What is your favorite quote?
JL: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘why’; I dream things that never were and say, ‘why not’.” – J.F.K. (adopted from a character in a George Bernard Shaw play).
JM: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – Gen Patton
CB: “If you don’t know what you want, there’s no chance that you will get it.” Ben Horowitz, ‘What You Do Is Who You Are’
AS: “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” -Theodore Roosevelt
AT: It’s hard to pick just one, and I think my favorite quote changes as I move between phases of life. The one that’s motivated me in important ways lately has been, “That which cannot last, will end.” There’s two distinct ways that I approach this quote. The first is motivating myself through difficult and challenging times. Knowing that any transient, temporary problem or situation is not the “end” helps focus my energy, even if just to endure in the short run. Very little is forever and most things can change or end if need be. The second approach is to focus on investment. Viewing my life through the lens of what is permanent and what is not. The question, “What do I WANT to be permanent in my life?” helps focus my goals, determination, and investment. Choosing happiness over security, or family over material acquisition. My entire transition has been framed within this context. Making the decision to re-prioritize my life direction and then navigating the months or even years of work, change, and uncertainty that follow. It has been difficult, but so far it has been worth it.