Matthew Koskinen, associate test engineer at Dell EMC and a Marine Corps Sergeant, is especially thankful for military experiences that taught him the ability to pivot—quickly.
“In 2008 when I was activating to deploy, our deployment was having us to go to Afghanistan,” Koskinen said.
He and his fellow Marines were preparing for mountains and Afghani culture when they found out about a month before their deployment date they were going to Iraq instead.
“I began studying Arabic, but once we got in country, we found out that we were going to southern Kurdistan, an area of Iraq where they didn’t speak Arabic primarily,” he said.
The rapid change in deployment schedule was a good illustration of the types of problems Koskinen faced in the military that have translated especially well into the technology sector.
“Everything is changing. Today we could be working on one project, the next new technology comes out and we’re going to focus on that. So, the military really helped me prepare for that challenge,” he said.
Military to civilian transition
Molly Mae Potter, who was named Ms Veteran America 2016, works as a business operations manager at Dell.
“When I left the military in 2013, it wasn’t exactly a celebration. I got injured in Afghanistan in 2010 and I really struggled with a traumatic brain injury and some post-traumatic stress,” Potter said. “I had gone through treatment with the military and had a really hard time trying to figure out what I was going to do post military career.”
When she started looking for a job in 2013, the only position she was able to find was working in a running shoe store earning $10 per hour. Struggling to pay her bills, she resorted to renting her house and relying on friends and family to keep her afloat.
“I was essentially living in my car with my dog until I got a call from Dell in April 2014 and I started work here that May,” Potter said. “When I started, it was an immediate fit. I had an amazing advisor who understood that I was going to go through a little bit of a rough patch transitioning from the military into a corporate, civilian environment.”
Her boss took his time helping Potter understand expectations for the role and was flexible as she took time to resolve her health issues.
“My first year here, I actually had a service dog that came to work with me quite a bit, and Dell just treated it as a norm,” Potter said.
The welcoming environment was just the tip of the iceberg for Potter feeling at home. Her military skill set translated beautifully. She’s happily moved into four different positions within her two years.
“In the military you are trained and ingrained to figure it out without getting stressed out,” she said. “When I look at the future of my career here at Dell, I see a wide open door,” Potter said.
Softening the edges
Alejandro Rivas, an Army Veteran who works in the Global Talent Management Team in HR, agreed the military has played a hand in his successful 19-year career at Dell. He’s thankful for the mentors who helped him transition and soften his approach.
“I’ve had a number of amazing leaders who have coached me or given me, as I call it, tough love. And I needed it,” Rivas said.
He went on to share how his military style didn’t quite translate to Dell’s culture at first.
“I would literally go into a conference room with a bunch of directors and other senior leaders and give them direction like a military person would,” Rivas laughs about it now. “I’d put my hand on my hip and say, ‘I need you to go to this, do you copy? And if we’ve got it, draw fire.’”
Recognizing his approach didn’t resonate with a lot of people, a member of his leadership team told him he needed to learn soft skills. Rivas genuinely didn’t know what that meant.
“The tip to learn soft skills tapped into who I am as a person,” Rivas said. “It helped me develop networks and relationships with people long term; it helped me transition from ex-military to professional, but without forgetting where I came from, which was a good thing because it is part of my DNA just the same.”
Soft skills aside, Rivas feels coming to Dell became a natural next step after his military career. He has enjoyed the fact that Dell has been open and flexible about moving within the company and growing his career.
“I love being here. Since the military, this is the next big job that I’ve had. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.”
Dell supports veterans through a number of programs, including Employee Resource Groups at both the national and local levels. Find out more at https://jobs.dell.com/military.