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Hurting for IT help? Hire a trained GI vet

Stephanie Overby | May 30, 2017
One IT professional services firm is meeting increasing demand for U.S.-based skills by training military veterans in key IT domains, from business analysis to devops.

Credit: skeeze via Pixabay

At a time when many companies complain of a shortage of skilled technology talent in the United States and an increasing desire to source IT services domestically, one IT professional services and consulting firm is tapping into what it sees as an overlooked supply of qualified professionals: the military.

Four years ago, Karen Ross, CEO of New York-based Sharp Decisions, launched the company’s V.E.T.S. Program -- short for Vocation, Education and Training for Service members -- prompted by a desire to address both high unemployment rates for U.S. military veterans transitioning into the private workforce and the need for reliable tech talent. “I realized these veterans were our most valuable, untapped resource -- a vast talent pool with technology skills and expertise translatable to the corporate sector,” Ross says.

However, as Ross notes, “Many American companies have declared ambitious goals for hiring veterans, and although commendable in theory, have fallen short.” So Sharp Decisions decided to take a new tack to onboarding veterans, training them in a IT services boot camp and deploying them as a cohort, just as they were deployed in their military missions.

“Upon successfully completing their ‘boot camp,’ we deploy the veterans in platoons or cohorts and provide mentorship throughout the process,” says Ross. It’s a much more hands-on approach than the typical consulting or outsourcing arrangement, she says, which “allows [veterans] to adjust to the corporate world with a support system they are familiar with.”

Initially, the V.E.T.S. Program targeted quality assurance roles, but it has since expanded to include devops, project management, business analysis, network assessments, application development, and cybersecurity training. V.E.T.S. Program clients, which include Experian and Freddie Mac, are largely financial services and healthcare companies and notably not government agencies or government-related industries.

Harmonic, a San Jose, Calif.-based video delivery infrastructure company, used Sharp Decisions’ V.E.T.S. Program when it needed QA specialists to complement its existing systems integration test team ahead of a key product release. Harmonic brought a squad of six V.E.T.S. to perform a year of software test work.

“We were looking for talent that was professional, precise, and efficient,” says Chris Pattinson, Harmonic’s vice president of global software quality. “The V.E.T.S. Program allowed us to bring a squad of technical talent onboard supported by a team lead. Moreover, V.E.T.S. offers a technical training boot camp that improves its members IT skillset.”

Their technical precision and pragmatic approach was a good match for the work and the company, Pattinson says. The V.E.T.S. team was able to develop and perform automated testing within the client’s existing custom automation framework while successfully integrating with Harmonic’s existing QA team. There was some initial turnover on the first squad, according to Pattinson, but Sharp Decisions very quickly provided new personnel. Harmonic has since contracted with the V.E.T.S. Program to augment its devops team.


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