Transitioning from a career in the U.S. military into the civilian workforce, regardless of position, can be difficult due to varying skills, personalities, and processes within each military branch. Yet, the military is still run like a large business, and veterans who are entering Corporate America have an edge in terms of skills that few others can claim: advanced data analyst knowledge.

Chris SweetBesides using large volumes of data in defense planning, each branch of the military uses data in a variety of ways, such as human-generated data that private companies use every day including tweets or Facebook posts. And similarly to the private sector, once the data has been collected and sorted, it needs to be presented in a clear and concise way in order to be usable.

Closing the data analytics gap while serving those who served
According to McKinsey & Company, by 2018, the United States could face a shortage of up to 190,000 people equipped with deep analytical skills, as well as 1.5 million managers with the know-how to leverage big data to make effective business decisions. Qualified candidates are in short supply, and the onus for organizations to remain competitive in a global economy falls on data science and analytics to derive valuable insights from the volume and velocity of data today. To bridge the gap, a growing number of companies are offering training programs and certifications to connect veterans’ existing skills to these opportunities.

Acquiring expertise in the field of data analysis represents a unique and invaluable opportunity given the projected personnel needs over the near term. To improve the recruitment processes for veterans, IBM’s Corporate Citizenship team created the Veteran Employment Accelerator, in which IBM technology and expertise are donated to veteran service organizations (VSOs) like Corporate America Supports You and Military Spouses Corporate Career Network. This includes technology such as IBM’s cloud-enabled HR portfolio tools – IBM Kenexa Brassring and IBM Kenexa Skills Assessments – to attract, engage and hire top vets; sift through the candidate pool quicker; and provide former soldiers the opportunity to describe their skill sets and interests. In addition, IBM provides experts who teach and certify veterans with industry-ready data analyst skills to prepare them for information technology careers and to fill spots in a market where data is becoming increasingly valuable.

One factor contributing to declining unemployment in the veteran community is the effort from corporations and organizations alike to equip members of the military with the necessary skills, training, and job placement support prior to joining the workforce. These initiatives in the data analytics field help veterans secure employment. Additionally, the growing realization among hiring managers of the value that former service members bring to the workforce have helped ease the burden of fully transitioning to civilian life.

Moving forward
As a result of implementing exclusive configurations of enterprise-level tools – to communicate job opportunities and qualifications of job seekers more efficiently – these initiatives have helped place over 25,000 veterans into law enforcement and Corporate America within the last six years – and the number is still growing. However, there is always room for improvement.

The technology industry is a revolving door of change and improvements, and is constantly presenting complex challenges and nuances. On the other hand, life in military service presents men and women each year with demands many of us can hardly imagine. The blend of technology and life experience has proven to be invaluable to the data science field, and the private sector must recognize this as a top benefit when hiring for these skills.

Through organization-sponsored programs, service men and women are finally able to discover similarities between their military background and the requirements of civilian industry, fill a critical IT need, and receive a sense of restoration, gratitude, and hope as they begin the next chapter of their lives.

Bob Schultz and Christopher Sweet
Bob Schultz and Christopher Sweet

Bob Schultz is General Manager of Smarter Workforce, IBM and Christopher Sweet is a United States Veteran Chris Sweet Headshot