Adaptability and Global Thinkers
I remember when I was a young Marine I thought my only job would be to work on computers. I signed on to be a 0656, Tactical Data Network Specialist, which meant I did the same job of an IT support or network administrator, only I did it in a godforsaken desert or jungle environment with absolutely zero internal or external logistical support and with the possibility that my entire relay could be blown up on any given day. Most people don’t even realize the Marines have a computer nerd job specialty, but we do. It’s actually quite sophisticated and since my day has evolved to become part of the US’ strategy for offensive and defensive cyber operations. By the time I was 19, I was able to do what most people spend years in technical school attempting to be qualified for. It wasn’t my only job, though. After my first Iraq tour, the unit had to immediately begin getting ready for the next one. That meant training and most importantly, marksmanship training. One of the slots for coaches fell on my shop and being that all the other computer nerds were horrible shots, I was the only natural choice. So I tacked on an additional occupational specialty. Eventually I would also have under my belt proficiency with a number of weapons systems, not to mention the ability also be communicating in Arabic. All this to say, for all the jokes one has heard about the oxymoron of “military intelligence”, the military, and not just myself, are forced to be adaptable to compensate for overwhelming shortcomings in the reality of resources.
Consider the veteran’s history of technological understanding and consider what it means about their ability to mold themselves to changing technological environments, such as your company may face. Today’s military uses the cutting edge technology to maintain our dominance over the enemy in the battlefield. From communications technology to the security of computer networks and hardware, Service Members must stay aware of emerging technologies in the public and private sector. This means that the individual service member is always training and adapting their methodology to stay ahead and insure the greatest level of technological superiority of any fighting force. Add in to this the fact that their main job may not be their only job. The Squadron’s First Sergeant may also be the Communications Chief. The training NCO may also be a heavy equipment operator. The A-gunner may also be the one trained in triage medicine. They aren’t just adaptable because it looks good on a resume; in the military it is a necessity.
Besides needing to adapt to changing technology, they also must adapt to changing teams. Diversity and strong interpersonal skills are another given. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a Service member is a pleasant person to be around, but they have interpersonal skills that allow them to work with new and constantly evolving teams. They have learned to work side by side with individuals regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, economic status, and geographic origins as well as those of different mental, physical and attitudinal capabilities. Consider also, that none of us have every had the privilege of choosing who we work for, who we work with, or even who gets assigned to us. Imagine how successful your teams would be if you couldn’t even control who you hired. Hired? It’s almost impossible to get someone fired from the military, so imagine now your company without these to abilities. Now consider what kind of leadership makes it possible. Many Service members may also have also been deployed or stationed in numerous foreign countries that give them a greater appreciation for the diverse nature of our globalized economy. Many of those, like myself, had to also deal directly those in the foreign nations we worked. You really can’t find that sort of malleability in many places.
The hands on experience with technology and experiences with extreme diversity combine to give military vets one additional advantage that comes with the collision of these two experiences: A Global Mindset. Few people are knowledgeable of more than one realm of what makes the world tick. Fewer still, have first hand experience with these divergent metrics. Those who do have a unique grasp of geopolitics to the point that they can much more accurately see where the roads lead in their given focus, or at least have developed an eye for it. They look forward much more than those who look at the now. They have practice seeing how technology and culture interact because they have lived it. They care about what is going on in the world because they have been part of writing the history books. I’m not saying that your average Marine could predict how a new innovation in heat exchangers might fundamentally alter the social fabric of South East Asia. What I am saying is that if your business needs someone who is capable of learning a great deal about changing technologies or working internationally, or someone who has spent time thinking about the future of these realms, a military veteran might be a good choice for you to start your search.
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