Hire a vet? IT Says Yes

Highly skilled, highly disciplined and highly adaptive, veterans are showing their mettle on IT staffs nationwide.

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Dennis Thoma

Military experience: U.S. Air Force, 1985-1998, noncommissioned officer. Specialized in electronics intelligence for the Air Force Space Command; served in Colorado, Nebraska, Spain and Italy. Civilian role: IT manager (responsible for 18 project managers) at Progressive Casualty Insurance, Cleveland.

As a veteran and as a manager who has veterans reporting to him, Dennis Thoma says military experience teaches two concepts that are key to IT: the need for strong security and the importance of solid project management.

Security in particular is in the military's DNA, Thoma points out. "When you start to look at securing networks, securing data, those times when you're transferring encrypted data, even Sarbanes-Oxley -- a lot of that was new at one point to the civilian world and to IT."

In contrast, the military has been focusing on security for "a long time," he says. "They've understood hacking for years."

Thoma himself came out of the Air Force with significant experience in worldwide program management. He says that skill translates easily to companies that do business with the Department of Defense -- but not as easily to mainstream corporate operations. For that reason, he picked up Project Management Professional (PMP) certification following his discharge, a move he recommends to veterans as a way of validating that their military skills will cross over to the civilian side.

Jimmy Lamz

Military experience: U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 2005. U.S. Navy, 2005-2011; surface warfare officer, served as first lieutenant on a cruiser and as navigator on a frigate, both out of Mayport Naval Station; deployed to the Horn of Africa, Persian Gulf and the western coast of South America. Civilian role: Member of the sales and marketing development program at Siemens Energy, Jackson, Miss.

After 10 years in the Navy, Jimmy Lamz was ready for a change. With a wife and two young children, he didn't want to deploy again, yet the economy was in shambles.

Lamz set to work trying to translate a decade's worth of highly skilled military experience into layman's terms, which was "kind of a scary," he says. "Some skills translate [easily] and some don't."

Lamz graduated from the Naval Academy in 2005 with a degree in IT, but the course of study was heavy on engineering as well. "I took thermodynamics, electrical engineering, [calculus] and physics alongside more computer-science-type courses like networking and other IT-type classes," he relates.

At a career fair, he made contact with Orion International, a recruiting firm that specializes in military placements, and Orion put him in touch with Siemens Corp., which has a well-established veterans hiring program. "I never guessed in a million years that I'd wind up working for an engineering company, and that I'd be working in sales."

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