From Afghanistan to Austin: How two Army veterans landed their first Salesforce roles

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Every veteran asks themselves the same question when they leave the military, “What am I going to do now?”

Transitioning from a military career to a corporate career is scary because everything you do in the military, you do as a member of a team and the criteria for mission success are laid out. When you leave the military, you feel alone because your teammates can’t go with you on this mission and how well you do lies directly on your shoulders.

In this blog post, we are going to describe our transition journeys and how through Merivis, we found a community that supported and guided each of us to successfully getting our first jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Kandahar, Afghanistan, 2014-2015

Roger: Joan and I first met when we were both assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters staff. We were deployed to Afghanistan and I served as the Chief of Current Operations (CHOPS) for the command. As the CHOPS, I was in charge of the Operations Center staff. Together, we were responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and providing resources like artillery, drones, and helicopters to units in need.

Joan: During this deployment, I served as the Intelligence Battle Captain providing intelligence updates and threat assessments to the Deputy Commander. I split my time reporting to Roger at the operations center and collaborating with my intelligence team at the sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF). We worked together every single day, seven days a week, and together our purpose was to assist our subordinate units on the battlefield. 

Those days were long and unpredictable. Some were relatively calm, and others seemed like an endless string of frenetic events. Despite some difficult times, we all knew we could always count on each other when we needed help.

Fort Hood, Texas, 2015-2018

We returned from our deployment and went our separate ways. Roger stayed on Fort Hood but was reassigned to serve as the Deputy Director for the Fort Hood simulation center. Joan got promoted soon after deployment and stayed in the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters staff serving as the Intelligence Operations Officer. However, less than a year after coming home, she made the hard decision to separate from the Army when she found out she was expecting her first child. 

Roger: By 2015, I had been in the Army for 18 years and I knew that this would be my last assignment. I had three years left until I could retire and I knew that I would have to start planning for my second career. The thought of starting overfilled me with anxiety. I wasn’t a 20-year old kid anymore; I had a wife and two kids who were counting on me to get this transition thing right.

I reached out to a former boss of mine, Dave Lee, who had made a successful transition into the corporate world. Dave was gracious enough to take my call and candid enough to tell me where my shortcomings were to improve my deficiencies. I poured into LinkedIn and started reading everything I could about the military transition process. I researched different career paths and took advantage of whatever training and military transition programs I could. 

The more I looked, the more programs I found. I got certifications from CompTIA, IBM, and PMI. Despite all this, I was still nervous because, despite the certifications and growing my LinkedIn network, I still hadn’t found something that excited me. I didn’t want to just transition AWAY from the military, I wanted to transition TOWARDS a new career.

Joan: Life never goes as planned! After submitting my paperwork to separate from the Army in mid-2015, I started the transition process thinking I may become a teacher or work for a three-letter agency within the intelligence field. Instead, I decided to take a break and stay at home with my son while going back to school using my GI Bill. My husband and I moved back to our hometown, Houston to be close to family. After obtaining my MBA, I was excited to finally enter the corporate world.

I joined the Army when I was 17 years old as a Private and never had any working experience other than my nine years in the Army. It was all I knew, and I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone. After two years of leaving the service, I finally attended ‘Career Transition Workshops’ for veterans and accepted a short stint working as a Logistics Manager. The job was an easy transition from the Army as both required operational excellence, and managing a team that was similar to leading soldiers. But I saw it more like a job and not a career where I can grow. I decided to stay home again when I got pregnant with my second son and figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up. I truly wanted to find a challenging career that I loved and be there to raise my two boys. 

Austin, Texas, 2018-2019

Roger: It was March 2018, and I had done a fair amount of networking via LinkedIn, but I needed to get out and do some face-to-face networking. I’m an introvert by nature, so this was something I dreaded doing, but I knew it was a necessary part of the process. I had read articles on networking and even bought a couple of books on how to talk to people (yes, I needed that much help!).

SXSW was going on in Austin and there were lots of Veteran-themed networking events. I had connected with Nolan Melson via LinkedIn and I knew he would be at one, so I made it a priority to speak to him when I saw him. When we met, he asked me what I did in the Army and then he asked me if I had heard of Salesforce. I answered “no,” but Nolan explained that he was a board member for an Austin-based non-profit called Merivis. He thought that I would be a great candidate for their upcoming cohort in April, so he sent me the application link on the spot.

The following morning I Googled ‘Salesforce’, and it didn’t take me long to realize the massive opportunity that I had found. I applied, was accepted, and I completed the in-person training in the second week of May 2018. Since I was scheduled to deploy to Kuwait in June, I scheduled my Admin exam for May 23rd and thankfully I passed in my first attempt!

Joan: In July 2018, I was again a stay-at-home-mom and six months pregnant but I continued to stay active on LinkedIn. My days were consumed with changing diapers, reruns of “Super WHY”, coordinating play dates and an endless repeat of the annoying but catchy ‘Baby Shark’ song. One day, I was browsing through LinkedIn and noticed Roger had various certificates including the PMP so I reached out for some advice. I was not sure where my career path was going but knew that obtaining more certificates would help me once I was ready to get back in the workforce. He immediately called me and was eager to tell me about Salesforce. The fact that he called me instead of messaging me back was a bit surprising to me because Roger and I were not friends or peers, he was three ranks ahead of me in the Army and I looked up to him as a mentor. At first, I kind of brushed him off about Salesforce, thinking it would be some kind of sales job working commission. I was more interested in learning about the PMP as I knew the certificate is well known and respected in the business world, but I had never heard of this thing called Salesforce.

After doing some research and seeing the potential in the job market, I finally decided to give this Salesforce thing a try. (I know it took me a long time to jump on board). The first steps Roger recommended was for me to become a member of Vetforce, sign up for Trailhead and apply for the 5-week Merivis program. The best part? Everything was free so what could I lose! I took his advice, applied, and got in. However, due to scheduling conflicts and my son being born, I was not able to attend until the 8th Merivis Austin cohort in May 2019. To my amazement, almost five years after deploying to Afghanistan together, I was reunited with Roger in Austin and I was so grateful that he shared his advice. I soon got certified in June and can honestly say this has been the best career decision I’ve made

You’re Hired!

Roger: I connected with Danny Cohen via LinkedIn on June 24, 2018, while I was still deployed to Kuwait. I had followed his content and engagement with others and I was impressed with his authenticity. Since he was the VP of Computer Futures, a tech recruiting company in Austin, the connection was a no-brainer for me.

Danny and I communicated regularly, building the foundation of a professional relationship. It wasn’t until the Merivis Reunion Party in October that I got to meet Danny for the first time. I posted about it on LinkedIn the following day. Serendipitously, the selfie I took included Merivis board member, Stephanie Herrera. By January 2019, Computer Futures announced that Stephanie had joined them as their Global VP of Salesforce. 

By April 2019, I was less than six months away from retiring from the Army. I invited Danny and Stephanie to meet to ask for advice and enjoy a cup of coffee. Since they are two of the most successful and inspirational leaders I’ve met, I wanted their advice on how I could achieve similar success. I was completely shocked when they asked me if I’d ever considered a career as a recruiter because they thought I would do well in the position. Needless to say, since they both believed I could do it, I interviewed with Computer Futures as was offered a position.

My first day of work at Computer Futures was August 1st, and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t know much about recruiting yet, but after spending a career in the military walking into completely new working environments, I’m confident that I will succeed!

Joan and the Houston Salesforce Saturday crew

Joan: After attending the Merivis training, I had this high and was super excited for my future in the #ohana. Some people would say I drank the blue kool-aid, but I think I knew there was no output without significant input. I constantly learned on Trailhead, created a Twitter account, started attending the local Salesforce Saturday and the monthly user group meetings.

Essentially, I wanted to absorb as much as possible and get plugged in and network with other Salesforce Trailblazers in the Houston community. To my advantage, a friend I met at Salesforce Saturday told me about an opportunity volunteering at a non-profit organization. I volunteered there for a month before I got a message from Paul Fury on LinkedIn. Initially, I did not think much about the message as I thought it was the typical generic congratulation messages from tech recruiters that I’ve seen after posting my certificate on LinkedIn. But I could tell this was something different. 

Paul the CEO and founder of The Fury Group, a CRM consulting company in Houston, is also an Air Force veteran and active in the Vetforce community. We had something in common as we both served in the military and connected during the interview. I officially started working at The Fury Group on July 15th as a Business Analyst. I love my job and am already learning so much.

Joan Brothers and Paul Fury

Although, at times, I feel like I am drowning from drinking out of the fire hose. I am confident that I will learn quickly and very grateful to the Salesforce Ohana for the constant support. It’s not knowing all the answers, but knowing who and where to find the answers.

By Joan Brothers and Roger Miranda

 Contact Info:

Joan Twitter 

Roger Twitter

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