Merivis and VetForce take on SXSW 2018!

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© David Brendan Hall

Authored by Stephanie Herrera, Nolan Melson and Hector Perez

Merivis was at South by Southwest in full force this year. For the first year, both Merivis and Vetforce presented on a panel discussion (Transitioning Vets: From Battlefield to Tech Career) and we hosted a Merivis community mixer with all our friends and supporters in Austin.  With another successful SXSW in the books, we wanted to share some of the highlights from Merivis and look back and take stock at this incredible opportunity to share our message with the tech, veteran and Austin community.

The Panel Discussion

© David Brendan Hall

Merivis had the honor of presenting at an official South by Southwest panel this year along with VetForce and a big thank you to Nolan Melson (Merivis Board of Directors) for spearheading the submission to get into SXSW. The panel was one of the first of the days of SXSW and held at the Austin’s brand new Fairmount Hotel between the convention center and Austin’s famed Rainey Street district.  The scope of our panel discussed best tactics and strategies for transitioning service members to implement when they are looking to break into the tech industry, along with best practices which companies can use in order to make cohesive and collaborative veteran communities within their own companies.

The panel discussion was moderated by Merivis’ own Kate Perez and she was joined on stage by Hector Perez (Merivis/Fidelity), Ann Weeby (Salesforce/VetForce) and Nolan Melson (Merivis/Cap Gemini). Each panelist discussed many topics related to some of the to transition and for the full session on our YouYube channel, check it out the session below.

Below are a few panel topics covered in the discussion and quotes from our panel.

  • What are some of the challenges you face with veterans moving into a tech career?  You need to be comfortable moving jobs and companies over a 20-30-year period vs the military” – Ann Weeby
  • What is a company gaining by hiring a veteran?  “…….when you are hiring a veteran you are getting a self motivated person, who will figure out what they need to know when they get into their new company” – Nolan Melson
  • Why did you start Merivis? “To help fill a huge gap we saw in the market place in which there was a high demand for Salesforce talent and this incredible talent pool of military veterans coming off the battlefield looking to enter the tech market career wise” – Hector Perez
  • Nolan best summarized anyone interested in getting started or involved in the technology career path perhaps in Salesforce or elsewhere “its important to be a self-starter and active in your endeavor and not just wait

The Merivis Community Mixer

Group pic at the Merivis Community Mixer!   © David Brendan Hall
Merivis Community Mixer © David Brendan Hall

When the panel discussion concluded at The Fairmount, many members of VetForce, Salesforce Saturday and the Austin Salesforce community joined forces for the Merivis Community mixer at beautiful Spanning offices in downtown Austin. A big thank you to Spanning for donating their space for our mixer, it is a great space and we appreciate it.  Representatives from Capgemini’s Veterans Employee Resource Group and North America Communications Team were in attendance to share how they work with veterans. The mixer was a celebration of trailblazers in the Salesforce community and the Merivis alumni to sit back, listen to some tunes and mingle. As some Merivis alumni were interviewed by our videographer, others enjoyed Torchy’s tacos and mimosas.  Hector spoke mid way through the mixer and thanked the Austin community and everyone involved in not only Merivis, but the supporting organizations such as VetForce, Cloud Co-op, Salesforce Saturday, Spanning, Cap Gemini, National Instruments and Accenture to name a few.

© David Brendan Hall

Chrissy from cohort 3 spoke about her experience in the Merivis cohort and the impact learning Salesforce has made on her life. Coincidently, Saturday March 10th also marked 20 years for Chrissy in the Army National Guard and her last day of Service. A big thank you and congratulations to Chrissy!

A final big thank you to Capgemini, Cloud Coop, Spanning and VetForce for making this event possible.

Inside Sound Ventures Party hosted by Salesforce

Nolan, Marc, Stephanie and Hector

We decided to let Hector, Stephanie and Nolan give their own take of this unique SXSW party which was the talk of SXSW the next day.

The Salesforce events team outdid themselves with the Sound Ventures event and we, the Austin Community could not be more grateful!! Marc Benioff, the real star for our community was so warm and welcoming to everyone that approached him, he gave us a memory none of us will ever forget! Salesforce walks the walk when they say, they put their customers first!”Stephanie Herrera

Guy Oseary and Ashton Kutcher
Saint Vincent

Later that same evening at the Hotel Van Zandt many of us were invited to what became THE exclusive SXSW party of the weekend. This party was sponsored by Salesforce and Ashton Kutcher’s own Sound Venture. We were very thankful to have attended and even to meet Marc Benioff and talk a little about AI and Vetforce as the Austin skyline gleamed in the distance.  As acclaimed Texas artist Saint Vincent played, the room filled up with tech royalty and the energy in the room elevated to that of insanity when Elon Musk walked in.  Here we were, with tech billionaires, entrepreneurs, all you would need is Spike Lee…..oh yeah, he showed up as well! The crowd was intimate and it allowed for great conversations as Snoop Dogg took the stage and sent the room into a frenzy. As the party came to a close, we know for Merivis and VetForce, this was a great day. Not only were we able to get the message out about what veterans CAN do in technology careers, but even got to hob nob with a few celebs even if just for an evening.” – Hector Perez

You know that you’re in the right party when as soon as you walk in you see Marc Benioff, Ashton Kutcher, and “Steve” from Stranger Things just casually hanging out with other guests.  The night was going off without a hitch as Snoop Dogg sang some of the 90’s classics, bringing intense feelings of nostalgia from my childhood.  It was also great that Stephanie and I had the opportunity to speak with Ashton about Merivis Foundation, and his thoughts on investing in veteran founded tech startups in Ashton and my home state of Iowa.   We were also truly grateful to have a conversation with Marc Benioff highlighting the passion that we have to empower veterans through Salesforce at Merivis Foundation.  Just when we couldn’t think the night could get any better, the game changed when Elon Musk came in to hangout at Marc and Asthon’s table to take in the vibes.  Looking back, the Sound Ventures Party was the best SXSW party that I have ever been to and one of the best of my entire life.  Thank you to the Salesforce / Vetforce team who made our attendance possible.”  Nolan Melson

Salesforce Trailblazer Party

Later that week during SXSW, Salesforce had a local Trailbalzer party in east Austin.  Marc Benioff and his salesforce events team threw another great event for the Austin Salesforce Community with the Trailblazer Community Happy Hour at Volcom Garden! Erica Kuhl, the VP of Community for Salesforce even made a special trip to Austin for the event!

The Trailhead party was a great relaxed event to engage with people in the Salesforce community in Austin, and also network with folks outside of the community who were just there to experience the Ohana first hand.

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