From Military Service to Data Analyst

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Transitioning to the civilian workforce is a significant adjustment for men and women who have served in the military. After an extended period of time away from civilian life, veterans often need guidance and support to identify how to best apply their extraordinary skills and service experience to the corporate sector. Despite some hardships veterans have encountered in securing employment in the civilian workforce post-9/11, a recent report by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows we are headed in the right direction.


After years of significant unemployment, last year’s veteran unemployment rate dipped to 4.6 percent. One explanation for this positive trend could be attributable to the ongoing efforts of corporations and veteran service organizations to equip members of the military with the necessary skills, training, and job placement support prior to joining the workforce. These initiatives that help veterans secure employment and recognize the value former service members bring to the workforce are easing their burden of fully transitioning to civilian life.

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 and analysts with the know-how to leverage big data analysis to make effective business decisions. With qualified candidates in short supply, analytics is critical to ensuring that organizations remain competitive in a global economy driven ever more so on the basis of big data. To bridge the gap, a handful of companies are offering training programs and certifications to connect veterans 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. For example, IBM together with our program partners, Corporate America Supports You and Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (CASY-MSCCN), provide veterans the opportunity to participate in free IBM i2 Analyst’s Notebook software training sessions offered throughout the U.S. As part of IBM’s philanthropic Impact Grants, each training opportunity is an intensive, weeklong session led by IBM data experts—several of whom are veterans themselves. The sessions prepare graduates to take a certification exam to capitalize on their unique skill sets and apply their talents to the business world to become advanced data analysts and fill spots in a market where data is becoming increasingly valuable.

A New Boot Camp for Veterans: Cybersecurity
Many companies are looking at taking best practices rooted in military intelligence and applying them to better understand potential cyber threats, which makes them more inclined to help veterans transition to those job functions. Whether it’s Sony or Home Depot, no organization is safe from cyber-attacks, and as such, companies in industries from health care to financial services all are looking to fortify their security measures. By developing the requisite skills for data scientists, military members are becoming highly marketable and a hot commodity for organizations looking to capitalize on big data, whether to gain competitive advantages against their peers or to prevent fraud in an increasingly digital world. Trainings offered by IBM are helping equip veterans with the right tools and skill sets needed to help organizations stay ahead of cyber threats.

Moving Forward
To date, upward of 25,000 veterans have been successfully placed across a variety of job functions in the U.S. through IBM Kenexa on Cloud Smarter Workforce tools used by MSCCN and CASY, and we’re on track to certify 400 veterans as data analysts by end of this year—but there is room for more improvement. The technology industry is ever-changing, presenting new challenges and nuances that are complex in nature and require motivated people to unlock them. On the other hand, life in combat presents countless men and women each year with challenges some of us can hardly imagine. Being able to welcome back and thank veterans for their service by offering them training and job placement assistance in the business world is one way IBM recognizes the value men and women of the military bring to the workforce—and society. IBM welcomes other corporations to partner with us this holiday season and throughout the upcoming year by joining our ever-growing list of partners supporting this program, including Boeing, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, USAA, and Aetna.

Through organization-sponsored programs, our servicemen and women finally are able to discover commonalities between their military background and the requirements of civilian industry, fill a critical IT need, and begin the next chapter of their lives. To get involved, visit the IBM training link at:

Diane Melley is IBM’s vice president of Global Citizenship Initiatives and oversees the IBM Impact Grants portfolio focused on Cloud, Analytics, Social and Mobile offerings for not-for-profits, schools, and government organizations and awards more than 500 grants annually. Melley also leads the Business Integration team, where Corporate Citizenship assets are integrated with IBM’s business strategies in Public Sector, Education, and the Small-Medium Business industry segments. In addition, she heads IBM’s Humanitarian Disaster Response efforts worldwide. A version of this article first appeared on the Training Magazine blog.

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