Military Life in the Tech Lane: Being a Reservist or in the Guards With a Tech Career
Taking on the management of two careers simultaneously can present a unique set of challenges. From prioritising your development and charting your desired career path, to finding a sense of work-life integration and personal success every career pulls on an individual in different ways.
The fast-paced nature of the Tech Industry has long been seen as exceptionally demanding, with poor work-life integration and extremely high levels of competition. Though many tech companies have moved away from burning out their teams, the stigma remains. So adding a career in the Reserve or National Guard forces, or pursuing a tech career while in the Reserves or National Guards, may not have appeal or may raise concerns when someone is considering the perfect partner for their military career.
We spoke to our Q-Salute community to get their take on just what that kind of dual career path has meant to them, how they’ve navigated those challenges, and insight into what a leader with a Reserve or Guard member on their team can do to build a successful experience for their team.
Thanks for taking the time to share - do you mind introducing yourselves?
Nate Leach (NL): I’m Nate Leach, a Principal Customer Success Manager in our Seattle office. I served active duty in the U.S. Air Force for eight years and left as a Captain. I have spent the last two and a half years as a Major in the Air Force Reserves. Prior to Qualtrics, I was a Senior Consultant in Deloitte’s Strategy and Analytics practice.
Catherine Nuar (CN): I’m Catherine Nuar, an Operations Program Manager based in Provo. I was an active duty Marine Corps Logistics Officer for five years before transitioning to the reserves. Prior to Qualtrics, I worked at Booz Allen.
Robert Hyatt (RH): I’m Robert Hyatt, Senior Software Developer in our Provo office. I have served my entire military career in the Army National Guard/Reserves. I am still in, as a Major in the Civil Affairs.
Tell us about what the experience of being in the Reserves, while working at Qualtrics or in Tech in general, has been like for you. What’s been good and what’s been challenging?
NL: Every Guard or Reserves unit is different, but my weekend Reserve duty tends not to interfere with my Qualtrics work. I do need to plan ahead for my Annual Training. My manager has been very supportive and encouraging. But, the tough part of the Reserves really does have more to do with juggling Reserves on top of a full-time tech career than it has to do with the company.
CN: I’m currently attached to an active-duty unit as a Reservist. Because of this, my Reserve duty is generally completed in one four to six week period each year. Qualtrics was very supportive of my need to delay my start date by four months because of my Reserve commitments.
If you were to give some advice to someone managing or working with someone in the Reserves or the Guards, what would you share? How have you handled it before?
NL: When it comes up, I try to let my co-workers know the type of work I do in the Reserves. That way, when I am gone, they do not think that I am on vacation. I try to make sure to do as much of the work of planning and coordinating any workload shifts myself and not expect special treatment. I come into any Reserves conversation with my manager and coworkers with a pre-coordinated plan to lighten the load on them.
It is very stressful for Reservists to juggle the demands of civilian work, military duties and family responsibilities. They are not on vacation, but they do need to provide transparency and planning regarding their absence.
RH: If the person doesn’t bring up a discussion about their military career, ask about it. Tease out what their goals are. Be as supportive as you can, planning ahead for times when the service member will be gone. A reservist likely knows all about USERRA because they get briefed on it annually, but make sure that you read up on it and know what it is, too. Soldiers definitely know when their work is going above and beyond the minimum required by law, and it is appreciated!
Also, give clear expectations on how you want the servicemember to share drill/battle assembly and AT dates. Be flexible, because sometimes units change things up and let the servicemember know last second.
Finally, make sure that the service member feels comfortable with realigning workloads (like scheduling other people to take on calls) when they have military duty. Realize that even though sometimes the service member might try to say that it isn’t a big deal and they can handle it, you may need to insist that it’s ok to realign the workload and that they should.
What information do you wish you had about managing both careers simultaneously that you didn’t when you first experienced that?
NL: I wish I understood the tension between both worlds. Know your priorities and goals in both the Guard or Reserves and in your work.
So, what advice would you share with someone in the Reserves about good ways to prep for being away, or for “catching-up,” to make that experience successful?
NL: Be transparent with your manager and plan ahead. Understand that the responsibility to move either a tech career or Reserves career forward is on the individual, not on either organization. Present a plan that takes as much ownership as possible, but absolutely do not be afraid to ask for help as you prioritize the team’s success.
RH: Make sure that you discuss your military career with your manager in your 1 on 1s. Make sure that they understand what your goals are and what schools and assignments will likely come with those goals. And when you get your drill/battle assembly and AT dates, share them with your manager as soon as possible and put them on appropriate calendars. If you are scheduled for something like being on-call during a drill/battle assembly weekend, work with your team to trade with someone so that you aren’t on call. Even if you think you can make it happen, it isn’t worth the extra stress and potential problems.
What advice can you share about talking to a current (or future) employer about your role in the Reserves?
NL: Be transparent and show a history of taking ownership of your work and how you can seamlessly work with your team.
What does work-life integration mean to you, and how do you manage to attain (or strive for!) it with 3 areas of priority and demand?
NL: In my personal opinion, most people have 3 pillars to consider for work-life integration: family, personal health, and work. The Guard or Reserves add one pillar to those 3. At any given time, individuals must be sure that 2 of their 3 pillars are thriving. For military Reservists, I think they need 3 of the 4 pillars to be thriving to maintain good work-life integration. That means that if I am going to put my civilian career on hold for 2 weeks, then I need to maintain my personal health and be sure I leave with my family with as little burden as possible.
The Q-Salute group at Qualtrics is made up of veterans, current National Guard and Reserve members, military partners, and supporters who are aligned by the mission to create a sanctuary of camaraderie, connection and mentoring for all veterans (both at Q and at large…) to ensure that we all have the resources to find success in the civilian world. The work of Q-Salute has earned Qualtrics recognition by Military Friendly as a Best Employer for Veterans and Military Partners.
To connect with Q-Salute please send us an email.
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