Recently, I was asked what I learned from in the military and how I applied that learning throughout my career. After some deliberate thought, here is what I can say. I genuinely think my military experience provided a “frame” as Erving Goffman would say. A frame in which to view the world differently. In the Marine Corps there is always a TALL ORDER or mission to accomplish. You can plan, plan, plan until your heart’s content, but the plan usually goes out the window as soon as you hit the deck. What IS the same, is the objective. This is how we build software, it is a consumer driven bottom up approach. The customer defines the objective and we setup our people for success by giving them that “frame” to view the objective, the client’s needs and the resources to get the job done. Some may call this a “military mind.”
What is a military mind? Hard to say, here is my experience. A military mind is tenacious, a subject matter expert. Proficient in their trade and forever vigilant. A military mind easily assesses the situation, understands the objective, and the strategy and the tactics to get there. In the military, we always began by defining the mission and the goal. Sticking with that approach has been very effective in the business environment. While other companies commonly use the “spray and pray” method, we stick to our disciplined approach which subsequently leads us to find underserved niches.
I’ll conclude with this. Whether you are considering the service as a career, have been recently discharged looking to matriculate back into civilian life or have been out for a while, I’d like to add my encouragement and some advice. Build on the military basics you were taught and combine that with new skills. Be open to learning a different way. There can be a certain amount of rigidity from a military background, but don’t let that stifle your future. When you re-enter civilian life, you have to be willing to bend. But you will have a definite advantage. The military teaches you a great deal about leadership; if you take that basic training, add to it flexibility for civilian life, and work hard in whatever you choose as a new career, your natural leadership ability will emerge. That will provide an unstoppable combination!