We started VetTechTrek nine months ago to make a small but meaningful impact on veterans hiring at startups and technology companies. It’s no secret veterans represent a diverse asset that immediately augments an organization’s culture and ability to drive global impact. We had experiences at both startups and larger tech companies and were frustrated that more of our peers couldn’t crack the hiring code, or simply didn’t know the full opportunity set presented to them. As recently transitioned veterans ourselves, we knew there had to be a better way.
But we didn’t know the size of the problem we were attacking. We also knew there were plenty of other organizations doing great work, so it was important to learn the ecosystem and plug in where we had the capability to make a difference. We started a small effort to deploy veterans inside of tech companies and learn about the problems our peers faced, suspecting it was a problem with the culture around technology.
We were wrong.
After facilitating personal visits for 150 veterans and military spouses inside of 50 of the world’s best tech companies, we learned a lot very quickly. The same set of questions were being asked by veterans on every trip we took. Equally valuable were the conversations with 155 executives and hiring professionals, teaching us that companies answered these questions in very different ways. But personally-relevant themes emerged for each veteran we brought inside of 10 tech companies in two days, and it became clear that a simple solution could have a bigger impact than we ever expected.
Then something happened. What started as a simple experiment to bring a greater degree of access turned into the most impactful thing we had accomplished to date. We went inside of 13 tech companies in three cities in three hours via a recorded conference. Link to conference (Warning: three hours long)
The results were overwhelming: we received hundreds of responses from veterans asking for introductions and another 20 companies asked to be included in the next session. By providing a number of prospectives, accessible wherever and whenever, we created a product very different than a one-size-fits-all solution. We knew we were on to something.
A few months later, we brought 40 veterans who were considering starting their own technology companies to a world class seed fund, Y Combinator. But this time, we recorded the conversations we had along the way to unlock the experience for many more than the 40 who were able to make the trip to San Francisco. Here’s a preview:
Everything we learned formed the basis for our new effort, Project Standard. In the coming months, we’re moving VetTechTrek to San Francisco to visit every startup and tech company that wants a voice in an important piece of the diversity hiring conversation. We’re searching for organizations who see the unique value proposition that veterans bring at every stage: whether it’s multi-skilled operators at younger companies or professionals at larger companies who consistently execute with precision at global scale.
We’ll record hundreds of short videos from hundreds of perspectives so the themes that ring true can be surfaced at an individual level. The Khan Academy changed the world by creating a common standard for those without access to education. Project Standard will provide unprecedented access to tools and inspiration for hundreds of thousands of transitioning veterans who seek meaning and success in their next career. We will partner with The COMMIT Foundation on this project, as Project Standard is the ideal complement to the personal engagements that COMMIT pioneered. This outstanding partnership will generate a sustainable hiring pipeline to teams across all industries.
We’ll still do a few treks a year, but Project Standard is our main focus. The military reinvents itself faster than any organization in the world and the needs of its service members will continue to change rapidly. As recently transitioned veterans, we have a short window to make a lasting impact on the one million professionals who have held huge responsibilities very early in their lives and who will transition to the United States economy in the next four years.
Cross-posted from LinkedIn.