Transitioning From The US Military To Government Contracting (Podcast Transcript)Jan 20, 2023
[00:10] Richard C. Howard: Hey, guys. Ricky here with a DoD Contract Academy podcast. Thanks for listening. You'll see, we've kind of up to the number of episodes we're loading. We're rising in the rankings, and if you subscribe and leave a review, it's really going to help. But today we've got a little bit of different episode. I recently read an article about transitioning military into the federal contracting space, essentially. And this goes for a lot of government employees, too, selling in the public sector. And what I mean by that is going after jobs, working for big companies, working for small businesses, consulting freelancing, working in the public sector sales base is an extremely profitable way to start your next career. And look, I can remember when I came in in 1999, I came in as a navigator in the air force, and I knew that there probably weren't a lot of navigator jobs out there for whenever I left. And this is before I decided I was going to stay in for 20. But I remember asking him like, hey, what is a great profession?
To begin, if I want to meaning a military profession, if I want that to translate into a high paying job outside the military, everyone I talked to, flight training officers, recruiters, everyone I talked to said, Ricky, if that's what you're looking for, you need to be in acquisitions. And I didn't know what acquisitions was. It's the profession of putting companies on contract for the government. So all the huge contracts that we hear about on the news and smaller contracts, which we don't hear about, somebody in acquisitions is putting those companies on contract. Program manager is managing them, usually from beginning to end. Contracting officers are warranted to put them on contract. You have a lot of other areas, too, like engineers and finance people.
So there's a lot of people, a lot of great people that make up the acquisitions team, and they were right. And I didn't transition into acquisitions until halfway through my career. And I have another episode that goes over why that happened. It wasn't to get a high paying job. It was for the health of my son, but it just turned out that they were right. So there are a lot of jobs out there, but what I discovered is you don't have to be an acquisitions officer to land these jobs. In fact, there's so few acquisitions officers out there that it's actually pretty rare. In fact, I'm trying to think if I actually run into somebody, I have. I've run into a couple. But it's more common for me to run into people that did something else in the military but are now serving as a business developer or an account executive or maybe a program manager for a business that is selling to the military or other federal agencies.
So let's talk about why you might think about this first. What makes it you attractive to a business? And this is for business owners too. If you're looking for great people that can really help you, whether it's managing your team or selling to the military, selling to the government, you don't want to listen to this because the transitioning military and government people have a few things that regular civilians don't have. One is they speak the language. So I don't know how many businesses that I've consulted with have come in and be like, hey Rick, I just started selling to the army or the Navy or the Air Force and it is acronym Soup. Like I understand every other word that they're saying and that's true. So one thing that you get is you understand you speak a language that most people do not speak.
You understand the mission from where you came from and whether you were working on aircraft, flying aircraft or working in the commissary or the chow hall, the government and this is what businesses are learning and this is what I preach all the time is the government buys everything. It's not just the weapons. It's not just the aircraft and the tanks. It is food for the commissary. It is training for the security. So if you were in security forces, I had an interview just re-posted with Oliver Noteware who owns Street Smart VR. He has a virtual reality security forces training system and he's in something like over 50 different DoD installations with that virtual reality training system, right? So if you are, if you are a security forces guy getting out of the military, you think a company like that would be interested in you. Someone that understands security forces, understands the structure of the military around security forces, has a huge built in network. And that's another thing that you have that companies like is that you know people, right?
So especially if you've been out somewhere within the past three years, you're going to know a lot of people that are in the military or in the government organization that you've worked in and that is also valuable to them. So when we're talking about you have this type of knowledge that is going to come in handy for a company, not to mention the fact that the training that you receive in the military is unparalleled. I have never encountered anything outside of the military that takes you by the way you give up your rights, a lot of your rights when you become an active duty military member. And that's what allows the military to put you in situations that are so stressful for training purposes. In some cases, even the training is life threatening. So whether it is whether you're flying aircraft and now you have a multi million dollar aircraft, that you're responsible for the lives of everybody on the aircraft, or whether you're on the ground and maybe you're in charge of maintaining buildings or other aircraft or just leading people in an acquisition shop. You're experiencing the management of huge amounts of money systems that are extremely valuable.
Leading people, training people, teaching people, and then going through the stress first simulated in the training that you're constantly being put through. And then in reality when you're deploying and you're putting yourself in the people that you're leading on the line there. I haven't experienced anything like that outside the military, and I haven't talked to anyone that has expressed to me that they've been through programs that can really simulate that in the same way that we get in the military. So you're capable of a lot. So do not sell yourself short. Do you have a learning curve when you leave the military? Absolutely so. And I myself, when I retired in 2019, I had a learning curve going into the corporate world. Sorry, my alarm just went off there. But you know, going into the corporate world, certainly you got to learn corporate culture. They're going to have their own acronyms. You know, you're going to have to learn, you know, if you're in sales, what their, what their QBRs are and what their forecasting calls are going to look like and how you meet those numbers.
So there's certainly a learning curve. And if you don't, if you're in sales, which I think is an extremely profitable profession for you to be in outside the military, whether it's as an account executive or a BD person, you can learn the acquisitions process. It's going to take some time. It's complex, but you only have to learn a small amount of it depending on what you're trying to sell. So you don't have to learn the whole thing. And you can talk about that. You can message me directly if you're in the military, you want to learn a little bit more. We have [email protected] that walk businesses through that. If you're in the military, like I said, we might be able to get you in there with a special program. Just reach out to me directly. But you can learn that. But your whole network, the training that you've received while that life experience, you can't learn that in a course. Right?
So these are things that are extremely valuable. And by the way, you come with a security clearance. So for small businesses out there, these military people coming in, that's not something that is easy to get. That takes a long time to get your security clearance, and it could be costly. And if you're looking if you're selling to whether it's a military organization or a federal organization, you pick the agency. A lot of times, especially for a program manager or someone that needs to deep dive into a particular effort, there may be a security clearance that's needed just to be able to learn more about the effort that you are going to work on and your military members are going to come with that security clearance. And even if it's expired, if you have expired security clearance, typically it's going to be easier for you to have that reinstated than starting from scratch. So that's something else to consider. I don't want this to be an extremely long episode, but I do for businesses out there, really consider the military members that are transitioning. They could be invaluable to your business. Think about reservists, too.
I was just at this Dodis DoD conference in San Antonio, and the chief information officers were like, hey, we can't keep people in the military because once we train them, they are so valuable outside of the military. They're getting these offers 150 grand, 200 grand, 250 grand a year, 300 grand a year. In some cases 400 grand a year to run these business development teams. They can't keep them in the military because what they can make on the outside just dwarfs what they can make in the military. So what a lot of members do is they go after some of these jobs, but some will stay in the reserves. Because as a reservist, you kind of get the best of both worlds. You can still serve in the military, but now you can also work. And a lot of reservists. I know working in the public sector, working for some of these businesses, and for a business, that's a great person to have, because they're still plugged in, so they still have their network, they're still working in the military, they have their security clearance. You always have to watch out for conflicts of interest and all of that. So for a reservist, they're going to have to do what they have to do with legal. But I just wanted to make everybody aware of that.
Hopefully you got something from this episode. I know I certainly love working in the public sector, and we have a lot of great episodes coming up where we're going to be interviewing business owners and subject matter experts. But for today, consider the public sector. If you are transitioning military, hit Dodcontract.com. If you want to learn more, you can hit me up through there or on LinkedIn and everybody. Don't forget subscribe. Leave a review, share this with people and you can learn more about us at Dodcontract.com. We will see you next time you.
If you enjoyed this episode, you can also check out Quokka: Combining Washington DC & Silicon Valley Philosophies for Scale and Growth where I interviewed Angelos Stavrou, Founder of Quokka (formerly Cryptowire). He described his journey as a professor teaching engineers the business skills they need to transform ideas into reality and how one of those ideas became a massive success both in the public and private sector.
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