January 25, 2024

Tackling Transition Nerves and Navigating Networking: How Tom Got into Tech

Having recently just transitioned out of the Military, we’re talking to one of our own.

Tom is the product manager here at Redeployable. With no prior experience in a civvy role, it was a leap of faith for Tom to find a position that aligned with his skill set and personal aspirations for the future.

We interviewed Tom to find out a little more about his story. Check it out. 👇

Tom in the interview seat

First off, what did you do in the military?

I was a Captain in the Parachute Regiment of the British Army.

My role involved leading a platoon of 30 soldiers before moving up to Catterick to take recruits through training.

Did you know what you wanted to do when you signed off?

I had a rough idea, but not really. Having signed off earlier than expected, I don’t think I was as prepared as I could have been.

However, I knew I wanted to get back to Belfast, and there are lots of tech companies based out there, so that appealed to me. I also figured out that I wanted to work for a startup because of the exposure you get in different roles and areas of the business. Plus, it’s fast-paced and exciting. That sounded good.

That makes sense. What steps did you take to kick off your journey?

I got the idea of tech and a startup. But my next step was figuring out a role. My brother is a software engineer, and he introduced me to the idea of a product manager role.

It sounded interesting, so I looked into it more. At the same time, I did some courses. I started with a coding course to understand the basics of how software works. Then I found some product managers on LinkedIn, so I reached out to them to ask my questions, specifically trying to find out what the day-to-day looked like.

Once I got a hankering that I was interested in product management, I enrolled in more courses, as well as taking on some mini-projects writing full-scale product requirements for an app so that I could start building a portfolio.

It sounds like you did a lot of preparation, but was anything worrying you about civilian life?

Yes. I was concerned about no one being interested in my military experience or seeing the value in it. It’s even trickier in Northern Ireland, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to speak about my Army experiences and so would struggle to provide examples of my skillset.

That’s a pretty big concern, I bet. How did you turn it around?

By speaking to people and asking those who’d left before me what they did. It was validating and really useful.

A turning point for me was a Deloitte Military Skills Day. This completely changed my perspective and I started to see the value in my experience. I’d recommend it.

Thats good! Was there anything else that concerned you?

That I’d miss the military, and it seems silly now, but that civilian life would be mundane.

I guess that means it isn’t.

No, I was wrong about that one. Plus, life at a start-up, as predicted, is never mundane!

True. Did anything on your journey go wrong?

Not massively, I landed on my feet. Through my networking, I managed to secure an internship here at Redeployable, which helped me confirm I wanted to go into product management. Without that though, who knows, it did come down to luck.

Well, you made your own luck through your networking. So, what was a priority for you, coming into civilian life?

I was recently married and had been away from Northern Ireland for 10 years. I wanted to go back to see more family. That was a big thing for me.

I also knew that I’d eventually leave the Army, and knowing I wanted a full civilian career this felt like the right time. I felt like I’d still be happy exploring new roles and going with the flow for a bit, to find out what I really wanted to do.

That all makes sense.

Finally, then, what advice would you give to service leavers who haven’t yet signed off?

Step one, speak to people. Especially people in your cohort who have left recently. Find out what they’re doing and how they got there. It can be tough and maybe a bit awkward to begin with when you reach out to people, but it genuinely helps a lot.

Then I’d say go to events hosted by big companies, like the Deloitte one I mentioned. They’re really helpful, and you meet a lot of people. Try to make non-military connections as well. It’s useful to have someone who isn’t from the forces rooting for you. I think it looks good.

I’d also suggest thinking hard about your personal priorities. What do you really want? For me, it was the location, so I needed to be open to remote working.

Then finally, I’d say make an effort to prove yourself. Sure, you have great experience in the military, and this is hugely valuable, but don’t just expect to coast into a new job. Make an effort to excel at a civilian job, and prove you’re driven. That’s why I did the courses I did, to prove I was keen. No one owes you a job, but put the graft in, and it will pay off.

Thanks, Tom!

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