Helping veterans embrace tech careers

  • Careers
  • Janet Rae-Dupree
  • Solutions
  • 2023
July 26, 2023

Helping veterans: man in camo uniform chatting with civilian woman in an office

After 22 years as an Army IT specialist, Sgt. 1st Class Steve Johnson wasn’t sure he wanted to stay in tech after retiring from the military. “The way the Army and federal government do IT is probably the driest and most boring version of IT there is,” he says.

It didn’t help that Johnson had skipped around between IT jobs throughout his military career, becoming “a jack of all trades and master of none.” With his varied experience, he didn’t think he had much to offer a civilian employer. “I felt like I was done with all that,” he says.

ServiceNow’s commitment to helping veterans through its NextGen SkillBridge Academy changed everything.

Acting on intrigue

When Johnson looked into the Department of Defense (DOD) SkillBridge Program—an opportunity for active-duty service members to explore civilian careers during their last 180 days in the military—he decided to check Reddit to see what others had to say about it. ServiceNow, which he’d never heard of, had several commendations, and he found himself intrigued.

“I liked what I saw of the [ServiceNow] company culture,” he says, “and the product just made sense. It was logical, it was clean, and it was automating all of the things that I thought should be automated.”

Accredited by the DOD, the ServiceNow NextGen SkillBridge Academy, part of RiseUp with ServiceNow, is a virtual program that combines seven ServiceNow instructor-led training classes, on-demand learning, and hands-on projects. Participants receive vouchers that allow them to pursue three ServiceNow certifications based on the training they complete.

It felt like it was meant to be when I discovered the NextGen program. For the first time, I was able to become a subject matter expert—and I love it. -Steve Johnson, Retired Sgt. 1st Class, U.S. Army

Transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses are all eligible for the no-cost program. After completing it, graduates are entered into a RiseUp with ServiceNow database that employers can search for job-ready talent.

Johnson decided to go for it. After 16 weeks of academy training and six weeks of hands-on development work for a ServiceNow partner, he was hired as a ServiceNow developer by a major insurance company.

“It felt like it was meant to be when I discovered the NextGen program,” he says. “For the first time, I was able to become a subject matter expert—and I love it.”

Approaching midlife transition

Johnson is one of more than 200,000 service members stationed all over the world who leave active duty each year and transition, or “retire,” out of the military. The bulk of these veterans have just entered midlife and are looking for new careers. Their extensive experience and skills and disciplined work ethic present a valuable opportunity to the civilian workforce.

“The military really is a vast market of various talents all over the world,” says Evan Koebel, who retired from the Air Force after 23 years of service. “There’s a notion that everybody in the military is like GI Joe, but no. It’s a business. The Air Force is like a giant Fortune 500 company. We’re doing logistics, training, IT, and HR—just so many pieces at play.”

Like Johnson, Koebel—who had been an Air Force project manager—completed the ServiceNow SkillBridge academy as he prepared to retire from active duty. With no experience in tech, he wanted to try a program that would help him understand if IT would be a good direction for him.

The transitioning process, Koebel says, “was like a 40-year-old man asking what do I want to be when I grow up?” The skills he acquired, including the holistic skills needed for career success, helped him identify an answer: a ServiceNow engagement manager. He was hired for just such a position soon after the program concluded.


The military really is a vast market of various talents all over the world...We’re doing logistics, training, IT, and HR—just so many pieces at play. -Evan Koebel, Retired Project Manager, U.S. Air Force

Keeping it in the family

The SkillBridge program also helps military spouses develop new career paths. Despite having a college degree in business administration and cybersecurity, Yaimara Narito had been struggling to find work even before her husband began planning to retire after 24 years in the Army.

When the couple realized they were both eligible to participate in SkillBridge, she applied for the ServiceNow academy. “I’m a lifelong learner,” she says. “This has been a phenomenal growth opportunity. It’s so important in today’s economy to upskill and make yourself more marketable.”

Within weeks of finishing the program, Narito accepted a position with a San Diego-based IT consultancy. She and two of her classmates continue to collaborate as they work toward completing all three ServiceNow certifications.

Bringing in practical experience

During the initial stages of the ServiceNow SkillBridge academy, participants didn’t have the opportunity to apply their new skills to a real-world project. But a coffee catch-up between two ServiceNow vice presidents changed that.

Rachel Tallant, who oversees workforce development and partnerships at ServiceNow, explained the need for post-training practical experience to Mica Mayo, vice president of go-to-market experience and transformation.

Mayo told Tallant that her group had a surplus of ideas about manual work they wanted to digitize or automate but too few resources. That’s when the six-week Application Development Program was added at the end of the 16-week academy program.

“It was this nice marrying of real-life need and the added capacity of these amazing, new-skilled veterans,” Mayo says.

The combined academy and development program has opened doors for Johnson that he never imagined possible. “The NextGen program and the RiseUp program both are just fantastic,” he says.

“Not all of us are born into situations where we have opportunities to learn like this,” he adds. “For people like myself who come from rough backgrounds, this is huge. I hope that more companies catch on and start doing this.”

Find out more about how ServiceNow helps veterans and others embrace tech careers.

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