In today’s episode of CCS Learning Academy’s podcast, Your Next Mission, we talk to US Navy Veteran, Joshua Dominic Prado. Josh is CCS Learning Academy’s Veteran Talent Acquisition Program Manager. He shares the ups and downs of his transitioning journey, his varied and winding civilian career path, and he gives us his insights on how vets can find their next mission in tech.
Kajal Shelat is CCS Learning Academy’s Director of Business Development. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and has 10+ years in the education and professional training sector. She specializes in developing sustainable partnerships and implementing technology training solutions for private and public entities. She uses her passion for education and business to keep our programs current, engaging, and relevant to today’s professionals.
Maurice Wilson is on CCS Learning Academy’s Board of Advisors. A retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer with 25 years of service, Maurice is the President/Executive Director of the National Veterans Transition Services, Inc. (NVTSI), a non-profit organization he co-founded with retired Rear Admiral Ronne Froman after serving as an advisory member for the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE).
Joshua Dominic Prado (USN/USNR) is CCS Learning Academy’s Veteran Talent Acquisition Program Manager. He served as an Aviation Electronics Technician in the U.S. Navy for 10 years followed by a career as a technical trainer and technical training coordinator for one of the world’s largest semiconductor engineering company (Cymer/ASML). Known for his technical knowledge and expertise, Josh excels at helping Veterans translate their military service into fulfilling civilian careers.
Kajal: Today, I am here with Maurice Wilson, a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer with 25 years of service, Maurice is the president and executive director of the National Veterans Transition Services Incorporated and the popular REBOOT workshop.
I’m also here with our very own Talent and Development Program Manager at CCS Global Tech and CCS Learning Academy, Joshua Prado. Josh is a native San Diegan who has eight years of service in the Navy, and like Maurice, he has dedicated his next mission to help veterans in all chapters of their lives.
Welcome to our second podcast, happy to have you both!
Josh: Happy to be on, Kajal.
Maurice: Hey, it’s a pleasure.
Kajal: Alright, so nearly two-thirds of new Veterans say they faced a difficult transition into civilian life. As we mentioned last time, this podcast is about helping veterans find their identity after service and offer some guidance on how to achieve that. Josh, tell us a little bit about your history.
Josh: As you mentioned, I’m from San Diego, California. I traveled all over the place when I was in the military, mostly airbases because I was in aviation.
In terms of my story, it’s how someone goes from their career in the military to working in the technology sector. Initially, I was in the service, in a program called National Call to Service. That was either a two or four-year obligation. I joined as an avionics technician and worked on fighter airplanes and
. I did that for three and a half years. Then I went into the Reserves doing the same thing for seven or eight years. So a total service time of almost 11 years in the Navy. Then I transitioned out and moved into my next chapter.
Kajal: What was your transition to civilian life like?
Josh: It was like getting dropped out of a portal from another world. For a lot of folks joining the military now, that decision to go in may stem from a lot of factors, like a family tradition. For instance, both my grandparents were Navy Chiefs. They came here from the Philippines and ended up in San Diego. Both my mom’s dad and my dad’s dad were in the Navy, so I have a rich military history. My dad was in the Marines. My brother is in the Air Force.
I was more than happy to return to San Diego after I got it out of service. To be completely honest, when you join the service at a young age, it doesn’t always work as you planned. For some folks, it works out. Their career path is very straightforward. This isn’t how it worked for me.
I expected to travel the world and do all these things, but what I really learned was how to work hard, how to be committed, how to form a bond with your brothers and sisters serving with you through thick and thin. But when you’re transitioning out, you really feel like you’re all by yourself and you’re back at square one. You have to decide what is my next path? Because if I’m not going do exactly what I did in the service, then I’ve got to choose something.
My first two positions right out of the Navy were working at a call center doing customer support and managing a suit store. I wasn’t leveraging my technical skills from the military, which was working on radar and GPS, and electronics. I didn’t want to do that as my next career. I started at square one.
That’s how most people feel when they get out. It can be a very, very stressful time period.
Kajal: Did you go right into college or did you find that 12-15 an hour job right away?
Josh: Like a lot of the Veterans I talk to, you’re used to working an abnormal schedule. You’re not used to punching in nine-to-five. You’re used to working for Uncle Sam with 12-14 hours a day, losing sleep, and working so much that the idea of going back to school isn’t even on your radar.
I had access to the GI Bill and was able to go to school. I decided I wanted to work. I was so used to working, I didn’t care what it was, I took that momentum and decided to work.
First, I worked at a telecom company. I thought it’d be a welcome break to sit inside in a cubicle and talk on the phone versus running around in 120-degree weather chasing airplanes and swapping out parts. I didn’t pursue education or any sort of personal development at the time. A couple of years later, I felt like I was hitting a ceiling since I didn’t have a college degree and I wasn’t using the skills the military taught me from a technical standpoint. I realized this was going to be it for another 10 years if I didn’t do something. So I decided to go back to school about four years after I got out.
Kajal: What were your biggest hurdles and transitions when you were working in the air-conditioned cubicle? Did you find there were a lot more hurdles since you didn’t go right into education?
Josh: The main hurdles were staying motivated and not getting caught up in the same things you were doing before going into the service, especially if you go back to your hometown. You see all your old friends and you’re like, “okay, I was in the service, I retired. Now I’m just going to come back. Life’s going to be easy. It’s going to be okay for me.”
It was hard to take that mindset from the military of continually advancing and improving your position and using it in the civilian landscape. I felt like if I didn’t do something drastic, I was going to be doing dead-end jobs or I was going to be doing something that was not a career if I didn’t go to school. What really gave me a kick in the pants was my daughter. As soon as she was born, I activated my GI Bill and went back to school.
However, by this time I worked at a sporting store, so I was working and going to school at night or online. , I was also still in the Reserves. I really enjoyed that, so I really didn’t completely detach from the military. I worked in the squadrons that I used to work in, or a similar squadron as I did when I was on active duty. Because I didn’t fully detach from the military the first time, I had to transition out again once I left the reserve. So I had two transition periods: one in 2008, and one in 2016 after I decided to end my career in the Reserves.
Kajal: Do you think it’s hard to detach from those years of service or was it easy?
Josh: I think it’s never easy. One parallel we find in the transition space is professional sports. People leaving the NFL or the NBA have a similar experience to somebody who was in the military as their first real career. They take off that uniform and they’re like, “I’m not my rank, I’m not this uniform anymore, people don’t answer to me.” You’re back to, “who am I as a person?”
That can be a difficult thing for folks that have been in the service for 20 +years. It’s very difficult to detach yourself from your life in the uniform. We work with a lot of folks that transition to multiple careers and are always changing their day-to-day function. But whether your title changes or you’re tech or non-tech, you’re still yourself. You have to be comfortable in that skin. Whether you’ve got collar devices on and you’re an officer or a senior enlisted or if you’re just in a plain t-shirt or if you’re in a three-piece suit,
really knowing your identity, or at least finding who you are after service, is key.
Kajal: Maurice and I talked a lot about that on our last podcast. We talked about switching and reprogramming the mind after service. I know you’ve given a lot of guidance on that, Maurice. Does Josh’s story resonate with the things you hear?
Maurice: I’m sitting here taking copious notes and saying to myself how many times in the last 11+ years I’ve heard similar stories of how difficult or challenging it is to reinvent yourself. That’s the thing a lot of people don’t get until they’re in it. One day you’re in the uniform and life is good. You know who you are and why you’re there. You know what your mission is. And then the next day, all of that gets crushed away and you’re like, “Well, okay, or who am I? I gotta create my new self-image, I gotta find my new mission in life. I have to find my new work passion.” It’s starting all over again, but with no real guidance on how to do that. Yes, we have benefits. Yes, we have the VA. Yes, we have a lot of resources. But a lot of that assumes you know what you want to do which makes the whole transition much easier.
As I was listening to Josh, I was reflecting on how with some people, it may take up to five years to re-acclimate without any kind of help. The person has to acclimate themselves, adjust and adapt by whatever means. Take it day by day, take a couple of potshots on the chin here and there, fall forward, etc. So it takes five years to 12 years to re-adjust. There are some people who never do. They stay stuck. They’re out of place because they haven’t figured out where they fit in. They’re in a state of cognitive dissonance.
I’d be interested to hear, Josh, at what point in his transition… Let me change the word from transition to his reintegration because that’s really what’s going on. Once you leave the military, you have transitioned from one job to the next job. I really appreciated what Josh said when he came back home, he was re-integrating back into that environment. We called them the ecosystem. Josh, at what point did you finally click that I got my rhythm, I’m in place, and this is where I’m feeling comfortable now. I think that it’s a continual thing you do on a daily basis, getting used to the new status quo.
Josh: It’s a blessing and a curse, never attaching yourself to your job title or a particular uniform or dress code. I think I’m really fortunate to have a diverse background, both with my career and with my upbringing, that I could never really do that. If I were to do that, I think I would pigeonhole myself into a specific career or a specific mindset. I wouldn’t be where I am today. I
If you were to reverse engineer where I’m at now as somebody who’s had experience in higher education and semiconductor engineering and now recruiting and leading initiatives in the IT space… That totally baffles me. I think if I would have gone with my normal plan, which was to go the OCS route and do things that I think would have given me some sort of puffed-up head, then it wouldn’t have driven me to where I am today. Because of my military background, I’m able to do a lot of media opportunities, like this podcast. I never would have thought I would be able to do that. My mission is to help veterans that were like myself that didn’t have the opportunities.
Some people have it a little bit easier than others to figure out what that path is after the military, but for me, I felt like I was always handed a card, which was more challenging than everybody. Hell, I didn’t have an education when I got out. I had to work, do school at night, and do all the things that were hard, but that made me the person I am. If I can do it, somebody else can do it.
My dad’s a Marine. My grandparents were Navy chiefs. All of them broke stereotypes. I think the biggest hurdle is the stereotype of the military transitioning into the civilian world. A lot of times you get held down by stereotypes. Both my grandparents came from the Philippines, which was traditionally in the military. They were cooks back then. One of them was a yeoman and one was an AZ. My dad was a Marine. Tech jobs weren’t the focus for Marines. My dad became a laser engineer. It’s my family history to say, “Hey, you know what, even if even you’ve got the best opportunities handed to you, using the experience you have, using the resources that you’re given, it doesn’t matter, you still served this country and you can leverage that into whatever career you want.”
It just so happens that we’re able to support Veterans in the tech space. I’m able to speak that lingo because of my experience, but you can be successful in any pursuit, whether it’s entrepreneurship or operations or logistics or anything.
We (CCS Global Tech) have a specific mission and my specialty, now that people know me, is personal branding and marketing in the tech space. Personal branding comes from your mission and your vision and your values. So to answer your question, I found comfort knowing what my mission and vision and values were after the military. I’ve attached myself to that.
In the military, my mission was to support our air operations through aircraft maintenance flight schedules, and all the stuff we did to help against the war on terror. Now my mission is to help people progress in their careers, change their mindset, and take advantage of resources. If I can do that, whether that be through me or a program like REBOOT or transition programs across the US, I’m willing to help because I experienced that myself.
Maurice: That was excellent. That defining moment is one of the things many veterans are in pursuit of. When you join the military, you instantly get three things: a new identity, a mission, which is tied to your purpose, and an occupation. That’s instant self-identification, instant value, that instant “I belong to something.”
That’s what drives us and gives us the energy to move forward every day. Then you take off the uniform, and your existence is erased. That’s really terrifying for a lot of people. That’s what really trips up a lot of veterans in terms of why we get into scenarios like homelessness or underemployment. We haven’t had that methodology away of actually finding that. That’s the work that we do in REBOOT.
And as Josh said, he’s in service. He’s got an identity, he’s got a purpose in life, and now he has passion, which is the way to actually get out there and show others how to do it. That’s what we all look for as veterans.
Kajal: Any tips or advice to find that mission, vision, and value? I know it takes a lot longer than this 30-40 minute podcast, but anything that helps listeners? Maybe the first step?
Maurice: People get all kinds of advice. There are a lot of books out there, a lot of speakers, a lot of things in the veteran universe that you could listen to. But the one thing or one person you listen to the most is yourself. You can’t turn off the voice inside of your head so you have to control that voice. You have to manage your self-talk because that’s either going to talk you into the right thing or talk you out of it.
At the end of the day, you need good guidance. A lot of folks try to toughen up versus find a battle buddy. Talk to a buddy, connect with others. The biggest challenge for a lot of Veterans is they’re out of their network. They’re on their own. If you’re out there by yourself, tap into a network, connect with collaborations and coordinated groups. Talk to someone. Don’t be alone. Join the VFW, joined the American Legion, join Veterans of Foreign War. There are so many great organizations out there. Become part of something. You don’t have to do this by yourself.
Josh: A lot of those leadership books and transition resources derive their strategies from that team mentality to not only help veterans on similar career paths to me and Maurice but also many of the folks who were in special operations. They have a team mentality too. You should carry that on to your career after the military. I didn’t have a team when I got out. I really feel the emphasis is to build a team of people.
There are so many resources out there now as compared to 10-15 years ago. It can be even stressful navigating those resources and tapping into the right ones. Having people around you that can help guide you is super important.
One of the key philosophies and concepts from my experience in the semiconductor engineering world was that business is comprised of people, products, and processes. The product is how you make your money and what you do, your function, which can change over the course of five or 10 years. The process is how you live your life. The people are those you surround yourself with. If you’ve got those best practices, I need to volunteer in my community and help other people… You can get to the place where I am, no matter how far up that is, whether I’m the CEO or if I’m just two years out from transition. We see a lot of that in our community. Everybody’s trying to help each other grow.
So to piggyback on Maurice’s point, don’t do it by yourself. Look to the people you surround yourself with, whether they’re at the organizations that you volunteer with or that you aspire to work for, or who are in an industry that you’re attracted to, surround yourself with the right people. Create a process for yourself when you’re transitioning out: how do I factor in using my education benefit, how do I factor in my mental health support, how do I factor in my day-to-day physical activity now that somebody isn’t telling me to work out every single day.
There are all these different moving parts. Doing it by yourself may take 10 years to figure it out, like Maurice. Or you could take two years to figure it out because you make the right decisions and you take a step back and you say, “I’ve got to define and build a framework for my transition.” Because if you leave it so broad, you could be transitioning out for 20 years and still be in the same place.
I treat everyone the same. Whether they were in the service for two years or they were in for 25 years and they were single-handedly doing amazing, heroic things. It’s all the same when it comes to helping people make the right decisions. Our team is all about that, I’m all about that, Maurice is all about that. You can reach out to us. We do employment programs and placement assistance nationwide.
Due to this Covid pandemic, we’re providing online training for a lot of things. There’s no shortage of resources.
I think if you take anything from this it’s to reach out and seek guidance, not do it alone. Otherwise, you may be just wandering. That’s my two cents. Hopefully, it resonates with the folks that hear this podcast. We provide support. I would say don’t see a transition workshop as just a transition workshop. Don’t see a recruiting company as just a recruiting company. These are all functions of what we do, but that’s not who we are. Learning who you are and what your next mission is the most important thing. If your mission is to help people and to help yourself, you’ll be successful.
Maurice: I just want to add one interesting fact that we discovered. You’ve heard the statistics about the number of veteran suicides per day, which is somewhere around about 20-21 suicides per day. That’s a very bad number. We looked into that number and found that roughly 60% of that number are individuals who are not connected to any team. They’re not connected to a network, they’re not affiliated, they’re just out there by themselves trying to self-navigate. It’s sort of like the mind is eating itself bad thought after bad thought after bad thought.
That’s a strong case for connecting with your buddies. Get into a network. Don’t try to do this by yourself. It typically won’t end up very well because you need diverse thoughts, different thinking, other options, more resources, and someone to help you really look at where you are. It helps you plot to the next course. And as Josh said, there’s an upside and a downside to this pandemic that we were coming out of. The downside is the horrific impact it’s had on the lives lost, the economy, and any of the psychological damage we’re going to have to deal with. The upside is it’s made us all think outside of the box in terms of how we interact with each other. You do not have to do this alone. You do not have to suffer. Relief is a phone call or a mouse click away.
Kajal: So Josh, I want to ask you, what’s one or two things you missed about being in the military?
Josh: The biggest thing I miss is the camaraderie. You’re with people every single day for the majority of the day. Longer than you would in a civilian environment. You learn to work with people and really enjoy things that may not be enjoyable. The further you get along in your career, you get to do what you want to do and you can separate yourself from groups and people. You can make yourself comfortable. The military environment is so close-knit, whether you’re on a boat or you’re on an airstrip or you’re on a helicopter, you’re forced to deal with what’s in front of you. Your people become family. They become brothers and sisters, whether they’re from another state or another side of the world. You get to work with some of the most amazing people.
That’s why I enjoy working in tech as well. I work with not only Veterans from all different career paths, but also with engineers from all over the world. In my last job, I taught engineers from Korea, China, and the Netherlands. That experience is very similar to being in the military and working towards a common goal. Nothing else matters other than working as a team and creating something that is viable and product or accomplishing a mission.
Kajal: Do you have any life lessons from working here at CCS Global Tech and working with Veterans?
Josh: I think the life lesson is every move forward is a good thing. They call it imperfect action or violence of action. There’s a lot of different terminology around the military to how you move forward. Nothing is a step backward. Maybe you decide to do one thing versus another. The fact you’ve decided to do that is a good thing. So, if you’re pursuing a career in tech and you decide to do a certification class or you decide to take a boot camp, or you decide to put yourself out there in the job market and work your way up, it’s all relevant. There’s nothing that’s irrelevant.
My personal career is a non-linear pathway into tech. It would not make sense on a whiteboard. For some folks, their road map is a little bit more straight line, but you can take a nonlinear pathway to tech. You don’t have to be someone with prior experience. I’m able to give relevant information, valuable information and provide opportunities. I may not be the expert, but what I have become is an expert in giving a high-level overview of the infrastructure.
Let’s say you come from the Marines and you’re saying, “Hey, locate, close in and destroy.” You’re not doing that anymore. Now you’re analyzing, designing a plan to develop something then implementing and executing. You’re learning from that and starting right back at analyzing. It’s a process creating those processes and frameworks, but in order to get something done, you have to create a framework or a project plan, or a business plan.
Those life lessons for me are invaluable to not discount anything from your past. Any piece of your military career, whether it was a stellar career, 25 years with all kinds of medals, or you did four years and you didn’t get to do what you wanted to do. At the end of the day, you get access to the same exact benefits you’re going to be able to provide for yourself and your family and for your community if you make the right decisions. The earlier you make those decisions to take action, the quicker you’re going to get to your goal.
Kajal: Perfect, thanks. I think that this can go a lot further for somebody, especially when they’re in that transition piece. I see service members who don’t put their military service on their LinkedIn profile. They just go straight into tech or what they’re currently doing and leave the military service behind. Any insight on why somebody might do that? Do we want to promote and encourage people to keep that on there? What are your thoughts?
Josh: I think there’s a couple of ways to answer that question. From a recruiting standpoint, team-building, cross-functional leader, we see that too much. It’s not about using buzz words. I would say glean the things that are functional, relevant pieces. If you are in logistics or you’re an operations officer, that’s the same mindset you would use in cybersecurity or network administration. It can be operational and task-oriented. It’s important to know where you came from and to take those pieces from your military experience and emphasize them during your career and as you transfer into tech. Because if somebody were to look at you, they want to know how being a canine dog handler in the Army is relevant. They may not see the relevance. What you need to translate is that I executed from point A to point B. Now my next job is to do penetration testing or to run a diagnostic. I can do that too because I did it in some sort of way in the military.
I know a lot of the emphasis is put on skill translation. There are hundreds of jobs in the military. How do they translate to the civilian sector? This is a non-tech job I did for 20 years and now I’m trying to go into tech. I’m starting at zero. You’re not starting at zero. You have an operational function that you did in the military that applies to operations in a business. You have a technical proficiency or competency that you maybe have picked up if you worked in the technical roles in the military perhaps. So that’s important to translate to what’s functional and relevant. What competencies that you had. That type of lingo is what translates into the language in the engineering and in the IT space. The technical jargon across engineering and IT is very similar. I think it’s more of a translation of military jargon to how does that do anything for me in the engineering world. How can you complete this project for me? Then you have to answer that based on your experience. It’s okay that you weren’t intact if you weren’t and if you were, then that’s great.
I strongly disagree with leaving that out of your resume or your LinkedIn, because if you analyze that piece of your career and that part of your life, once again, going back to the steps forward, all of those things you did, if you really were committed to doing what you did on a high level, then those things are going to translate. What’s difficult is separating yourself from everybody else. Think outside the box and come up with ways to express yourself and be creative about how your military career translates to success after the service.
Kajal: I think we can have a whole podcast on this alone and really dive a lot deeper in this. It’s very common. I see lots of LinkedIn profiles as we work with our clients for our projects. Many times it’s just not listed, which I think is unfortunate.
So Josh, in every episode, we ask three hot questions to our guests, and today I want to ask you the same… put you on the spot a little bit. What’s one of your greatest fears?
Josh: Greatest fear. Okay, the greatest fear for me is not being able to help each individual person that reaches out to me. The more I make myself available and the more I market what I’m doing, sometimes I feel like it’s a lot to handle if I’m doing it alone. Sometimes I feel like if I delay a response or if I don’t send an email that I’m going to miss that opportunity with that person. I’m fortunate to be able to use a platform like social media to get out there and I get a lot of requests for calls and meetings and sometimes I’m fearful that I’m not going to get to everybody. I give 100% of myself to every single person I speak with. I have to be okay with that. I’m glad we’re expanding our operations and our team to where we’re able to make a bigger impact and it’s not just on me.
Kajal: What do you say is your biggest challenge today?
Josh: I think the biggest challenge is getting to military personnel. There’s no one way to get in touch with everyone. If you’re thinking about communications and you want to communicate, “Hey, I’ve got this great program, I’ve got this great non-profit, I’ve got this great thing” there’s no central way to send it out. You have to make sure you invest time building relationships across the nation and even across the globe because it’s not like, “Oh, post jobs on this one channel,” or “I’m going to post in this group where I’m going to send this email and everybody in the whole military is going to get it.” We have different branches. We have different folks across different area codes in different states. There’s no one right way to do it. You have to collaborate. The biggest challenge is working alongside and continually building a stronger network so we can reach more people. That’s the challenge. But being in the military transition space, everybody is amazing and everybody I’ve worked with has been more than happy to connect and share resources across the board. It’s not an individual effort.
Kajal: One last question. What’s your next mission?
Josh: My next mission is to continue on and expand the opportunities that are given to me in the tech sector. With Covid shifting a lot of folks into understanding how important technology is in the future if you’re military and you’re going into tech, you’ve got a bright future. I think my next mission is the same as my current mission which is to help people progress in their personal and professional careers.
Kajal: Perfect. Thank you to Marie and Josh for spending time with me today on the Your Next Mission podcast.
Maurice: It was a pleasure. Thank you.
Josh: Thanks for joining us, Maurice. Appreciate it.
Maurice: This was great. I enjoyed it. You open up my eyes even more. It made me start thinking about things I had forgotten. This is not only good for the folks who are listening, but also for us to talk about this again and reacquaint ourselves with some of those things we’re in this industry to help people with. So appreciate this.
Thanks for listening! If you’d like more information about CCS Global Tech’s Veteran-focused program, please visit the Veterans section of our website. If you’re interested in technology training and certifications, visit the CCS Learning Academy website.