Veterans looking for an inroad to a technology career have a new group tailored to their needs. 

Des Moines recruiters are launching a local chapter of VetsinTech, a national technology network for current and returning veterans. The monthly meetup sessions will focus on introducing veterans to education, entrepreneurship and employment in the technology industry. Nationally, VetsinTech was founded by veteran Katherine Webster in 2012 to emphasize the “3E’s” in technology.

The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17 at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield in downtown Des Moines, featuring a panel of veterans in IT leadership positions at Wellmark. Each session will focus on one of the 3E’s, including topics such as resources for job seekers or supporting the transition to civilian life. 

“I think it really resonates with people once they get in the same room as somebody with a similar background to them,” said Des Moines chapter founder Stuart Leahy.

Leahy, a recruiting specialist for TekSystems, hosted the chapter’s first gathering with recruiting specialist Amanda Wittmaack at INTL FCStone in August. 

Wittmaack said she jumped on the opportunity after a recent conversation with her manager on launching their own veterans-specific initiative to find and attract U.S. veterans into the technology workforce. At about the same time, Wittmaack said, Leahy came and asked if INTL FCStone would be willing to sponsor a VetsinTech event.  

“The stars aligned,” Wittmaack said. “It’s a cool event. TEKSystems works in the same building as us, they’re one of our preferred vendors, so when we do need help [to fill] a position, I need a developer and can’t find one, I’ll reach out to [Leahy], and TEKSystems will recruit and then send us candidates. … So we have a relationship already.” 

The Des Moines chapter is still seeking future sponsors to host meetups. The first event gathered 15 veterans, but Leahy would like to see the event grow to around 50 by March 2020. Those interested can reach Leahy for details through LinkedIn

“What we’re trying to do is solicit feedback from the folks that attend these events and really cater to them,” Leahy said. “The hope is that we have eight to 10 of these meetings a year, so there’s definitely room to be able to hit all of these topics. That’s really going to depend on the feedback that we receive, on what these guys and gals want, and what they’re going to find valuable.” 

Veterans’ experiences in military tend to lend very well to transitioning into a civilian job in IT, Leahy said, but veterans are often stymied by subtle differences in terminology between the military and corporate recruiters. Military terms such as “cyber transport” mask the real-life duties to recruiters reading veterans’ resumes, yet veterans often have just the skills and social experience needed to fill in-demand jobs for businesses. 

The national VetsinTech organization also provides online training opportunities at no cost for veterans; locally, Leahy and Wittmaack hope the chapter will match veterans new to the industry or seeking entrepreneurial opportunities with those who have longtime experience. 

“I would like to see it be able to actually impact people’s lives and careers by the end of the day,” Leahy said. “I think somebody that shows up to one of these events and is able to actually network and build a relationship with somebody … to have them introduced to that potential mentor would be life-changing.”