Around the world, a number of countries celebrate November 11 as a day to give thanks and recognition for their veterans. Originally designated to honor the end of World War I (Armistice Day and Remembrance Day), in some countries it is now used to pay respect to all veterans (Veterans Day).
Year after year, we use this time to express our support and appreciation to those who have served in the military. We say “thank you for your service”, but do we understand what service actually means? Do we take enough time to understand the experiences, sacrifices, and memories of our veterans in order to truly pay respect?
At Cloudera, our Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG) has 76 members which include both allies and veterans alike. Their mission is to help strengthen Cloudera’s culture of diversity and inclusion through veteran-related educational, professional, and social programs. The Veterans ERG at Cloudera helps advance the understanding and inclusion of employees with a common background, set of interests and goals – in this instance prior military service.
Something that is unique about the veterans community is how diverse it is. You can find commonality in experience, position, age, ethnicity, religion, and many other identifiers. It is a vast community, especially when we look at it globally, that has so much knowledge and wisdom to offer through their unique experiences.
It is with this in mind, and our desire to understand the unique bond that ties the veterans community together, that we asked our Clouderans if they could shine a light on what it means to be a veteran. What are some of the challenges and sacrifice, experience and opportunities that come with being in the military?
Service Comes With Sacrifice
Bob Mahan is Cloudera’s Chief HR Officer. He is also a veteran of the United States Air Force.
For him, he entered into the military at a time when we needed it most. He described joining the Air Force as a blessing but one that would still require him to forgo creating memories with his loved ones. “In my final year of my service I was assigned to a remote location overseas and family wasn’t allowed to visit. I was married at the time and I didn’t see my wife or family for 12 months.”
Jim Ewton, a 5 year Clouderan who served in the Us Air force for 23 years, shared a similar perspective. “The years of service take on a unique meaning to missing family get togethers, birthdays, graduations, and holidays – you never get a second chance.”
Losing friends and impacting families.
While time away from your closest family and friends can be a struggle all it’s own, everyone agreed that serving in the military is an honorable choice – one that brings in new friendships and close bonds.
Jim added that “you accept each other as a team and family”, so for him, the most difficult challenges came with the personal losses of those close friends while on active duty. “The families suffer the most significant loss and unfortunately the military service is a machine and it keeps going, waiting on no one.”
Henry Sowell is a Senior Director of Solutions Engineering and another 5 year Clouderan. When he joined the United States Marine Corps just a year after the September 11th attacks, he knew it meant he would enter into war.
“During that time, my brothers and I were in several hard combat engagements. I was with several of my friends when they died on the battlefield – It was crushing. For their families, for all of us.“
Witnessing those losses would go on to have longer term and far reaching impacts.“What I didn’t realize at the time was the aftereffect it would have on my family and me for many years. We all carried the scars of those traumas for many years”
The challenges wouldn’t end on the battlefield.
Every veteran we talked to expressed the same sentiment – transitioning back to civilian life would be among the most difficult of challenges.
“My transition was one of the most shocking events of my life.” Jim talked about how “there were numerous transition points, difficult adjustments and changing conditions. The civilian world revealed a new and unexplored environment that required an immediate transformation to be accepted as a normal individual.”
For Timur Nersesov, he found framing his military experience as valuable to a company was incredibly difficult. “”I can lead people and I’m in my 20s is a hard sell”.
Henry mentioned that having friends and mentors was crucial for many to successfully reintegrate. “It was key for me to have mentors who helped guide me to translate my military skills to civilian applications. Also, to have business leaders that gave me a chance and saw my potential early on. Those early mentors shaped a lot of my life today.”
While everyone faced this difficult challenge, all moved through it to find new careers. Bob was encouraged to enter the recruiting space. Otho Lyon went on to teach math and science. Eventually all made their way to Cloudera.
Though time in active duty presented everyone with challenges, it was a decision that led them to invaluable lessons, so much growth and a work ethic like no other.
From his time in the military, Timur learned to work in ambiguous settings. “Deployments gave us lots of practice dealing with broad objectives and with a limited tool set.”
Otho walked away with the same type of get it done discipline the others discussed and also added that his time in the armed forces molded the person he is today. “It’s shaped who I am, not to mention the strong sense of brotherhood and family it gave me.”
Bob continues to lean on the many things the military taught him – things like a sense of urgency, organizational skills, attention to detail, a never quit attitude, and a pure get-it-done drive. He not only practices these to this day but also does his best to instill them into the teams he leads.
From this vantage point, we can better understand what service means.
We can see how it came with many challenges and required sacrifices but also presented unique lessons and opportunities for growth. We can better understand the impacts their time in active duty had on them long after their time serving.
Cloudera Veterans, thank you for the commitment to serving and the work ethic and skills you bring to the team. We are privileged to work alongside you.