VA partner Salesforce helps Air Force Veteran

Stephanie Brown went from laid off chef to career in IT


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In March 2020, Stephanie Brown learned that the Detroit hotel where she worked full-time as a banquet chef was laying her off. She received no warning and no severance. Brown qualified for unemployment but she knew that wouldn’t last forever.

Given the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry, it didn’t look like she would be returning any time soon to the career she’d enjoyed for five years. Faced with this challenge, the Air Force Veteran knew she had to figure out a way to make ends meet.

Fast forward to last fall when Brown started as a Salesforce administrator at a company about whose mission she is passionate. Until then, her professional tech experience had been limited to working as a Genius at an Apple Store.

Her key to this new career was Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform that prepares people for careers in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Partnership with VA helps Veterans with job opportunities

VHA and Salesforce recently entered into a partnership aimed at helping Veterans and their spouses access free training, education and job opportunities through Salesforce Military. The program is committed to upskilling the military community with high demand technology skills. It also provides partners with a diverse and trained talent pipeline.

Stephanie Brown: “Looking forward to buying a house and saving for retirement.”

Brown was one of millions of service industry workers who lost their jobs in 2020 as the country closed down to slow the spread of COVID-19. The restaurant industry was hit particularly hard. Two months into the pandemic, 40 percent of America’s restaurants were closed, and 8 million employees were without work, three times the job losses in any other industry.

The Veteran unemployment rate had jumped from 4.1% in March 2020 to 11.4% in April 2020, according to the Institute for Veterans & Military Families.

Dedicated 60 hours a week to training

Brown had always been interested in technology, but she didn’t know how to break into the industry without a relevant degree or experience. She’d heard about Trailhead while working at a nonprofit. After being laid off from her hospitality job, she decided to give it a try.

She engaged in learning as though it was her job, spending up to 60 hours a week on Trailhead. She earned her first certification as a Salesforce administrator in three months.

Last August, due to her status as a Veteran, Brown was selected for the inaugural Hiring Our Heroes Salesforce Fellowship, a 12-week paid internship under the umbrella of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Since its launch in 2014, Salesforce Military has reskilled and upskilled a growing community of more than 30,000 Military Trailblazers. Those selected for the fellowship gain hands-on experience as certified Salesforce professionals. This provides a competitive edge to help them prepare for a career in the Salesforce ecosystem.

After being selected for the program, Brown interned with a tech startup. She then hired on with them as a full-time Salesforce administrator and later moved on to a global cybersecurity firm.

“Technology career has given me a new lease on life.”

“I absolutely love my new career in technology. It’s given me a new lease on life,” she said.

Brown is grateful to work remotely during the pandemic so she can minimize COVID-19 risk for her 74-year-old mother. With her new job, she decided to get her own apartment and stop worrying about how she’d pay her bills.

“I’m making up to three times as much as I made in the culinary field,” she added. “I’m able to live comfortably and not stress about living paycheck to paycheck. And I’m actually looking forward to the possibility of buying a house someday and saving for retirement.”

VA’s partnership with Salesforce is managed by VHA’s National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP).


Jared Crain is the director of Workforce Development, Salesforce Military.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. James    

    Hi. I signed up and started the initial modules but I am confused on where to go after completing first few modules. Once the first few are completed you are presented with a landing page, “Modules: dive into specific topics”, which lists over 965 modules to consider taking on TrailHead. Is there a direct contact or link for which module an interested newbie should take next?

  2. Michael Davis    

    Would like to get my commercial drivers license what does it take to get to the VA to listen

    1. Marcus E Walker Mayfield    

      wavesproject.org should help you out. They help people get their div cert

  3. Michael Davis    

    I’m a veteran that like to go get my commercial drivers license you had training for many years then stopped it please help us Veterans Stay employed

  4. Reginald Stinson    

    To everyone that missed it, here’s the link from the article that provides more information on this excellent collaboration and opportunity: https://veterans.force.com/s/
    Hope this helps, take care!

  5. Philip McManigal    

    I am an Air Force Vet and I haven’t worked for many years. How can I get the tech training

  6. Dieter Schmied    

    I am looking for the technical training. In plain
    English tell me about the “technical training”. Where, when is it ?

    You lure people in with vague statements, then leave them hanging.

    Dieter Schmied

    1. Michael Pollard    

      Did you click on the link in the above article? If you follow that link you will learn everything you need to know about the program. READ people!

      1. Charles Lowery    

        Thank you for the response.
        The Internet does not have any guard rails relative to what is literally true.
        A hyperlink is not an attestation of a positive outcome from involvement with this group.
        Did you have a positive experience with this organization?

  7. Charles Lowery    

    Is this Salesforce thing really linked to the VA?

  8. Margaret Jowers    

    How do I get info for this program?

  9. Marybel Zabel    

    Awesome! I just signed up.

  10. Richard Crawford    

    I’m no tech expert but if you click on the blue words in the write up you’ll get more information. Maybe the writer should not have assumed that others knew this but live and learn. Also, if you click on Salesforce Military in the article it’ll take you to where you can get more information as well as register. Hope this helps those who found so much fault.

  11. Stephen Belee    

    Is this training available to non-minority veterans? If so, how do we access the program. Would like to see courses available, resources required, and more detailed description. Also, how long is this company on contract. We would not want to commit a lot of time to the program then the contract expires.

    1. Reginald Stinson    

      Stephen, I’m not sure why you asked if the training is available to “non-minority veterans?” A veteran is a veteran, Ms. Brown just happened to be the Veteran they chose to highlight for this piece. Please take a look at the picture of the veterans wearing the Trailblazer hoodies, seems pretty diverse to me, i.e. more than just “minorities.” Also, click on the blue “Salesforce Military” for more information on the program. Here’s the link: https://veterans.force.com/s/

  12. Patrica McKenzie    

    Nice write up. Please provide point of contact information for veterans, and families to access this opportunity. Thank you.

  13. Jeff Ferris    

    Great story VA….minus really important things like an explanation of how to obtain this training. This was simple VA, do better.

  14. Joseph P. Librizzo    

    I would like to know more about this program.

  15. Joseph P. Librizzo    

    I would like to know more about this opportunity.

  16. Mike Goldberg    

    So, who do I contact for thisIT training?

  17. Jerry Sanchez    

    How do I apply for the partnership free training, retired Army vet

  18. T P    

    So how do the rest of us access this kind of training? Is it only Salesforce?

  19. Carrie Louise Hale    

    My husband is a Veteran. I’m interested in working with the Veteran’s administration.

    1. Jurgen Hoff    

      Good luck with that. It is really hard to get hired on the VA unless you are related to someone or have friends in the VA. To be a Federal Employee is very hard as well…there are plenty contract jobs but there tuff too.

  20. Hughey White    

    Is there training for veterans children?

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