Shift for VeteransI used to be a suits, ties and wingtips kind of guy, but nowadays my uniform is a hoodie and a baseball cap. This wasn’t the plan – I kind of stumbled here by following a hunch.

When I left the Army in 2010, if you’d have suggested I join the tech industry or the startup economy, I’d have laughed at you. I thought tech meant I needed to know how to write code (I didn’t, and still don’t), and that startups were made up of desperate risk-takers, betting their every penny on some crazy idea that was more likely to result in their own personal bankruptcy than becoming the next Jeff Bezos. Despite my willingness to risk my own life in the Army, I’d have scoffed at my (mostly incorrect) perception of the risk involved in joining a startup. I wouldn’t have spent another five minutes thinking about it.

While considering what steps to take after working for Syracuse University, a little voice in my head told me that the tech industry seemed exciting, even though I knew nothing about it. After reading Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk, something told me that I’d be better off learning as much as I could about how the future was being made than reading yet another account of Teddy Roosevelt’s life. Though I was intimidated by the opportunity to lead LinkedIn’s military program, I took the leap, knowing that the move to the West Coast would broaden my horizons in ways I couldn’t yet anticipate.

I dove into learning about the industry. I used my tuition reimbursement benefit from LinkedIn to pay for Stanford’s Ignite program, which runs a cohort specifically for post-9/11 Veterans. I tried everything I could to learn how LinkedIn’s tech was built and how it worked. I did a stint at a venture capital firm to learn from investors working with some of the world’s most promising startups. Harboring dreams of starting my own company, I decided that it would be smart to work at a startup before trying to create one from scratch. After a few conversations about our mutual goals, Mike Slagh welcomed me onto the team at Shift. Without knowing it at the time, each of these steps, each caused by its own hunch, unlocked the next.

It turns out that working for a startup helped answer some of the biggest existential questions I’d been wrestling with since my deployment to Iraq. Working for a small company provides me the same sense of connection to a mission that I felt when I was in uniform. Instead of being a tiny cog in a giant machine, I work with a tight-knit team that is as dedicated to a mission, driven by purpose, and committed to one another as anyone can be (short of pledging to give their life on each others’ behalf). We all wear many hats. We pitch in wherever needed. We stare down uncertainty regularly, and as they say, we either “find a way or make one.”

The post-9/11 generation of Veterans is hard at work transforming industries and leaving our mark on the future of our country, either helping to build startups founded by others or creating their own. Over the past few years, Shift has helped more than 100 startups and small businesses hire more Veterans, and today that mission grows. I’m proud to announce a significant step forward: in August we will welcome 50+ new startups onto our talent marketplace that makes it easy for some of the most ambitious new companies in America to find and message forward-thinking military Veterans.

Through this partnership with America’s startups and through our ever-growing, free career transition and advancement programs, military service members and Veterans have an easier time identifying and pursuing opportunities at some of the country’s fastest-growing startups. If there’s a voice inside of you saying you might like to give this a shot – that you might like to reconnect to your former sense of purpose – that you might like to join a tight-knit team and once again feel necessary to mission success, I’d encourage you to check us out. No matter where you are on your journey, you’re one of us, and we’d be proud to help you find your way.

Upcoming Program Kickoffs

Learn more at https://www.shift.org/navigating-next.


The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of VA. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) personnel does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.


Dan Savage is the vice president for Community & Career Discovery at Shift.

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8 Comments

  1. steve kirkland July 30, 2021 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    You aren’t alone in this Walt. You’ve still got 30 years on me but have also been a broken for just over half my life now. The 1990 ADA doesn’t do any good where I live, due to exemptions for small business. I get that though, accommodations can be costly. But from MIS/IT to EET (the crap I’m still good with), it’s been hard pressed to find an employer interested in even part time expectations and days you wake up unable to move normally.

    I think I’m on the precipice of just uploading the things I do to GitHub. No offspring here (because I hardly have enough time to take care of myself) and I’m finding myself thinking more and more often that I just want to see someone to be able to benefit from them as opposed passing nothing on to society when my time is up.

    Not even as a personal legacy (because why would I care after I’m gone) but simply to preserve information for the betterment of society; – you know, when we finally figure out that we don’t have to lie/cheat/steal to make ends meet. Problem there is, also and idealist which I do list as a weakness on my resume now that I can recognize the implications caused by that mindset.

    On Topic (and not really a need for making a second comment just for one line): I can’t seem to find the tuition reimbursement program by LinkedIn which they used for Stanford Ignite program but I’m still looking around.

  2. Walt Perko July 16, 2021 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Hi, Being retired, I have been developing the “RoboGuts™ S.T.E.A.M. Education Program” based on the RoboGuts™ circuit board that I designed to enable people to build small palm size robot toys that can talk and sing in any language at home with a very affordable 3D printer.

    My problem is that being over 70 years old, I’m not really wanting to be a CEO of a new company. Sure I want to be a little active, but that’s what I already do at home already.

    Now what I need is for somebody to take what I’ve done and build a company. It could be a weekend L’Robotorium shop in their garage where they teach on neighbors on weekends while renting time on their small desktop machines, or somebody that wants to build a large corporation that supplies all the little weekend shops, libraries and schools with the kits while continuing the research and development I’ve started.

  3. Chris McFarland July 15, 2021 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    To get the conversation back on track-

    I am interested in this, can you please send me some information of contact me?

    To leave it on a positive- Hustle pays the bills, you either have it, or you don’t.

  4. Todd July 15, 2021 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Apparently those 5 don’t count

  5. Michael James Jarrett July 15, 2021 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    I saw 3 African Americans in the video. Maybe you saw a different video?

  6. John Currie July 15, 2021 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Monica, in the first place I counted 5 African Americans in this promo. Second, African Americans make up 13% of the population of the US. When someone sits and watches a commercial and attacks it because there are no Blacks in it, you’re part of the problem. You have a bias. Whether you recognize that or not… you do. This makes you also part of the problem. I served for 28 years in two major branches of our military. We did not have a bias or a color determination. We were a team focused on the mission and race never entered into the discussion. You need to really get that chip off your shoulder and realize you are just like everyone else, no more and no less. Give it some thought when you watch the next commercial.

  7. Monica July 15, 2021 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Sad to see that their are no African Americans in this Shift promo. Once again, the military attempts to erase us. No thanks. No this, we will not just “shift”, but we will SOAR without you.

  8. Simon Doran July 14, 2021 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    The Shift team does an amazing job with their programs. Dan & Lindsay’s Navigating Next is an excellent investment of time and effort. You will make new connections with other people in similar status of life, learn new skills and practice applying yourself to forging ahead with the next stage of life.

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