Whether leaving the military or simply changing career as a veteran, the process is complex and often overwhelming leaving us unsure about making the move in the first place. I have chosen Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to provide a guide to a successful career transition as the model, initially proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 academic paper, “A Theory of Motivation”. Whilst the work parallelled many other theories of developmental psychology, and includes human curiosity - it also had a focus on human growth.
I have chosen this model because the journey into a new career is certainly one of growth but also has to begin with the baseline needs of the individual. Moreover, the Hierarchy of Needs comprises multiple tiers in which the lowest must be satisfied before progression to the next.
I will cover this in a series of blogs with this one being the DISCOVERY phase, which is all about conducting your initial personal needs analysis.
What do I need to successfully career change?
Now that you have been through the DECISION phase and have decided that you want to pursue a career change, the next thing to do is to work out the what next - the DISCOVERY phase.
This DISCOVERY phase is all about researching and subsequently curating a plan that will aid you in achieving your desired final outcome. It is important to be thorough and to consider those aspects of your future life that many overlook due to the differences with military life.
One of the most important factors to consider at this early stage is getting buy-in from your family. Whilst you may be full steam ahead with your ideas of leaving the military or changing careers, this huge change will also have a substantial impact on your loved ones if you have a partner or spouse, as well as the potential upset for any dependents stability. The three primary factors to be considered here are…
I always found that including my wife from the beginning helped me ensure that the journey and the destination were viable and a shared goal before I wasted my time and effort planning further. Spouses and partners often make the greatest professional sacrifices due to their required commitment to their serving partner. This often leads to a fractured career resulting in a high turnover of jobs in what is often described as ‘Gig-Economy’ - “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.”
Therefore, a further move may well impact them more than you would expect, especially if they have just started settling into their current role.
For dependents, the disruption from regularly moving schools can be very detrimental on their education. This may be far greater if they are at crucial stages in their education such as preparing to take their grammar school tests or their GCSEs for example.
After years as a nomadic family, you learn that great friendships will endure but many will be lost as a natural consequence of military family life. However, consider the support network and social circles of your loved ones when considering a move. Alternatively, this may have a substantial positive impact if you are to be moving closer to family.
Change is something of a familiar beast to those of us that have served and our families are at the forefront of this. That being said, it is always worth keeping a thought in our minds when starting to prep for a huge, life changing move especially as this one will likely have permanent connotations attached to it.
Change can not be avoided but preparing ourselves emotionally for such an upheaval can never hurt!
During military service, good financial education is not usually provided. Many will consider the security of the military employment model enough but planning ahead is critical to success. Before you click that button to leave the military, I strongly recommend you consider your financial position properly.
The MOD provides you a salary and pretty much manages most of your main commitments from rent / accommodation costs, council tax and more. Once you are outside, there are many more financial commitments that you may not already be aware of. When I left, I immediately went from paying approx £300 p/m for accommodation to £800+ p/m and that is not including the £150 p/m for life & critical illness insurance, house insurance, higher water and council tax bills and more.
On top of this, one must factor in the costs that come with working outside a barracks. It is very unlikely that you will have a 5 minute walk to work with the cost of commuting 1 hour each way on the train everyday, potentially costing up to and in excess of £5,000 p/a. Therefore, your salary jump of £10,000 from your military one is suddenly less impressive. It was a sobering moment when I realised that my jump in salary (which some in service wrongly think is going to be huge by default) was consumed by a £735 p/m train ticket!
Always consider saving, investing and adequately planning. If I could go back and serve my last 10 years again, I would have started a private pension scheme amongst other things. If you would like the opportunity to discuss these things, TechVets holds bi-monthly Financial Wellbeing sessions with a qualified financial advisor and military veteran.
If you want the most impartial, objective resource for financial advice, visit Martin Lewis, The Money Saving Expert.
How much will you need to meet my bottom line?
Beyond planning and preparing your finances, it is essential that you consider how much you would need to earn to meet your bottom line. When I was planning to leave the military, I broke this into three levels…
One penny less and I would not be able to meet my essential financial obligations. The following list is by no means the full list and this will depend on your individual situation…
Mortgage / Rent
Child support / maintenance
This level is what I compared to being the Most Likely Course of Action (MLCOA)...for those involved in military planning…and comprised:
Salary + health & dental care + increased housing costs + commute costs
This is an opportunity for you to start gauging the centre ground for an accurate salary bracket for you to use when conducting future research into possible career paths.
Whilst the following provide some idea of your salary they also allow you to get a better understanding of some of the expected expenses that you will have outside the military that you don't already incur.
This is akin to the most dangerous course of action (MDCOA), not because it is dangerous but based on the militay planning MDCOA principle it is the most extreme option (ie the highest salary you think you could command) whilst remaining realistically feasible (based on your experience and skills, as well as considering industry salary rates).
You should be left with three brackets and I use 10k brackets, an example of which is below...
> Bottom Line = £28,000 - £35,000
> Most Likely = £35,000 - £45,000
> Best possible outcome = £45,000 - £55,000
Once again, it is essential that this is an individual calculation based on your needs and NOT one somebody else has provided you.
Choosing a career path:
What drives anyone to choose a particular career? In some cases, it might be sheer aptitude – a mathematician, say, or an athlete. Sometimes it might be passion or a vocation - perhaps an actor, or a doctor. Sometimes it’s a simple case of grabbing an unexpected opportunity.
But for most of us, the drivers are several and more mundane: a good salary, job security, interesting work, progression potential… all of which are good reasons why you should choose a career in cyber security.
This will almost certainly be one of the most challenging aspects of this entire journey. For some, you would have built a military career around a specific trade which allows you to move directly into a similar role when you leave the military…for others, there are no real opportunities for a RECCE Section Commander or sniper on the streets of Bristol!
However, the benefit of engaging in this research / planning model as early as possible, is that you can allow yourself to consider what you want to do and not just what you should do. This opens all manner of opportunities to you and unlike your military career so far, the only restriction on this at this early stage, is your imagination and motivation to succeed!
Whilst all opportunities are open, clearly (and quite selfishly) I will focus on technology and cyber security careers.
However, before we get to that it is important to understand the support that is out there. For all those serving or have previously served, the following applies…
Provides resettlement services for those leaving the Armed Services regardless of time served and has nine resettlement centres around the UK and one in Germany. CTP operates as an intermediary service for employers wishing to hire service leavers.
Not-for-profit organisation TechVets empowers UK veterans, Service leavers, and families to retrain, upskill and successfully break into tech sector and cyber security industry roles.
With a powerhouse of 30+ strategic partnerships, including Immersive Labs, Fortinet, Splunk, Google, SANS, CREST and Pega, TechVets provides opportunities to join our amazing community, to learn and train using leading resources and to receive valuable employment support.
Company, culture, industry & sector!
Often with service leavers and veterans, we are too hasty to prioritise the financial aspects over the company we would like to join. Given the close team dynamics and strength of team work through all manner of situations that we are used to dusing our military service, you may not get the same environment outside the military - therefore, the culture you move into needs to be one that you feel is right for you. Often being part of an incredibly rewarding mission, or supportive team environment can be more fulfilling regardless of the role.
"This is not about fuzzy, holding hands around a campfire, kumbaya stuff. That’s not what values and culture and mission is about. This is about building an organization for success. This is about winning. This is about doing the tactical things to make sure your organization and your people are aligned around the same thing."
The same can be said for the sector you would like to work in. Do you want to serve the British people in the public sector, be driven by profit in the private sector or perhaps improve the lives of those who are most vulnerable in the charity sector.
Would you rather a small company or a large one - a start-up or mature business?
> Lots of perks > More resources & bigger tech stack > Professional opportunities > Structure, order & stability
> Less creative thinking > Hard to get ahead > You are just a number
The Specific Pathway
Whether we signed up to the military for queen and country, to serve the British people, to travel and seek adventure, or simply because we didn't know what we wanted to do - it is during our military career that we realise that what we do has a higher purpose and greater impact...sometimes nationally, perhaps even globally!
When we leave the Forces, many of us feel the need to be part of something that means more than just a job. Information Technology careers can certainly give you that, in fact it is one of the fields in which there is always a great purpose. You could be part of a team developing digital public services; building green tech to help deal with climate change; bring services to those who are vulnerable; revolutionalise gaming; or defend people and their digital assets.
When looking at what career pathway to take, there are so many disciplines and each company may give the same roles different role names making this even more challenging fo service leavers. The following provides some of the main career paths within information technology...
IT Sales Professional IT sales professionals use technical and product knowledge to advise and guide customers in purchases and to support them in after-sales care.
SEO Specialist A search engine optimisation specialist (SEO) uses digital analytics and marketing skills to transform a company's online presence. - TechVets GwG Digital Marketing training
CMS Administrator A Content Management System is used to provide some sort of web-based content (i.e a website!). The CMS Administrators role to to keep that system up and running, as well as to apply updates and any changes required to the system.
Technical Author As a technical author, you will be responsible for writing specialist information about products and services, and how they work.
Business Transformation Roles (Project Manager, Programme Manager) This discipline brings together the roles required to deliver effective and efficient transformation within a business. It includes capabilities across portfolio, programme, project and change management required to support a business deliver business strategy and its transformation objectives. - TechVets GwG IT Project Management training
IT Recruitment Specialist Recruitment Specialists, also known as Talent Acquisition Specialists, are tasked with finding the best employees for their organisation. They typically work in collaboration with the manager of the department they are hiring for, and can either work in-house or be contracted through a recruitment agency.
User Researcher In order to develop products that satisfy user needs, you first need to know who your user is and what that person’s needs are. That’s where user experience (UX) research comes in. - TechVets UX Design training
UX researchers systematically study target users to collect and analyse data that will help inform the product design process. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at what UX researchers do, how they do it, and what steps you can take to start or advance a career in this in-demand field.
Applications Analyst The purpose of this role is to support and maintain the application platforms to ensure that they are reliable, scalable, maintainable and have high availability for the business or organisation
Database Administrator Database administrators use specialist software to organise and maintain a secure database. Depending on the role, a familiarity with a DB language may be required.
IT Operations & Technical Support The purpose of this role is to provide technical support services to staff within an organisation enabling them to optimise their productivity. The role is highly customer focused and ensures issues are managed, prioritised and resolved. - TechVets GwG IT Operations training
IT Trainer IT trainers design and deliver training courses in information technology. Training can be face to face or remote, as well as having to cater to international time zones.
Systems Administrator A Systems Administrator is responsible for the day to day administration, monitoring and configuration of a system. Skills and salaries vary depending on the type of system (Windows or Linux, Web Server or Database for instance). This role may also have a 24/7 on-call responsibility. - TechVets VDCA and / or Security Foundations
Systems Analyst Systems analysts examine a company's IT systems and infrastructure and work out how to improve them
Business Analyst The purpose of this role is to enable transformation delivery through the capture and analysis of user and business needs, ensuring outcomes are aligned with service vision and business strategy.
Cartographer As a cartographer, you'll be involved with the scientific, technological and artistic aspects of developing and producing maps
Data Analyst The purpose of this role is to develop and deliver the reporting and analytics platform within an organisation. A Data Analyst/Manager works with the organisation to drive delivery and evolution of platforms, applications, integrations and common master data sets. - TechVets GwG Data Analytics training
Data Scientist Data scientists turn raw data into meaningful information that organisations can use to improve their businesses
Geographical Information Systems Officer Geographical information systems (GIS) officers capture and analyse a range of geographical data using GIS systems in order to help organisations make long-term plans
Enterprise Architect Architect roles are to design and govern the elements of the technology landscape in an organisation; infrastructure, data, applications and associated business processes. Thus delivering improved manageability, effectiveness, efficiency, and agility to a business.
Cloud Specialist Systems hosted in the Cloud (AWS, Azure, Google etc) require specialists to keep them up and running. Specialisations broadly map to non-Cloud roles, such as Security, Administration, DevOps etc but they usually require specific knowledge for the Cloud provider being used.
Networks Manager/Analyst The purpose of this role is to execute the day-to-day operational activities required to maintain a secure and stable network infrastructure. The role provides technical support expertise, resolving issues to maximise the accessibility and availability of network services to a business. - TechVets Infrastructure Foundations
DevOps Specialist The purpose of this role is to lead the collaboration with Site Reliability Engineers and DevSecOps Engineers to formulate technology solutions that can be built, tested and deployed within an organisation.
Information Systems manager The purpose of an Information Systems Manager is to oversee the administration,support and maintenance of systems supporting a business function. IS Managers can be technical engineers or administrative managers of a team but both are responsible for organising the smooth running of services.
Infrastructure Operations Manager/Analyst The role provides technical expertise and governance to maintain a secure and stable technology infrastructure environment, providing technical expertise across compute,storage & backup technologies
Cyber security protection involves all types of digital devices: smartphones, laptops, tablets, computers, webcams and routers, as well as smart home technology such as TVs, sound systems and home monitoring devices. It involves industrial systems used in the operating systems for cars, planes and road and rail infrastructure, to name just a few.
And, of course, a key function of cyber security is to prevent unauthorised access to data stored on any of these devices or online. To find out more about the various routes into cyber security, visit the UK Cyber Security Councils Careers Route Map.
Digital Forensics Digital Forensics is the process of identifying and reconstructing the relevant sequence of events that have led to the currently observable state of a target IT system. - TechVets Project Ares training
Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) Cyber Threat Intelligence is the assessment, validation and reporting of information on current and potential cyber threats to maintain an organisation’s situational awareness. - TechVets VDCA & arcX training
Cyber Security Generalists Cyber Security Generalists perform the duties of multiple cyber security specialisms in one role.
Cyber Security Management Cyber Security Management is the management of cyber security resources, staff and policies at an enterprise level in line with business objectives and regulatory requirements. - TechVets ICS training
Incident Response Incident Response is the preparation for, handling of and following up of cyber security incidents, to minimise the damage to an organisation and prevent recurrence.
Network Monitoring & Intrusion Detection Network Monitoring & Intrusion Detection is the monitoring of network and system activity to identify unauthorised actions by users or potential intrusion by an attacker. - TechVets Security Foundations,VCDA SOC & Fortinet training
Vulnerability Management Vulnerability Management is the management of the configuration of protected systems to ensure that any vulnerabilities are understood and managed.
Security Testing Security Testing is the testing of a network, system, product or design, against the specified security requirements and/or for vulnerabilities (penetration testing).
Cryptography & Communications Security Cryptography & Communications Security is the design, development, test, implementation and operation of a system or product to provide cryptographic and/or secure communications.
Secure Operations (SecOps) Secure Operations is the management of an organisation’s information systems operations in accordance with the agreed Security Policy. - TechVets VDCA SOC Pathway
Identity & Access Management (IAM) Identity & Access Management is the management of policies, procedures and controls to ensure that only authorised individuals access information or computer-controlled resources.
Secure System Architecture & Design Secure System Architecture & Design is the designing of an IT system to meet its security requirements, balancing this with its functional requirements.
Cyber Security Audit & Assurance Cyber Security Audit & Assurance is the verification that systems and processes meet the specified security requirements and that processes to verify on-going compliance are in place.
Data Protection & Privacy Data Protection & Privacy is the management of the protection of data, enabling an organisation to meet its contractual, legal and regulatory requirements.
Secure System Development Secure System Development is the development and updating of a system or product, in conformance with agreed security requirements and standards, throughout its lifecycle.
Cyber Security Governance & Risk Management Cyber Security Governance & Risk Management is the monitoring of compliance with agreed cyber security policies and the assessment and management of relevant risks.
Web Designer As a web designer, you'll plan, create and code web pages, using both technical and non-technical skills to produce websites that fit your customers' requirements.
Web Developer Your primary task as a web developer will be to create reliable and high-performing applications and services, which can be accessed over the internet.
Software Engineer Software engineers apply scientific and mathematical principles in order to create computer software and solve problems
Applications Developer Applications developers make computers perform specific tasks, based on their client's specifications. - TechVets Pega Academy training
Software Tester Software testers analyse software and systems to avert risk and prevent issues
Machine Learning Engineer By combining software engineering and data analysis, machine learning engineers enable machines to learn without the need for further programming
Game Developer Working in games development, you'll be involved in the creation and production of games for personal computers, games consoles, social/online games, arcade games, tablets, mobile phones and other handheld devices.
Other important factors
Whilst understanding what it is you really want to do is important, this needs to be weighed against the value you place on location.
Where you decide to live (region within the UK) has a direct impact on the opportunities available to you despite the increase in hybrid and fully remote opportunities. Many companies still require you to make it into the office on occasion and sometimes this can be too often for you to have a monstrous commute from one end of the UK to the other. Therefore, if your location is a higher priority than the job role, then understanding your local area or region, the companies operating there, as well as the services provided will provide you a start point with the types of roles that are feasible for your plan.
As a TechVets member, I advise you to get stuck into your Regional Jobs Hub in our Discord community. Each Regional Hub comprises members who are living in or frequenting the respective region as well as veterans already in industry working in that region. This will provide you some start points for advice and guidance as well as assist you in starting to build your professional network.
The breakdown of UK regions within the TechVets community
At this stage you should have a good idea of what you want to do, where you want to do it and with which company or sectors.
This is the stage in which you consolidate your research into a list of top 3, top 5 or top 10 options for your next career. At present you will have your ideas based on what you want and what you need. These findings are only missing one thing - real time and trustworthy experience from others who have been in your shoes and have since trodden these pathways.
You will be able to refine this further during the first part of the next stage when we dive into the community.
About the author
James served for 19 years with the British Military, deploying to Northern Ireland, East Africa and Afghanistan with the Infantry, receiving lifelong injuries as a result of enemy action. James served the remainder of his service in intelligence developing the Army’s exploitation capability, providing support to UK Defence Engagement in East Asia, before delivering integral support to global Joint Military operations.
Upon leaving the Military, James was responsible for the management of Cyber Threat Intelligence at Government Digital Service, volunteering his spare time with TechVets. James joined TechVets in January 2020 as CEO
Technology Veterans Foundation, is a not-for-profit registered in England and Wales as a Company Limited by Guarantee No. 11919119.
Technology Veterans Foundation, Mountbarrow House, 6-20 Elizabeth Street, London SW We are registered on the Information Commissioner’s Office Register; registration number (ZA778536)
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