Donavin De Jongh Tells It Like It Is: You CAN Go From Army to IT (And Fast)

Donavin De Jongh Tells It Like It Is: You CAN Go From Army to IT (And Fast)

Meredyth Grant

Within weeks of leaving his job with the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, this former Sergeant landed a competitive job in IT project management at Netcompany. Here’s how.

Donavin De Jongh never expected to leave his Army job, and his friends and family didn’t either.

“I personally thought I would be there for 24 years,” he tells TechVets. “Even when I left the military, all the people around me said like, ‘we cannot believe that you’ve signed off.’ And I did love it.”

His transition into a tech career went better than anyone expected, too.

“Well, I was out for a month and I’ve been at work now for like three weeks. It’s been a really busy transition period, I haven’t really had time to think about it, which is in a way a good thing because I’ve just gotten straight into it.”

He’s come a long way in a short time, making the right moves every step of the way. If you’re curious about Donavin’s process and career transition story, read on or listen to the podcast here:

Life in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards

Donavin was in the Army for 12 years.

“I initially spent my first sort of six years with PWRR, which is a light infantry regiment, and then I transferred across to the Queens Dragoon Guards,” he says.

At the time of his transfer he was a Sect Comd, and he was promoted to Sergeant within the QDG. Like any good troop Sergeant, his day-to-day life involved making sure people’s administration was sorted out, ensured people were trained to the correct levels and standards, and basically kept everything in working order (“be that kit, equipment, vehicles, or personnel”).

Eventually Donavin’s military career changed gears, shifting into cyber and tech and pushing full steam ahead.

“I got into a new sort of tech trials and development project that was about to get launched into the Army, and I sort of piggybacked on that to try and add some value and just learn about the different processes that people have to go through as project managers delivering tech to the Army,” he explains. “Over the past ten years the army has increased its technology capability by at least tenfold…that really sparked my interest with the technology side of life.”

New Starts All Around

Donavin’s new interest in IT career paths had him reading up on all sorts of cutting-edge tech skills and certifications. He began studying in his own time, finding TechVets and completing a one-day Netcompany course with our support.

At the same time, his personal priorities were beginning to change. After returning from Mali to a ten month old son he’d not seen in more than six months, he decided he was done missing milestones.

“I think a lot of people sort of just want to go where home is cause it it’s obviously a lot more comfortable, and I’ve got a reasonably young family so that had an effect on my choices too…I thought, do I want to be sent away for another six months? Or do I need to be looking at something more stable?”

He decided to pursue IT project management as part of his resettlement, networked every chance he got, and transitioned out.

Donavin De Jongh Tells It Like It Is: You CAN Go From Army to IT (And Fast)

Loving Life in the Tech Trade

Donavin quickly earned certification in Azure Fundamentals and MS-900 through TechVets and Netcompany. He also did an ITIL course on IT Service Management frameworks to broaden his understanding of the sector in general.

“No one really wants a manager that doesn’t understand what they’re doing,” he says. “That was my big thing, trying to have the base knowledge of quite a variety of things to ensure that if I did get put on a project, I’d be able to understand exactly where they are, what they need, what I can do to facilitate them to deliver the project quicker, and stuff like that.”

He applied to a job with Netcompany’s Service Leavers Program and landed it. He says he was thrown into the deep end and placed on a project straight away, but with access to resources and supportive coworkers it’s going great.

“It’s been really enjoyable so far. I’ve loved every minute of it and I’m not just saying that. I’m quite an upfront and frank person and if I wasn’t enjoying it, I’d say.”

Turning Military Experience into Cyber Security Career Success

The journey to a great career in IT isn’t a walk in the park, though. Donavin is quick to point out that the old adage is true: what you put into it is what you get out of it.

His advice for tech-curious veterans, reservists, Service-leavers and military spouses is as follows:

  1. Join TechVets: “They provide so many opportunities and so much training that’s delivered by top class trainers.”
  2. Take Initiative: “Really jump at it with both hands and try to self develop as much as you can. Things don’t just fall into your lap.”
  3. Communicate with Your CoC: “Have the grown-up conversations that need to be had early on, so they can plan for [your transition out] in the agendas and things like that.”
  4. Make a Plan: “Understand what you want and work for it. Plan from the early stages, don’t leave it til the end of your resettlement period.”
  5. Network Online & LinkedIn: “You don’t realize how many people are actually willing to take that half an hour/45 minutes out of their day to talk.”
  6. Take the Pressure Off: “Don’t put pressure on yourself to find the absolute best job in the world as your first job, because if you don’t, your initial start to your life outside the military feels like a bit of a downer.
  7. Think ‘Stepping Stones’: “It should be a stepping stone and a gradual path up…there’s always other pathways, networking through those jobs, and the ability to keep applying.”
  8. Trust Your Training:  “It’s quite tough, it’s hard work. But everybody [in the military] has the sort of attributes needed to make a success out of it.”

And the faster you act, the less time there is for uncertainties and insecurities to get you down.

“I’ve only been out the Army for a month now, so I haven’t really had time to get impostor syndrome and things like that,” he tells TechVets. “You just have to be like, ‘OK, well, it’s starting’…”

For more motivation and support launching your journey, you can reach out to us at TechVets anytime. Donavin himself is on our Discord at ‘D DeJongh#8751,’ along with a large community of experienced Service-leavers in tech happy to lend a hand. Join us here.