Cameron Behal went from dog tags to data tags after leaving the US Marine Corps to pursue work in emerging technologies. Here’s what he learned along the way.
Cameron Behal was proud to become a US Marine Officer, but he knew he wouldn’t serve forever.
“Although my time in service was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, I had many other goals outside of the Marines,” he tells TechVets.
One of them was to find fulfilling work in technology and business. Another was to brave the arctic cold on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. True to his military training, Cameron made those goals into actionable plans and followed them through!
Now he’s climbed to new career heights as a Senior Consultant at Arca Blanca, a data-science enabled consultancy in London. Read on to learn how he made it happen.
Serviceman to Civilian: A Difficult Choice
Armed with his ambition (and a degree in International Relations) Cameron joined the military in 2014. He went on to serve with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment in roles like Scout Sniper Platoon Commander, Intelligence Fusion Officer, and Senior Intelligence Officer.
“I knew from the beginning that my objective in joining the Marines was to serve in uniform for one or two tours of duty and that I would probably not stay in for a career,” he shares. Even so, it wasn’t easy to leave when the time came.
“When I signed off, I think I questioned my decision quite a bit,” Cameron admits. “While I miss the people and some of the work I did, I ultimately think it was the right decision.”
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Thousands of servicemen and women make that decision every year. The average term of service in the US Marine Corps is just six years, despite it taking intense mental and physical training for elite personnel like Cameron to qualify for enlistment.
Many Marines complete their contracts long before they’re ready to retire from the workforce at large. Then comes the challenge of crossing the bridge into civilian roles.
Cameron chose a road (or boat) less travelled by. He opted to study business after checking off one item on his bucket list.
“I had a few free months in between leaving the service and the start of school, so I did something I always wanted to do,” he admits. “I went to Alaska to work on a commercial fishing boat.”
Succeeding with Support in a Technology Career
“I wasn’t 100% certain what I wanted to do in the private sector but have always been interested in emerging technologies,” says Cameron. “The tech sector stuck out to me as an interesting space right away.”
To break into that space Cameron opted to take an MBA at Cambridge University. He reached out to the veteran support non-profit Service to School (S2S), and credits them as being “essential to my acceptance at Cambridge.”
Like TechVets, that organisation supports veterans on their resettlement journeys by connecting them to a network of support and expertise. While TechVets helps guide members into tech and cyber jobs after military service, S2S helps turn veterans into successful students via free college and grad school application counselling.
With their help Cameron even landed Cambridge University’s MBA Military Personnel Scholarship. He also gave back, developing the Veterans at CJBS Initiative for supporting vets studying at his alma mater.
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Cameron’s Tips for Service Leavers in Tech
Take it from Cameron: veterans in technology careers can absolutely have successful transitions of their own. Here are Cameron’s five pieces of advice for anyone following in his footsteps:
1. Find your people: “In the military I really loved the deep sense of purpose and mission-oriented work. I think you can replicate that sense of purpose in the private sector, but you must find a good company with good people to do so!”
2. Stay Curious: “Ask questions whenever possible – the market is constantly evolving and you need to make sure you’re arming yourself with the right tools!”
3. Push yourself: “Being comfortable being uncomfortable and constantly pushing myself to learn new things was a big part of the Marines – it’s been just as useful outside the military.”
4. Trust Yourself: “Speak to as many people as possible to gain perspective and advise on your decision, but realise that sometimes you need to trust your gut above all else.”
5. Use Veteran Mentors: “Upon separation from the Marines and to this day, I have missed the comradery aspect of service the most. I’ve spoken with loads of vets out there...it’s impossible for me to choose one as my main mentor. Take advantage of the vet network as much as possible!”
Ready to take that step? You can connect with veterans in cyber and technology careers at the link below, or get more inspiration from pros like Cameron here.
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