This year TechVets marks Remembrance with multinational veterans from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Australia who are also pioneers of and leaders in the tech industry.
Remembrance is a powerful and significant day, marked in Commonwealth member states. It is a day to honour the bravery, and acts of heroism of those who served in conflict and to remember all those that gave their lives defending our democratic freedom so that we could live in peace.
In this special interview, TechVets share Remembrance Day 2022 through the eyes of tech industry leaders, of ex-forces personnel, and representatives of veterans from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Australia.
James Murphy from the United Kingdom found his way into the role of TechVets CEO through an unconventional approach. After the realisation that he wasn’t particularly good in the military (having attracted an RPG in Afghanistan), James endeavoured to upskill and transition into a role that would support veterans like himself. Once the decision was made to leave the Armed Forces after serving for two decades, his career with TechVets began. Starting from the very bottom as a volunteer James progressed into the role of CEO with TechVets.
Jeff Musson from Canada comes straight from the tech industry, although he personally doesn’t have a background in the Armed Forces, he has a close relationship with the military through family members who have served. His admiration for the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces and their sacrifice drove him to offer support to those leaving the military to cultivate their soft skills and transfer them into a career in tech. Jeff’s company, Coding for Veterans, offers a program that supports ex-military personnel to go from serving on the battlefield to serving in cyberspace.
Tom Marsland works with VetSec, a charity in the United States dedicated to aiding veterans as they transition into a career in cybersecurity. After over 20 years serving in the US Navy, VetSec supported Tom’s shift from the Navy to a career in cyber security. The help he received inspired Tom to volunteer with the organisation which then progressed into his current position as board chair of VetSec.
Heath Moodie spent 5 years in the Australian Infantry, when Heath decided to leave the military and enter into cyber security, he noticed the lack of communities and networks for Veterans moving into the Tech industry in Australia. His company Vets in Cyber commenced as a simple gathering of colleagues which kept growing and eventually developed into an organisation assisting ex-servicemen and women in transitioning to a career in Tech.
Questions and Answers from our guest speakers James Murphy from the UK, Jeff Musson from Canada, Tom Marsland from the US, and Heath Moodie from Australia.
- What does Remembrance mean to you? How will you be marking Remembrance this year?
Tom Marsland (US): It allows us to just take some time and think about the service of the men and women who have spent time-fighting in our nation’s wars and around the world in support of our freedoms and everything else that we fight for.
Heath Moodie (Australia): We like to use this as an opportunity to really check in with each other and see how we are all going because they are quite rare these days, particularly those really good in-person events.
James Murphy (UK): I think the benefit there is for that one day everyone not only has the benefit of remembering all those that we’ve lost but also to come together as one sort of large, in essence, global community which I think is particularly strong.
Jeff Musson (Canada): Remembrance Day in Canada is a very solemn day. It encourages you to really think about the sacrifice that the men and women that have served our country have given.
- How has the marking of Remembrance changed as a result of tech advancements?
Jeff Musson (Canada): I think it’s been a good thing because you’re able to now have a larger audience but more importantly you can build awareness where it puts things first and foremost in people’s minds.
James Murphy (UK): I also like the fact that we’ve had such a growth in the use of drones for camera footage as it can really bring that [Remembrance] day to life.
Tom Marsland (US): I wouldn’t have imagined there’d be a time so quickly where I’m sitting here on a call with somebody in Australia, Canada and the UK talking about Remembrance Day and just how quickly Tech has changed to bring us all a little closer together.
Heath Moodie (Australia): Because of COVID there has been an increase in those sorts of [local] events as well and therefore the local RSL (Return Service League) branches over here end up having a Resurgence come through.
- Do you think having these Remembrance events accessible to people virtually helps to spread the message about what your organisations do?
James Murphy (UK): Within the military community this one will be a particularly big one given that we have not long had the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Sometimes though I do feel as a bit of a caveat that there is a complacency that comes in with the use of technology. Where people may not put the effort in to drag some of these people out of their houses to be involved in that in-person event, which can be detrimental to people.
Jeff Musson (Canada): It’s also an ability for groups like ours to interconnect, so all of the people within our organizations can then connect within the Five Eyes veteran’s network. – when you bring people together good things happen.
- How do your organisations support Veterans to retrain in cyber and tech jobs and what do you provide?
Jeff Musson (Canada): Coding for Veterans is an organization that helps Canadian military veterans retrain in software development in cyber security and we’ve partnered with the University of Ottawa in order to deliver the curriculum 100% online.
Heath Moodie (Australia): Vets in Cyber definitely focus more on the Cyber side. – We really try to get people together, get them talking, get them meeting with businesses at the same time to help with that transition. – You don’t have to go into a role that you’re being told to do, this is your first time to really start to choose yourself and we help you prioritize yourself and make sure you are comfortable and happy with your choices. That’s the real focus of Vets in Cyber.
James Murphy (UK): TechVets is not so much about the vulnerable community but about the immense talent pool from ex-military personnel that is sorely needed in Tech so it’s about supplying the Tech industry with its demand of people with skills that are found from veterans after their time in the armed forces and also encouraging veterans to reskill and upskill into a successful career in civilian life.
Tom Marsland (US): So we worked closely with people who have transitioned out of the military already to build courses around those skills and really just provide a community platform where people can come and pay it forward to the people who are getting out of the military after them to give them their advice and suggestions.
- What are the best initiatives you’ve seen implemented and what would you replicate from these other organisations?
Heath Moodie (Australia): There are a couple. I know that James has an excellent Master Excel spreadsheet of all the training providers around the world and other different bits of information which would be good to have for Vets in Cyber. I know Tom from VetSec’s mentoring program is just absolutely top-notch.
Jeff Musson (Canada): I look at it as the veteran’s community and so by opening it up to those different areas it just helps to make our program stronger and when one of us tries something like this we can then share the results with others.
James Murphy (UK): When you’re working in anything technical, your back’s against the wall and there’s not enough hours in the day as it is to try to then keep yourself motivated to keep going with what is essentially your passion side project. It’s a real challenge, so if we can strip back some of the pain that we may have gone through – we start to take the pressure off somewhat.
- Where do you see your organisation a year on from now? What will you be doing to support those underrepresented Veteran’s & Service Leaders?
Tom Marsland (US): There are a significant number of military veterans who go unemployed or underemployed here in the United States and there is a huge skills Gap in cyber security, so taking that underserved population and helping them fill those roles is just something I continue to remain very much passionate about.
James Murphy (UK): The community approach is definitely the right one because what that does is it enables those individuals to come in and gain access and to essentially leverage from the experienced veterans that we have. These are people with a very similar background who are now taking that leap into the IT world and can help them get there and I think that is one of the main priorities for us going forward, to help more people. In close collaboration with other parties within the Forces Employment Charity we are working on a digital poverty program as well. This will enable people to get access to devices, connectivity as well as some basic digital skills and even a mentor for those that needed a coach who is there after working hours. I think the key over the next year is going to be more collaboration within all four organisations, more pooling of resource, less duplication of effort and to really grow that impact and maximize that impact into the far reaches of the force’s community.
Heath Moodie (Australia): Vets in Cyber has been growing massively in the last 12 but I think the one thing I really want to touch on particularly in Australia the massive Royal commission into veteran suicide that is currently going on. To be able to help people with finding a purpose and a drive and really help not from a mental health standpoint but from more of a mental resilience and from a mental strengthening point. We’re not pretending to be psychologists, but if we’re able to solve those big problems at that lowest level before they start to spiral, we’re solving so many problems.
- What has been happening in your country in terms of Veterans Mental Health?
Tom Marsland (US): A lot of times we find in our platform military members will come just to rant because they’ve lost that community that they used to have in their units where they could go and have a little gripe session about what’s going on in their lives and get support from people who understood what that was like. It’s like a fire, if you can stomp out that little ember before it starts that’s the key to success.
Jeff Musson (Canada): This is an important issue that we’ve also been raising with our government with Veterans Affairs as well as with employers. Sometimes accommodations have to be made for those individuals that are suffering with some mental distress and I think the overall awareness is really starting to increase which is a good thing.
There were many meaningful insights that were shared during this incredibly thought-provoking discussion, but one, in particular, seemed to resonate throughout the four organisations. Collaborating and working together across the nations means that more help can be provided to veterans, service leavers, their family and society, which is the main goal for all of these charity organisations who joined us for the podcast. The theme of working together is a major aspect of Remembrance Day. Our past servicemen and women worked together with our allied forces to fight for a common cause, we continue these collaborations throughout the Five Eyes Nations Veteran Charities such as Vets in Cyber, VetSec, Coding for Veterans and TechVets to help Veterans into a stable job and life.