While thanking our service men and women is one form of appreciation, recognizing how important it is for veterans to secure stable employment when returning to civilian life, is more tangible. Last month the company welcomed Tom Rascon to the NetApp U.S. Public Sector team. Following a 20 year career in military IT, Tom joined the civilian workforce as Chief Technology Officer for the Department of Defense and Intelligence business for NetApp’s U.S. Public Sector.
Find out what it’s like to transition from the military to a civilian career, what Tom has learned so far, and how he sees the next chapter of his professional life unfolding.
Can you tell us about your military career, what inspired you to join the Army, what were some of the highlights of your career?
Tom: My father was in the military and I learned about Army life at an early age because I was born at Fort Bragg, NC. While I was pursuing college options, I applied for and earned an ROTC scholarship to West Virginia University. I studied Mechanical Engineering while I completed the ROTC program. Upon graduation, I was commissioned as an Air Defense Artillery Second Lieutenant and assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. One of the highlights of my career was making the switch from artillery to Telecommunications Systems Engineer. This new position opened up a vast array of challenging positions within the Army and other organizations within the Department of Defense. My career culminated with a five year tour at the Joint Special Operations Command, where I served as Network Operations Support Center Director and later as Deputy CIO. Working in this joint environment was very challenging, but also extremely rewarding because I was able to work with some of the finest communicators within the Department of Defense.
Can you tell us about your role at NetApp, how did your military career prepare you for your new role in the private sector?
Tom: As a recent hire at NetApp, I will be the Chief Technology Officer for the US Public Sector, specifically serving the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community. This position requires a challenging mix of business acumen, technical knowledge and experience, personnel and professional interaction, as well as an understanding of how these organizations manage their financial systems. At a cursory level, you might think the CTO needs to be the technical expert of everything we do, but it actually requires a vast array of skills, and it helps to know who the technical experts are for each NetApp service or offering. Within the Defense and Intel sectors, there is a completely unique language that is spoken. My previous military service allowed me to work in that environment and to learn the language and nuances that are required to effectively operate on a daily basis.
Why did you choose NetApp to being the next part of your career?
Tom: And that question is exactly why I chose NetApp for my next career. Upon transitioning from the military and serving over 20 years with the same organization, I knew I was not the type of person who wanted to chase jobs and move from company to company every couple of years. I specifically interviewed and accepted the offer to be the CTO, but, in my mind, I selected NetApp as my next career provider, regardless of the actual position. From the NetApp employees I’ve met over the past few years as a NetApp customer, I knew the caliber of professionals NetApp hires, and I knew I wanted to be part of that team.
I know that NetApp will be my career provider for the next decade and beyond, regardless of the position I hold. The NetApp corporate environment is very open and friendly, and everyone I’ve met has been welcoming and willing to help and assist with anything I need to be successful.
Why do you think veterans make great employees?
Tom: Great employees are people who can be counted on to do what they are supposed to do, and they also take initiative to get jobs done that weren’t expected. Military veterans have been working in this fashion for their entire careers, and they are conditioned to continue to do it as they transition to civilian life. These qualities are engrained in the military lifestyle and now part of the veteran.
What advice do you have for other members of the armed forces considering career transition?
Tom: Grow your personal and professional networks. Don’t wait until it’s time to transition to start calling people and asking for assistance. The service member needs to begin the network-building phase of their transition years before they begin the actual retirement/separation process. Additionally, while the service member is still on active duty, they need to take a look at civilian careers and determine what would be an enjoyable career in their next phase of life. It is vitally important to select a profession or career that you will enjoy doing on a daily basis. Once you make that determination, then you need to create a plan to achieve the requirements needed to hold that job. If there are any certifications or training requirements for that position, you need to begin studying and achieving them prior to your job search. Many job vacancies have multiple applicants vying for the same position, and if you don’t have the minimum requirements met, there is no way you will be considered for the position.
To learn more about how NetApp is committed to helping veterans find stable careers post service, click here.