By Rick O'Herron
Recently Oracle CEO Mark Hurd spoke to an audience of 30 veterans about the challenges in global IT and about Oracle’s insatiable need for talent and leadership. He was followed by a panel of Oracle employees who are military veterans, who shared their experiences transitioning from the military to corporate life at Oracle.
The event was organized with BreakLine, an education and employment company that helps military veterans build careers in the private sector, including veterans looking to pivot into technology.
Hurd painted a picture of the global enterprise IT economy and noted that of Oracle’s 144,000 employees, 17,000 are managers. “There’s a fundamental need for people to lead. When it comes to leading by example, you get chances to explain what value we provide whenever you make a decision,” he said.
Panel moderator Josh Shaffer (US Marine Corps), who serves as a program manager in one of Oracle’s two veterans-recruiting programs, asked the panelists to share their transitions from military life to their Oracle experience. Here are some of their insights:
Marlene Veum, senior director of identity management and security operations (US Air Force)
“Oracle is big and embraces a ‘can do’ attitude. It taught me how a large corporation works and how things are structured. You’ll need to build your own network. Veterans bring diversity of experiences and of thought, whereas IT people often think alike. Oracle is making a concerted effort on diversity. If you have program management skills, then program management is a good job to start with, even more so than project management. By the way, Oracle is very flexible for those who may still serve in the reserves or need to deploy."
Chris Spencer, North America director of internal business support (US Army)
“I didn’t have a lot of direction when I transitioned to Oracle back in ‘95, but I was suddenly now working with a thousand Type A’s. The Oracle difference is the way the company adapts its needs to ways of the business. In the 21 years since I joined, Oracle has grown into believing growth for the company is centered on the individual. There are many opportunities for coaching and mentoring people.”
Nicholas Smith, business development manager for federal and Department of Defense programs (US Navy)
“I flew planes (anyone remember Top Gun?) and took a lot of gratification in my job when the mission was over. I spent my first year at Oracle as a financial analyst and frankly, that was a learning experience, but was a bit boring. But when I started working at Oracle, I learned that not everybody feels that his or her job and gratification is the same thing. Sure, people like their jobs, but they also find gratification in doing other activities and spending more time with their kids and family. You re-learn lessons about people, about failure, making mistakes, and relearning new things."
Phil Ruhlman, vice president of product management (US Air Force)
“I spent 31 years in the US Air Force. I came to Oracle six years ago and now I work on the product side on cloud customer success. It was a steep learning curve because Oracle is certainly not the military, but it does have structure. I learned to become comfortable with things that are a little vague. My advice to veterans here is that you can take with you three fundamental things that you have that the corporate world needs.
First, you have an ability to form a team, where you have to be part of a team or lead it. You’re a team builder. Second, you have to communicate across the team using your communications skills. The third is in solving a problem, whether you have resources or not."
Ruhlman also noted that veterans have had to develop problem-solving skills at a very young age, and they can bring those skills to any organization—whether that organization is a permanent home, or just the first step in a long civilian career. Companies will “always need you to help solve their problems,” he said. “You can take a problem, explain it, and use it to tell a story on your resume.”
Rick O'Herron is director of web content strategy for Oracle.