Realizing the value that veterans bring to the civilian workforce

July 20, 2021

One of Indeed's Inclusion Resource Groups (IRG) is the Veterans and Allies Resource Group, which was formed to honor, support, and empower the military community & our allies.

In this episode of Here to Help, Indeed CEO, Chris Hyams, is joined by Mario Carpanzano, a Physical Security Engineer and active leader in Indeed's Veterans & Allies IRG.

- Hello everyone. I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed, and welcome to the next episode of Here to Help. This is our look at how Indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID-19. Today is July 12th. We are in day 496 of global work from home. Here at Indeed, one of our five core values is inclusion and belonging. And one way we practice that value is through employee-led organizations formed around traditionally underrepresented or marginalized groups in tech. These inclusion resource groups or IRGs help us share employees unique experiences, perspectives, and passions, and actively support and guide our efforts. And they help us grow our business in a way that promotes inclusivity and a sense of belonging, both at Indeed and for job seekers and employers. One of our IRGs is the Veterans and Allies Resource Group, which was formed to honor, support and empower the military community and our allies. And my guest today is Mario Carpanzano, physical security lead for the Americas who is a veteran and an active member of the Veterans and Allies Resource Group. We'll be talking about Mario's time serving in the military, the transition from military service to civilian life and how his experiences in the military helped him adapt to the demands of the pandemic. Mario, I am looking forward to this conversation. Thank you so much for joining me today.

- I'm excited too, thanks Chris.

- Well, let's start where we always start off with a check-in. How are you doing today right now?

- I'm good, you know, good nerves, excited to talk about this stuff.

- Great. Well, before we dive in, let's start a little bit with your job. Can you tell us a little bit about how you help people get jobs?

- Sure. As part of the physical security team, we help keep our officers safe and secure and ensure everyone has what they need to be successful and not worry about any safety or security measures.

- So, your life and your family, you have quite deep ties into the military. Can you talk a little bit about the links you have and how that led you yourself off to military school?

- Yeah. You know, people people always ask, why did you decide to join the military? And I don't have the story of I've always wanted to do it, or I thought it was great. I think it was more of a subconscious thing. My grandfather served during the Korean war, his three older brothers served during World War II, one in Italy, which for our Italian-American heritage, I can only imagine that going back to Italy and fighting through a country that your family is from can be something daunting. I've never got to ask my great uncle those questions, he passed away before I was born, but the military has always from a family standpoint has been something that not an obligation, but something that is important. And as immigrants to this country, standing up for it, I think was a big deal. And putting your name on the line and being ready to defend it, I think was a big deal. And it kind of, and that filtered down to me and after high school joining military school at a university, which was one of, something my grandfather also gave me was make sure you go to college. It was a way of me seeing, you know, of getting a feel for that and if the military was right for me.

- So, could you talk a little bit about that experience of your early days in military school?

- Sure. I mean, I started, you know, my first actual day of classes was 9/11, which we only went to one class. I mean, I think a lot of people, if you're about my age, you probably had a very similar experience. I would have been, so, Norwich University is a military school, one of the senior military colleges of the United States. And I was at school for the better part of a month doing, you know, learning to march and being yelled at to do pushups and so on. And this was our first day of classes. And you go to your first class and something's happening. Now, as a freshmen at Norwich University, you don't have a TV, you don't have a radio, you make phone calls when you're allowed to at certain times of the day. So, there was a lot of talking amongst ourselves, what's happening? What is it? And you don't know until they tell you. And by the end of the day, it was pretty obvious that there is something big going on and they rolled TVs out in the hallways and we got to see what was happening. And, but it didn't, you know, for all of us, it didn't end there of course, but it was a bit different for us, you know? There was a lot of you go to a military school and a lot of guys are in the Reserves or National Guard, and the activation started within a week or a month of that. And then as you got to the end of the year, you had seniors who are graduating from college. And many times, especially for the army, there was about a month or two where you had an opportunity to kind of get your things together and move out of school and get ready for your first assignment in the army. And a lot of people were graduating May 1st and shipping to whatever basic course or wherever they were going by May 15th, if not earlier, they were out the door ready to go. So, you always had a feeling in the back, you know, other than what was on the news, you kind of have a sense by what your friends are doing and what's happening that this is, you know, there's something around the corner for all of us. So, you have four, you know, and for me, I had four years of college to decide, is the military right for me? 'Cause now I'm seeing friends go to Iraq, go to Afghanistan, you know, classmates who are not coming home. So you have the hard decision of, is this the life for me? Am I going to finally put my name on the line like everyone has before and say, this is worth defending? And, you know, I decided that that was a choice and I'm better for it in a lot of ways. And a lot of things happened in the way too that you wish didn't, but that's the way it is sometimes.

- It's an amazing story. One of the things when we were talking that really struck me is that while you were there, you met your wife. And so you both ended up in the military at the same time. Can you talk a little bit about what that's like to have two partners in the military at the same time?

- Yeah. We joke that dual military is not for the faint-hearted. It's not a, it's, you don't get extra points for being dual military, and a lot of ways it can be, it's tougher. There's decisions to be made for each of your careers on where to go and what to do, or, are you deploying this this year? Or am I deploying next year or, well, I don't have a choice whether I am or not, I'm going, and you're staying home. You could call it like tag team wrestling. So, tag you're in, I'm going into the fight. And then sometimes I tag you and I go wait outside and you're fighting. And then sometimes you're both fighting and it's not just war, I mean, if your home, life is still going on. You have bills. You have groceries that need to be bought. We had from my first deployment in 2010, my son was three months old when I left. So, my wife is now in the middle of her company command time, which is a large undertaking in itself. And a three-month old that she's taking care of and I'm in Iraq. So, that's not an easy, you know, by no means, is that an easy undertaking. I mean, if you go back the year before that, she was in Iraq and I was at home in command of my own. So it's not, you find your your normal in all those situations, you find what works for both of you. And it takes a, I think it has strengthened our relationship in a lot of ways. We don't pull punches with each other anymore 'cause it doesn't do us any good. And you learn what your relationship and what you're made of, I think.

- The reason that we spend time talking about things like this at Indeed is that obviously whatever experience people bring with them shapes how they approach their job and the workforce. And of course being in the military is a job. So, one of the things I'd love to hear a little bit about your transition. When you you left the military and joined the civilian workforce, what was that transition like for you?

- It was tough. At first I was having a tough time with it. So it is a job, it's a profession, but the military turns into so much more. You have people, friends, that become your family. When your family isn't there, I come from a very nuclear family. We're together all the time. And we remade that in the army with a lot of times. We were, our first duty station was Fairbanks, Alaska, the middle of, for us, the middle of nowhere, not the middle of nowhere at all, because it turned out to be a wonderful place. It's where we developed our relationship as a family and where we developed our friendships that we still have, you know, people who I rely on for advice. And when you say I'm going to leave that, it's a tough thing. And the military in general gives you a lot of what you need. You don't have to think about your healthcare. You don't have to think about, you know, you have to think about childcare, but it's there for you on a military base. There's a lot of things that when you get out, you go, oh man, I got to think about all this stuff. So, it can be a daunting task. And the other part is having to explain what it is you do in the military, which can be really tough for a lot of people. How do I explain what an infantryman does to someone who's never been there or done that? And how do I translate that into a job that I can get that will sustain my family or be good for me in the long run? So, there's a lot of like factors other than just, I need a job that is going into your brain. And when you leave also with a family, you know, it just compounds all those and makes them that much more difficult to navigate, but you still, you find good people, you find resources to help you and what I've think I've tried to do since I left, was to pay that back to people getting out and say to them, like, you're going to be fine. There's things to figure out, of course, but it's nothing you haven't ever figured out before. And it'll be, you're going to do great things. And I try to just give them that sense of, it's just another step. It's another mission. You can do it.

- So, one of the things that's very clear from the military experience is that there's an incredible focus and an opportunity around leadership development. Can you talk about some of the lessons that you learned from the military about leadership?

- I learned everything I know about leadership from the military. I mean, practically and academically. So you, you know, the whole, when you're in college for many of us, whether it's a senior military college or one of the academies, or even a university that has Reserve Officers' Training Corps, ROTC, a lot of that is, I think a lot of it is, some of it is tactics and understanding the craft of being in the military. But a lot of it is leadership. A good portion of it is leadership and understanding who you are as a leader, what it takes to be a leader, ways to lead, but then also being able to find your own way and all that. I mean, one of the toughest things in the military is that when you walk in, so if you walk into the military as a lieutenant like I did, and you're 21, 22, 23 years old, and you become a platoon leader if we're talking army and you have, you know, could be upwards of 50 people, as little as 20 or so people in your platoon and you have to lead them. They're looking at you for the decisions. Well, the part they don't tell you when you're teaching all this is, well, some of those men and women are going to be 16, 17 year old veterans. And in my case, two, three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. People who know their stuff and know what they're doing. So, you're walking in as the lieutenant and it's a daunting task, but you need to learn that leadership isn't about yelling and saying, go take that hill sometimes. It's sometimes it's about, hey, what do you think of this situation that we're in? How do we get out of this? Have you seen this before? And then knowing though that whatever advice you get, you're making the ultimate decision. You are the decider in all this stuff. They will, your team when they start, when a team gets good and you start trusting each other, you make the hard decisions and they're going to execute it 'cause sometimes they may not agree with what your decision is, but they know where you're coming from, they understand that hard decisions need to be made and they know you're, they trust you enough to put themselves in a situation and know that you would do the same for them. So, it's a lot of it's. I think the key word is trust and all that, is trusting yourself, trusting each other and working hard for them as much as they work for you.

- So, the US Military is probably one of the most sophisticated organizations in the world when it comes to how they think about training and skills development beyond just the leadership part that you talked about. And that translates certainly in your case and in millions of others too, bringing incredibly valuable skills and attributes into the job market. Can you talk a little bit about some of the things that make veterans fantastic employees?

- Sure, yeah. One thing that I always think about and try to tell people is that the military of today and probably in the past is not the movies. I could take parts of movies and tell you that's something that really happened, or that's real. And I think a lot of times you have to take the feeling of that, but people just look at it sometimes and think, well, that's just what you do. You just march places and go where people tell you to do. But the military of today is the most technical, and one of the most demanding professions I've ever seen. It's more than just whatever is on your, whatever your skill set is, whatever your MOS or military occupational skill is. I give the example a lot when I first got out and I was doing security for another company, we were hiring a young man who just got out of the military, just got out of Afghanistan for that matter within the last six months or so. And he was an engineer and we were hiring for an operation center position and the hiring manager wasn't quite sure if he had the skills, it just, his resume didn't seem like it, he just said that he was an engineer in the army and that he did route clearance. And he wanted to know if I had some insight in it. So I walked in the interview and I had a nice conversation with him I said, what'd you do when you were in Afghanistan? He was like, oh, I drove a Husky. I did route clearance. And a Husky is a mine resistant vehicle that is literally used to drive over mines or IEDs and get blown up. And I said, okay, well, did you have a GPS in your system, in your vehicle? Yeah, of course. I'm like, did you put the encryption in yourself? Did you put in all your data? Absolutely, I did. I wouldn't let anyone else do it. Okay, did you have a, the, we call it a blue force tracker. It literally a navigate, it's a map overlay that shows everyone's positions on the battlefield. You're able to send messages on there. So I said, did you run your blue force tracker? Were you able to send messages, alerts? Did you work with other people across the battlefield? Absolutely, I mean, there was no way I was going to be allowed to not do that. Okay, yeah, I know. I'm like, well, were you able to use your radio? Were are you able to call, you know, jump to different frequencies and call different people? Oh, absolutely. And I was like, and you did all this, you know, and this wasn't your full-time job, was it? He goes, no, no, that's just what you do because it needs to be done and that's the way it is. I was like, and I turned to the hiring manager and said, this is an operator, this guy can do operations center work. And it's a lot of times for a lot of us is, you don't realize the additional duty or the things you're doing around your job are just as important of what the job is. There's not a lot of route clearance in the United States, you know, clearing mines and things, of course, but all those other very intricate job, intricate things that he was doing, even just maintaining his truck, performing oil changes and maintenance on his truck is a huge deal and has value. And being able to pull those small little ideas or work that people have done can not only show a hiring manager that this person has skills we didn't even realize. Maybe it shows that person like, maybe this is something I can do full time, that I can do more than just infantry worker or shoot cannons. So, that was always a big deal to me. Well, what else did you do in the military? What additional duties did you do? Because people will hire you for those.

- So, I think that's a very clear example of how valuable those experiences are and what people can bring to the workplace. And yet we have more than 200,000 veterans entering civilian life in the US every year, they're incredibly talented, they have this amazing relevant experience, and yet so many of them find it incredibly challenging to find roles that they're qualified for. Why is that?

- You know, some of it is just, you don't get, you're not getting the training to kind of describe those things that I'm talking about. You know, how do I put that on a resume? You know, who's teaching you how to put that on a resume? The army gives you the, we used to joke that the army will, if you're doing something in the army, someone's probably done it before you and they wrote it down except for transitioning off, it's just, they'll give you a little bit here and there and then it's kind of like, thank you for your service. And you're moving on. And that's where I think guys like me, or anyone who has spent any time in the military or cares about the military and what our service members are doing after the military need to take the time to kind of learn about those steps and help them with their resume building and help them with their interview skills and really kind of show them that they have all these skills. They're all right there. It's just putting them onto paper or showing them how to do it.

- What are some of the things that we as Indeed who sit between hundreds of millions of job seekers and employers, how can we help veterans and employers better understand how these skills are transferable?

- I think we've started developing some great things on the website to to help capture a lot of occupational skills. We've done, as part of the IRG, we've done a lot of webinars and different kinds of events to bring veterans in and show the support that people have for them and show them that it's not just about what they did in the military, that one job skill, it's about a lot of different things, and those people are there to help. And it's really great to kind of be part of that and push for veterans to kind of get that help that they need. It can be a tough for people to, they just, you know, it can be tough for people to kind of understand how to transition off the military and really find their worth again. I talked to someone a few weeks ago. It was just, I just can't seem to figure out how to get to the next level, you know? And it's just a lot, some of it's patience, you feel like you're at a certain level in your military career and you decide, I need to make a change and it's a lot of what I felt too. And you have to go and look for that help and say, you know, I don't know this, and let people help you with that stuff. And we do a lot of that stuff here. A lot of it's just support, just knowing, just having a company like us and people like us in our IRG and just all around the entire company, know that someone is, like, they take the time to know a veteran or know what help they might need is huge. And it might not pay dividends directly with a job right now, but that confidence that the things that they've done is a multiplier and not a negative detractor is huge for them.

- So, you're an active member here at Indeed and the Veterans and Allies Inclusion resource group. Can you talk a little bit about the work that the IRG does to help our veterans and to help create allies?

- Sure. I think our IRG is wonderful and one of the simple ways is just allies. Veterans in general can be very, very exclusive people. We want to stick together, which is great, but we know what we know and it can be at times, you know, you don't want anyone else to know, or no one could ever understand me. That can be the thought process. And the idea of inclusivity, I suppose, as opposed to exclusivity is a huge deal. And I think what veterans of the global war on terror and this younger generation that's coming up wants and needs. And I think our IRG really strives for that type of inclusiveness. It's not just about being a veteran, you know? It's not, I don't personally with IRG, I don't personally care if you were a veteran, you're here, what do you want to talk about? And then we, and that thought process and that feeling is pushed out for all those external events that we're talking about, you know? What do you want to do? How do we make you a part of this? Is a huge thing, a lot, you know, the other part of is a lot of veterans are just looking for community outside of the military, you know? It's great to be exclusive with the VFW, and those are great organizations. I'll never take away from, they're amazing and do amazing things. But when you pull in a civilian who has no ties to the military, and they just want to be a part of it, and they want to know how they can help and what they can do it will make a veteran think, oh, wow, there's more, it's more than just thank you for your service. It's deeper than that. And that's things that we're tackling here in the IRG. And I think a lot of people are starting to do it. And I love that we're at the forefront of a lot of that.

- So, one of the things that I've seen really clearly in work with the IRGs and bringing together different people from different groups and members and allies, is that the awareness that folks can develop of how what's going on in the world can impact different people differently. Based on your background and your experience, there might be a story on the news that to one person is just, oh, that's what's happening in the world. And to other people that can have a real emotional resonance. And so in the news right now, after 20 years, the US has announced that it's planning to, and it's effectively its operations in Afghanistan. And as a veteran, having been deployed during that time to Afghanistan, how has that news impacted you?

- I reflected on it a lot. And it's a weird feeling for, I mean, you, I think with a lot of different events in your life, it's common to have a lot of different emotional feelings all at the same time, which makes it boggling and not, you know, you don't understand what it could be, you know. In ways I miss it. And then I clarify that in my head as I don't necessarily miss a war, I miss my friends, I miss what came of that, the good things that came of it, what I learned about myself. And a lot of people probably have those feelings. And then at the same time, I can be completely distraught over things that did or didn't happen or whatever the case was. It's a weird feeling too, with, you know, Afghanistan and Iraq, 20 years is a long time for a war, no matter what, but for some of us, that's all of our 20s, you know? That's all, that's most of my 30s. So, I got out of high school and I was thinking about war in some form or fashion or going to it, or coming back from it, or training someone to go to it for 20 something years, which is, you don't, I think you don't realize the emotional toll sometimes until you stop and you reflect on that and go, oh man, this is ending. And it can be tough and not tough and fun. And you think about things and you talk to friends and it feels better. And then it's something you live with and something you've done and you do your best. If you're working through something, you do your best to just keep going.

- The pandemic has clearly tested the resilience and adaptability of everyone. As a veteran, how did the events of the last 16 months or so, how did that affect you personally?

- In a lot of ways, the last question informed the way I was going to, you know, inform how I would respond to the pandemic, you know? You know, deployments, going to a different country and learning something completely different and your whole world just being appended and trying to find that new normal is exactly what I think we all just started to learn about. I mean, there's different, you know, it's different for everybody, but you get put into a situation and you don't necessarily know, quite know how you're going to get out of it, or what's going to come or what tomorrow is. But you just find your new normal. I think like we all have here, you know? We're doing things, you figure out Zoom and you roll with the punches when lights go out and you just continue to keep going and you find your way through things, you know? It's really hard when you stop and you look back and you look and, you know, you look things from 30,000 feet and you're looking down and everything is just unimaginable and ungraspable and I can't do this, how long is this going to happen? I don't know. And you start asking all those questions that don't really have answers yet, or you know what's going to happen. And when you take, when you just stop for a minute and just, what am I doing right now? Where am I right now? What has to be done? Laundry still has to be done. Work still has to be done. That email's not going to answer itself. You know, I have to cook dinner. Well, those are the things we've always ever done, right? That's not different. So, let's just, let me focus on those, right? I wrote in my notes when I was getting ready for this, is we used to, when you have a fitness test in the army, you do pushups for a minute, you do sit ups for a minute, and then you run for two minutes. And we used to have sergeants who would walk around and like trying to get you motivated. And they would say things like, you can do anything for two minutes. You could do anything for two minutes. That's easy, two minutes. And I don't know why that always stuck with me. And in my head, I would always just say like, I can do anything for two minutes. And then somewhere, you know, he's like, oh, I got to go. I have to go to this training event for three weeks. It was like, well, I could do anything for three weeks. What's three weeks? That's not a big deal. And then you do it again, it's like, well, you're going to Afghanistan for six months. It's like, well, six months, that's easy. That's a school year. I can do six months. That's easy, I've done that before. And then, you know, and you just, and when I thought about it that way, and I would do it during the pandemic, it's like, we've been doing this for four months. Oh, I can do anything for four months, I've been doing it for eight months. Eight months? We already did the eight months. I mean, what's the difference? Let's do another one. And when you kind of, when I, well, for me, when I think of it that way it takes away all of that worry. I was like, well, you've already done it for this amount of time, you might as well keep doing what you're doing. And it gives you a little bit, right in that moment, not to say that you don't go back to it and start looking at it all big again and say, oh man, that's a lot. And then you just have to pull yourself back in. So it's just, it's the way you, it's the way we get through things. It's the way you start to figure it out in your own brain, how to deal with whatever adversity you're dealing with.

- That's really amazing. I remember when we met last week, something stuck with me that you had said that no plan survives first contact. And it's a really helpful perspective to go into life with that things are not necessarily going to go the way that you think they're going to, and that can apply in really big things like getting deployed to Afghanistan and in little things like the lights going out. And I think the training and that experiences is it helps in almost everything we do and well, we could keep talking for a long time, but I'd like to just wrap up with the way that we usually wrap these conversations up, which is just looking back over the pandemic and thinking about from your personal experience, what's one thing that has happened that gives you some optimism for the future?

- You know, I think about when I got back from, well, when I got back from Afghanistan, especially, when I got back from Iraq, but mostly Afghanistan, I think a lot of us, you do this kind of mental decompression where you take whatever your thought process, whatever was going on and, you know, I think for a lot of us, you go to Iraq or Afghanistan and you take all your emotions and you put them in a box and you take that box and you put it in your footlocker or wherever, and you don't bring it out until you're home again. 'Cause it's, you can't, you have moments where it just, your emotions are not useful, unfortunately, and whatever you're doing just needs to get done, and there's no time to feel. And that can be tough. So, you come home and you just, you open that box again and you start to like reflect on what you've been doing. And I think for a lot of us, for me, it gives you a different sense of who you are and what you're doing in your life and what it means to be alive. And what is that? And you start, and I think that's just, it really starts to informs people's future, I think. And I think we're going to start noticing people, you know, making choices for themselves and in a good way that's better, that's best for them. And in turn will be best for all of us. You don't necessarily, you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, right? You don't get to know that, but you're here right now and you're where you're at, and you have to take what you got and move forward. And whatever's going to happen is, all you can do is take your perspective and what you've learned in your experiences and make the best decision you can in that moment and move with it and that's, I think that gives me hope that people are starting to get that perspective, that it's, there's a lot of, you have to be, you have to know what's going on in your life and work with what you have. I can go on for days about this, I don't know, it's a lot.

- We can do anything for 496 days.

- Absolutely. Yeah, we already did 496 days. I mean, that was the easy part. It's only one more day tomorrow.

- Well, Mario, thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for sharing your experience and your perspective, and really thank you so much for everything that you do to help keep Indeed safe and secure and to help people get jobs.

- Cheers, thanks.