Why Military Personnel Make Ideal IT Pros


By Chris LaPoint

Every year, approximately 250,000 military personnel leave the service to return to civilian life. When the home front beckons, many will be looking to become IT professionals, a role that, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, is among the fastest growing jobs in the country.

How their field skills will translate to the back office is something to ponder. With the advent of virtualization, mobile, and the cloud, IT changes faster than the wind, as do the skill sets needed to succeed.

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That said, the nature of today’s military—always on the go, and heavily reliant on virtual solutions—may actually be the perfect training ground for IT.

Consider that many war-fighters already are IT technicians. They need to be skilled in data management, mobile solutions, security, the ability to fix problems as they arise onsite, and more.

This IT knowledge is desperately needed, and matches many of the skill sets outlined in a recent public-sector IT survey by my company, SolarWinds. The only difference is that soldiers are using these skills with dusty boots on the ground.

Having that sort of background can give them a serious leg up on their entrance into civilian IT. Here are some examples of how battlefield “know-how” can be deployed in the office to take on some of today’s hottest IT issues:

Managing Wireless Technology and Connected Devices

Like everyone, government agencies have come to heavily rely on mobile technology. This reliance has brought on a slew of issues, however, from maintaining security to managing multiple devices.

Personnel used to working with everything from SATCOM terminals to iPads are ideally suited for handling these issues. Many have successfully managed wireless endpoints, networks, and security while in the field.

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Civilian IT professionals face the same challenges. The number of mobile devices that appear on a network is rising on a daily basis, and will likely get far more extreme in the near future. As such, the need to monitor security, bandwidth, passwords, and network access has never been greater. Military personnel can use their field experience to tackle each of these.

Automating Network Management

Field personnel obviously have a lot to deal with beyond IT (there’s a little thing called “defense,” for example). Very often, though, they find themselves having to stop and manually manage network problems as they arise.

As tedious as this is, it turns out that this experience can prove valuable for personnel looking to transfer to civilian IT, even as network automation becomes the norm. Knowledge of which processes typically require the most attention can help IT managers configure their automated systems to prioritize project monitoring. In short, field experience can help make the automated network that much more efficient, and enhance optimization to focus on things that are most essential.

Managing Consolidation and Shrinking Budgets

This one should certainly be familiar to field personnel, because it’s happening across the board. Defense departments are continually looking at ways to better manage budgets and consolidate technologies, and promote doing more with less.

As a result, today’s IT is heavily focused on consolidating services and solutions whenever possible. The consolidation effort includes everything from equipment (legacy hardware being usurped by cloud and virtualization solutions, for example) to activities (reporting and monitoring which, as previously inferred, are now far more automated than ever before). Fortunately, this frees up room for actively analyzing the network, which cannot be easily automated or consolidated—at least, not yet.

But who knows what the future may hold? Much like war-fighters, IT professionals must be readily adaptable. Because just like the battlefield, IT can change at a moment’s notice.

Chris LaPoint is the vice president of product management at SolarWinds, an IT management software provider based in Austin, Texas. He has spent the last decade building IT management software, first as a software engineer, then as a technical evangelist and product manager.  

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Image: Department of Defense