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I had to retire from the Marine Corps, after 22 years of service, because I was badly injured by an IED. Obviously, what happened altered the plans I had for a career after retirement.

I have a BS in Mathematics, and an MBA, both obtained while in the Corps. I am self-taught (Python, Java), and I'm fully aware that there is a vast, vast difference between a developer that is just starting out, and someone that has a CS degree, and years of experience in development, regardless of the language.

However, I'm in desperate need of a job, military disability is not near enough to live on, and ultimately what I'm wanting to know, from some of you seasoned veterans, is are there startups that would hire a "newby" like me? If so, where is the best place to start looking.

Any input/assistance would be greatly, greatly appreciated.

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    A lot of this will depend on your other experience. What did you do in the Marines? Have you built anything in Python or Java? – Matthew Gaiser Mar 26 at 21:40
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    @MatthewGaiser, I have built a couple of games, as well as some data specific apps that compile and graph calculations. When I was in the Corps I was a sniper, not a skill, unfortunately, that translates to the civilian market. – Semper_Fi88 Mar 26 at 22:02
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    Welcome to the site Mike. Sorry to hear that you've found yourself in situation. We don't typically give personalised career advice on this site so in that respect this usually isn't the best place to ask. If you're looking for very personalised input and advice places like Reddit or a forum for veterans may be a better bet. However, while we usually close questions like this I do think there's a generally answerable question here about job search and career tips for veterans. Several large companies are outspoken about hiring veterans for example and other useful programs might exist. – Lilienthal Mar 26 at 22:31
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    Many companies have Wounded Warrior programs. Seek them out, and good luck. – Jon Custer Mar 26 at 22:31
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    What rank did you get to? Military leadership experience is a serious job qualification all by itself. – Ben Barden Mar 27 at 14:45
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List from d_hippo is very good general advice, but I feel there are some things missing that are specific to your situation.

However, I'm in desperate need of a job, military disability is not near enough to live on, and ultimately what I'm wanting to know, from some of you seasoned veterans, is are there startups that would hire a "newby" like me?

I definitely would use any vet associations in your country as the first point of call, they usually have some sort of support systems for job hunting, formal or less so. At the very least they should be able to help proofread and write up the CV to what market standard expects. Depending on size may also offer some very valuable connections. You are not the first person in that position, and sadly won't be the last, and there are networks around to help you - need to locate those.

Additionally, I think you would also benefit greatly from the help of a good recruiter. This will not cost you money, but it's someone you will have to find out. Check the internets for recruiters who specialize in placing vets into workplace - should be at least a few in your general area. They will definitely be able to help guide you directly as they know both the job markets and the other candidates.

You are looking at junior positions. In those, your aptitude, eagerness, general problem solving and logical thinking abilities are vastly more important than experience or specific knowledge. If you can turn some of your Marine experience into specific situations where you've demonstrated those attributes, that should help a lot.

If after all that you still got some spare time, follow d_hippo list, and apply to any job you can find. The worst case that can happen is that you will hear "no". Make sure to tailor each application to the job rather than using a template, as that alone will make you stand out from the sea of copy/paste applicants.

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  • +1, vet associations and specialized recruiters are very good points indeed. I've never thought about that ... – d_hippo Mar 26 at 23:12
  • @Tymoteusz Paul Thank you so much for the advice. Great points! – Semper_Fi88 Mar 27 at 0:45
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  • Try to build something that shows your software development skills. It does not need to be a huge project, it does not need to be perfect. Put some personal projects on github and include a link in your CV. Show your potential employers that you can do something actually useful with your knowledge.
  • A math-BS and an MBA are great starting points for a career in software development. They show that you don't shy away from abstractions, think logically, have some understanding of the buisness world and a good deal of tolerance for frustration. These skills, incidentally also learned while studying math, greatly helped me become a better developer. Many competent software-industry managers will recognize this.
  • 'Startup' is a meaningless term for your question. There are so many of them and they vary by a great margin. Don't just focus on them. Yes, there are Startups who'll hire a 'BS in math with some self-tought programming skills' and there are ones that won't, but there are also a lot of other companies who'll hire you and a lot of them who won't. Don't restrict your search to one type of company.
  • Look for companies that market products that do what you're good at. These companies will value the skills you have, because their products are build on them.
  • Use your connections. You have 22 years of servie, so you'll surely know people who already left the marine corps and are now working in civilian jobs? Reach out for them. Ask them how they have found their job and how they used their military career to their advantage.
  • Skills like discipline, patience, the ability to obey orders, taking responsibility for your actions, quick decision making, maybe even leading others and so on are what differentiates you from many, many other fresh programmers who are just starting their career. Even in my country, germany, with a culture that is much more sceptical of everything coming from the military, these skills are sought after by employers. Seek for companies that have hired veterans in the past, chances are they value what a veteran brings to the table.
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  • thank you for the input, I greatly appreciate it. It's very informative and I can actually take actionable actions on your points. Thanks, again. – Semper_Fi88 Mar 26 at 22:43
  • i'm glad i could help :) – d_hippo Mar 26 at 22:45
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IBM offers several programs for the US military veterans, from direct hiring initiatives to various training and transitioning services. Please take a look at their Veteran Talent portal and see if there's anything you can make use of.

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  • Thanks so much for the advice – Semper_Fi88 Mar 28 at 1:19
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Having reached the rank of Major is important new information for this question.

You have officer experience and an MBA. You should not be looking for entry level development positions, but for leadership positions. Leadership, process, and organization are directly applicable to these jobs. Heck, I’m leading the engineering division at a startup and I spend a minority of my time doing anything technical, it’s mostly hiring, personnel management, agile process, compliance, product ownership, supplier management, interfacing with customers, and so on. Someone highly motivated and squared away with some technical skill is perfect for such a role.

You’re underselling yourself. You’re not some enlisted guy with 2-3 years in who’s now looking at entry level jobs in the civilian workforce. I believe you could easily sell your resume as a mid-level manager at many of the enterprise places I’ve worked, in IT if that’s what you want. With a Math undergrad probably data science and such as well - again, you don’t need to be the most whiz bang, you need enough to effectively lead the poindexters.

I’m not sure what your disability affects in terms of job options, but in an increasingly remote workforce even managers and directors work from home (especially right now...) If you just really, really want to code, you’ll still be better placed going in and leveraging your other skills in leadership and taking the opportunity to participate in the development and learn on the job.

Best of luck!

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  • I need to take a hard look at my resume I guess b/c I firmly believe I’m ideally suited for a management position. I’ve led Company’s (military units) of over 175 Marines and been responsible for over $700 million in equipment. Yet, when I got interviews I’d hear the same thing “your leadership experience is absolutely amazing but you have no experience in the corporate world!” – Semper_Fi88 Mar 30 at 1:51
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As a wounded veteran you'll be able to claim preference when applying to almost any Federal government job, the VA should be able to give you the details of what information you need to provide to claim it (it looks like an information site is available at https://www.fedshirevets.gov/job-seekers/veterans-preference/). usajobs.gov is the main site for Federal jobs. There are entry level programming jobs available, you'll want to search for series 2200 jobs.

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You underestimate yourself. For anyone you'd want to work for, self-taught is about 100x better than a CS degree, and a Math degree is waaaay harder than Computer Science. Ontop of that, you've got all that Marine stuff that normally makes for a rock solid worker.

Your location matters. If you're willing to move, I'd look at quant jobs in NYC:

https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=python%2C+quant&l=Ny%2C+Ny

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  • Thanks for the input, I greatly appreciate it – Semper_Fi88 Mar 28 at 1:14
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This is a lot of disadvantages in a competitive field. I suggest looking at alternatives like your network, any veteran associations etc,.

are there startups that would hire a "newby" like me?

Perhaps, but ones that would are unlikely to be successful well run start ups. More likely to be funding mines rather than serious players. Younger, better qualified resources with proven track records are not in short supply.

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    I think what Mr. Raised-By-Wolves is trying to say is that startups are generally very tight on execution and often only have time for techies who can already work independently. You may want to look at one of the many larger companies that need tech talent but can spent more on ramp-up and mentoring. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Mar 27 at 3:00
  • @mxyzplk-SEstopbeingevil I've seen funding mine startups where the only real interest in who they employ is cost. To be honest, thats the only sort we see here. – Kilisi Mar 27 at 7:58
  • That matches the startup mentality I've seen most of the time, they are small lean and mean operations. Sometimes they will hire a very promising junior(s) but those will be most expected to be autonomous, a lot more than what normally would be expected of one. But that usually happens via side-channel, rather than direct recruitment. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 27 at 9:29
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First, and it goes without saying, respect.

Second, IMHO, you should move your focus a bit to the side, not direct software development

Project Management, SCRUM, Agile, ITIL and other methodologies require evangelists and specialists of every level

There must be some programs for retired / wounded military re-qualification you can use to obtain initial credentials in these fields

Mathematics and MBA also should help in landing first job there

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    Thank you for the comments, and advice. I greatly appreciate it. Definitely an option I will pursue. – Semper_Fi88 Mar 27 at 2:23
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I agree with d_hippo's answer as well as the one from Tymoteusz, but would like to give some additional background information targeting your original question whether someone would hire you:

There are plenty of startups and middle sized or larger sized company who in principle would hire juniors. Some do it for the right reasons, i.e. because they want someone to deal with entry level stuff and to raise their own future employees. Some do it for the wrong reasons, like going for cheap work force potentially not caring for the quality of the software. Startups and young companies often fall into this category. Especially in gaming to my experience. For you, initially it should not matter which type of company you get into. Although the first type would most likely be better for your personal development in terms of guidance, the latter type typically comes with more risk that the environment will be awful and you won't learn that much - it can also come with a great chance to choose your own direction and quickly get a hold of many things simply because you have to. There are however also companies who won't hire juniors on principle, especially if they seem untrained and come with low prior qualifications. The larger a company the more likely it has hiring protocols that dictate what to look for in candidates such that they might automatically filter you out. But that can also be a good thing: If they filter you out directly on the application level, no time wasted on an interview. One caveat for startups and especially for gaming startups: They often have particular geeky and young company culture and might consider you a bad cultural fit if you don't fit into that (again, doesn't apply to all). So try to gauge whether it is worth applying and try to fit in - but without acting like someone else (that typically shows^^). I.e. if you feel that they are very into say gaming, up-front try to come up with one or two games you played yourself when you were young or still play - just in case the topic comes up you don't need to search for words. Same applies for other topics - don't push in trying to appear like one of them, but if you can, have something ready where you actually are similar/have fitting interests.

Your background doesn't play much role, but if you can gauge what the company is looking for you can play it to your advantage: Are you gonna be working alone on a project? Then point out you're self-taught and your life as a sniper meant that you can well work alone and concentrate on your given task without someone looking over your shoulder. They employ pair programming? Perfect for you, as you are used to work with your spotter (made up example, might not exactly match but you get the idea I hope). Don't overdo this, one such reference per interview is enough. My main point is, in principle it does not matter, but you can spin it as a pro for you. Same thing others do with their hobbies etc. Perhaps you happen to apply at a company that does a shooter, then you can second as a military advisor ;)

All in all, you will need to look for job ads that want a junior developer, then apply, and if an interview happens, find out as much about the company and your supposed role before and during the interview and try to make yourself the best match possible. Just like anyone else. If the ad asks for a technology you don't know yet, read up on it before the interview just so you understand some terms. Don't lie, but be honest and tell them, you have no experience with it, but are eager to learn it. They may hire you or not, but that way you also take something for you out of it and get better at interviewing.

And as some other answers already suggest, also look at the fringes:

  • Project managers rarely need any formal skill and are not necessarily "above" the team, they can be a nice entrance position
  • QA: Manual testers also often don't have much formal requirements and can be a way to get into the industry
  • Community Management is also often an entrance position in gaming
  • (System) Administration: might not be an easier entrance by itself, but if we go by the cliché might fit your skill set: it requires patience, a keen eye for details and a clear head under stress.
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  • man thank you so much for the input. Those are some great tips that I wouldn’t have been aware of. Awesome, thanks again. – Semper_Fi88 Mar 28 at 1:23

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