After spending yesterday afternoon at the impressive Level 39 facility in Canada Water, I have been able to reflect on the key and consistent messages that came not only from the speakers, but also the tech companies in attendance and the exhibitors around the venue. When I was leaving the military I knew I was ready to go, but there was a lot of apprehension over departing something so secure and familiar. Fear, not just about how I was going to pay my mortgage and bills, but also the concern that I wouldn’t find a job that would satisfy and surpass the benefits that I enjoyed whilst serving. I feel that this anxiety I experienced is universal amongst military personnel and dissuades them from taking the jump into the great unknown.
Throughout my career I repeatedly came into contact with people that felt they were stuck in the military and not enjoying remaining in, but had a number of reasons to not leave. This ranged from being ‘pension trapped’ to not wanting to risk sabotaging the relative security that comes with a life in uniform. Tech Vets has been set up to assist not only those people that are fearful of leaving but to also build a bridge between them and companies in the tech industry that employ the highly skilled and adaptable talent departing the forces.
The speakers and panelists yesterday, articulated in a far greater way than I ever could; the parallels between service life and civvy street, the qualities that ex-servicemen and women can bring to the tech industry, the ways in which we can thrive in those environments and the wealth of opportunities, courses and placements on offer to us all.
The Tech Vets event was a great opportunity for the tech world and service leavers to come together and hopefully begin a successful transition together. I will finish by slightly challenging General Sir Richard Barron's point during his talk; that a career in tech is not going to be given to you on a plate. I do agree with this in part, but with the Tech Vets initiative, it is being made a lot more accessible.
There’s a problem in the UK tech industry and it’s staring us in the face. The tech industry is growing at twice the rate of the wider economy and now contributes around £97bn a year, up 30pc in five years. And yet only 4% of military veterans work in ICT, which is 20% fewer than non-veterans. That’s crazy.