Welcome to the third episode of CCS Learning Academy’s podcast, Your Next Mission. Designed to help Veterans craft their civilian lives, today’s podcast features Taylor Wilson, founder and host of The Resourceful Vet on YouTube. Taylor shares his transition journey, how he stepped into his technology career, and what he’s doing to help other transitioning Vets access the benefits and resources they deserve to create a successful civilian life.
Kajal Shelat is CCS Learning Academy’s Business Development Manager. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and has 10+ years in the education and professional training sector. She specializes in developing sustainable partnerships and implementing technology training solutions for private and public entities. She uses her passion for education and business to keep our programs current, engaging, and relevant to today’s professionals.
Maurice Wilson is on CCS Learning Academy’s Board of Advisors. A retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer with 25 years of service, Maurice is the President/Executive Director of the National Veterans Transition Services, Inc. (NVTSI), a non-profit organization he co-founded with retired Rear Admiral Ronne Froman after serving as an advisory member for the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE).
Taylor Wilson is a former Force Recon Communications Marine and disabled Veteran. He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two pug puppies, Bob and Boba. He’s passionate about helping veterans and spouses discover the military-related resources and benefits they deserve, including VA disability compensation. He’s also on a mission to help Vets find high-paying jobs in tech. He currently works in the Salesforce Technology ecosystem as a Systems Administrator.
Kajal: I am here with Maurice Wilson. He is a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer with 25 years of service. Maurice is the president and executive director of the National Veterans Transition Services and REBOOT, which is a nonprofit organization that he founded.
I’m also here with Taylor Wilson, who is a former force recon communication Marine and disabled Veteran. He lives out here in San Diego with his wife and their two pugs, Bob and Boba.
Taylor loves helping Veterans and spouses discover the resources and benefits they deserve,. Including VA disability, compensation, and high-paying jobs in tech. He currently works in the Salesforce technology ecosystem as a system administrator, so he is in the tech field. He has his own YouTube channel called The Resourceful Vet.
You can learn more about all the resources and all the benefits you definitely deserve by checking that out, we’ll also add a link to this podcast, so you can follow his YouTube channel there.
Welcome to our third podcast. Super happy to have you both.
Maurice: Definitely a pleasure to be back.
Kajal: Thanks, Taylor. I’ve mentioned this statistic before: Nearly two-thirds of new Veterans say they face difficulty transitioning into civilian life. This podcast is all about helping Veterans find their identity after service and offering some guidance on how to achieve that.
We bring in amazing guests that tell their background, their history and offer tips, tricks, anything that can help as you transition and find your identity.
So as we get into it, Taylor, I want to ask you some questions and get a little of your history. Walk us through your military career.
Taylor: Yeah. Sounds great. My name is Taylor Wilson. I’m originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, born and raised. And if you know anything about the Midwest, football is a religion. I say that because I grew up in a very competitive environment, going to one of the top high school football teams in the nation and having the greatest high school football coach in Oklahoma state history.
When I was 14, my parents divorced. I had to grow up quick and that’s when I knew I wanted to go into the Marines and, you know, create a life. So that’s how it all started.
Kajal: Great. That sounds like a very disciplined childhood and that you had a little bit of an entrepreneurial spirit even at early on.
Taylor: I started working for my grandfather when I was 14. With my parents’ divorce and having to live with different friends and family was pretty rough. I realized early on that if I wanted to make anything in life, I was going to have to do it. That’s what got me thinking more entrepreneurially. Today I, reflect back a lot in what my grandfather’s done pushing me to never stop.
Kajal: Tell us a little bit about your military career. Walk us through that. What got you interested in being a Marine?
Taylor: Actually, it was deciding between becoming a Navy Seal or going to the Marines. But I have to say, those dress blues stand out. I felt like the Marines really called to me, so I ended up joining the Marine Corps.
Going abroad, lived in Okinawa, Japan for two years. I served in a number of roles. My primary job was as a field radio operator. I was also military police for some time. In my last command, I ended up going to force recon and being a communications team leader. That was one of the hardest, but most growth experiences that I’ve ever gone through in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Kajal: When did you leave the service?
Taylor: I ended up leaving the military in 2016. At the time I was deciding whether I was going to go back to Oklahoma or if I was going to stay in San Diego. But between the beaches, the weather, and now my wife, I was sold. I ended up staying.
Kajal: Tell us a little bit about your transition into civilian life. What was that like and were you prepared for it at all?
Taylor: First off, I’ll say that it was definitely scary in the sense that being in the military, you’re kind of groomed with this checklist: this is what you do, and this is how you do it, go execute. It’s like when you graduate high school. It’s like, “Okay, what’s next?” If you don’t have a goal or vision or know what you want to do, you feel kind of lost.
What I ended up doing was I went through TRS transition readiness seminar. Some people refer to it as TAPs. I ended up going through that twice because it was one of the best things I could have done.
If you know anything about TAPs or TRS, it’s just a firehose of information: Here’s a resume, here’s LinkedIn, here’s the VA. On and on and on. It’s in one ear and out the other. For a lot of people, and from what I experienced, it was check in the box to check out. You weren’t really absorbing information. You’re just going through the motions.
For me going through that first time, I still had a lot of questions and things I wasn’t sure about. It exposed me to these resources and benefits available for Veterans and how I could take advantage of them and use them to my benefit.
Transitioning to civilian life was definitely scary. One of my best friends who was in the Marines with me ended up taking his own life and that was really hard. A lot of that was due to his service-connected disability. There are a lot of Veterans out there who don’t know about these resources and benefits. Knowing can save a life. That’s what really had me asking what are the resources I can use that can really help me succeed as a civilian.
Kajal: Maurice, you live and breathe this every day. As far as helping Veterans transition out, is Taylor’s story similar to what you hear from Veterans today? I know Taylor was getting out of 2016 but is this happening in 2021 as well?
Maurice: For the most part yes. But there are always exceptions as far as what each individual does with his or her own unique transition. I really appreciate it hearing Taylor’s version. In fact, earlier today, I was in another session listening to Rear Admiral Mark Bomber, talk about his transition and what he did. I’ve heard literally thousands of stories of how people transition. When I look for the common denominator, as far as who’s been successful, it’s when the individual takes personal responsibility for their transition and starts to planning as Taylor did.
And he’s spot on when it comes to the TRS/TAP course. The government’s doing all it can to get that information to everyone. However, sometimes, as Taylor put it. It’s like getting information with a fire hose. It may be a good idea to go through it twice maybe three times. Because you hear more as you begin to learn. The greatest challenge that Veterans face is navigating benefits, programs, and services.
Another big challenge is finding out what they want to do. Taylor. I’d love to hear how you made that pivot from what you were doing in the Marine Corps to what you’re doing now. When did that switch turn on inside your head? Was it during the transition or was it after you got out?
Taylor: Great question, Maurice. Thank you for that. When I was transitioning, I had already set my mind on taking action, no matter how small or how big. One of the first things I did was enroll in what’s called MASS. It’s a program you can take while you’re still in and they give you English and math preparation for college. I knew I wanted to go ahead and use my GI bill once I got out to go to school and have some money coming in.
At the end of the day, one of the biggest goals most veterans face is that financial obstacle. You’re going from getting a consistent paycheck not having one. You have to look for a job. Maybe that’s something you’ve never done. I ended up taking a lot of college classes on-base while I was in and then taking MASS. When I transitioned, I took TRS the last month before I got out.
When I was on terminal leave, I asked the TRS people if I could come back and go through it again. And they said that was fine so I went through it again. And then, even after going through that second time, I would stay after and talk to the VA reps. I signed up for any and every different little thing I could just to find out, what is this monster of a beast VA: What is this VA disability? What is this GI bill? There’s more to it than a headline or what they tell you. There’s the fine print. I wanted to understand that because I was like, “wait, you’re telling me I can get paid to go to school? How does that work?” I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any gray area I didn’t understand, although, there are always gray areas with these things. I didn’t have a place so I had to figure out quickly what am I going to do, what are actions I can take financially to set myself up for success.
I ended up transitioning out. June started my terminal leave so I had a couple of weeks of paychecks coming in. Then enrolled in a local community college and was able to start taking classes a month later. My GI bill money kicked in and I had a part-time job. I got all those actions, plus enrolling in the services through the VA and getting healthcare and getting my service-connected disabilities. That all really helped me succeed.
I just lost one of my best friends. I’ve lost several others throughout the year years, but,I knew that if I was going to do this there was more to it than going back to my mom’s couch.I wanted to make sure I was set up for success. That’s what really motivated me. Doing this right involved taking action and having accountability for myself because no one else was going to hold my hand through this
Maurice: That’s spot on. One of the things that we have discovered in REBOOT is that most of the people who are successful do exactly what you just said. They take responsibility for all aspects of their transition. That’s not to say that people aren’t taking responsibility, but you really went overboard, which is very important in that whole process. Let me ask you did you get any personal coaching aside from going through MASS and TAP TRS twice?
Taylor: My cousin, who I considered a mentor, introduced me to a program called Landmark. Landmark is focused on professional development and the military, especially the Marine Corps. They like to throw around jargon words, like kill, good to go, all the different lingos depending on your branch of service.
I knew I wanted to expand my vocabulary and become more effective in my leadership skills and traits. That’s what I got introduced to at Landmark. I went through what’s called the Landmark Forum then several other courses through their introduction leadership program. Mentally, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. If anyone’s out there is listening totally worth it. Will transform you to another level.
I ended up getting into Landmark and doing a lot of their curriculum just so I could continue to grow and develop and continue to expand my lexicon, understanding, and knowledge. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about what you do know, it’s about what you don’t know. Understanding what you don’t know is only going to help you expand
Maurice: Absolutely. I think that’s what really hinders a lot of people. Whatever you don’t know is what’s really going to come back and bite you so learn all you can.
Taylor a quick question. Did you see combat by any chance?
Taylor: I wasn’t actually in any combat myself. I was over there when they were shooting rockets off in Korea and all of that, but no direct combat.
Maurice: Let me ask you another question. What was your biggest transition challenge? You seem to be a very forward-thinking self-starter, highly motivated creative, but, as smart as we are, we still are confronted with some obstacles, some challenges that we have to overcome. What was that big transition challenge for you?
Taylor: I struggle with anxiety, depression, and there were addictions. At the time, I wasn’t seeking help in therapy and taking on those resources. So at first, it was hard because I was struggling with mental health, physical disabilities, and addictions. That really slowed me down. Again, understanding the whole VA disability process. Understanding that I could not just go and get a job, but really start to understand what career I wanted to go into and landing a job in that field.
Maurice: On that note, when did you decide that you found your fit? At what point during what we call the transition timeline?
I love that Taylor mentioned that to have a successful transition. Typically, you want to start two years before your separation date. There’s a DoD, My Transition Timeline document that outlines, all the steps and things you need to do now. I’m going to ask Taylor if he would send me some of the things that he did because we’ve recently developed a Managing Your Transition Timeline app.
The DoD number of tasks is up to like 55. We want to have conversations like this with people like Taylor to add to this app. Landmark could be another option people don’t know about. What you said is so important, it’s what you don’t know. That’s the greatest challenge for transitioning service members; we just don’t know what’s out there. There’s no one place where you get it all. We’re trying to, to overcome that.
So when did the light bulb click in your head? When did you say, “Hey, here’s what I want to do. And I’m going to go full bore, full steam ahead?”
Taylor: When I got out of the military in 2016, I was a little lost in the sense that I was hanging around the wrong crowd of people and going to school and I wasn’t making the best decisions at the time. Being young and just partying. Just being wild.
Once I got into Landmark, six months outside of the military, and went through one of their leadership programs, that’s when the light bulb really started to turn on. I started to really understand what the VA was and how the process works. That’s when I was able to take what’s called a CMP exam and get seen for some of the issues I had been dealing with and, get the resources that were there for me.
On a personal note, when it comes to health and fitness, the gym is my sanctuary. Going to the gym, doing Landmark, and continuing to seek services through the VA, from disability to your GI bill and like. They have other programs too. A mix of all that helped me, but also most importantly, what I think a lot of Veterans understand or don’t understand is when they leave, they also leave that community. Being a fish out of water and having to transition and be in a new foreign territory, or realm, so to speak. It’s trying to find that tribe. I found that through Landmark and going to school and the gym. Everyone finds their own tribe in their own way. Finding a community you can be part of is really crucial to helping you succeed.
Maurice: That’s a perfect segue into my final question With that in mind, with regards to ongoing moral support or mental support or wellness support or team support, what’s your secret to that? Do you have a community support group? Whether it’s Wounded Warrior Project or several others out there Team Red, White and Blue, Mission Hire Me or The Mission Continues, who are you hanging out with?
Taylor: There’s an app called Veterati. They offer mentorship. And whether you’re a mentee or mentor, Veterati is known throughout the Veteran community because they give you access to a mentor.
I’d been going through school and trying to figure out everything. I could write but felt like I needed some guidance, especially when it came to going into a career field, which later going into tech like I did, I couldn’t just try to figure it out. Go through this blindly. That’s when I discovered Veterati and ended up connecting with some of the top people in the world, in their industries. Just to name a few David Nava, Chris Hoffman, and others Getting on the phone and having a one-hour phone call with somebody really can make a difference. That’s what helped me to get to the next level. It’s not about knowing everything, it’s about knowing the right people. Veterati gives you access to that.
Maurice: What you said is so important. You’ve got to have your tribe. Someone you can go back to, to give you a different perspective, that you can bounce things off of and make sense of. There’s also another group called American Corporate Partners. You also have The Mission Continues, Team Rubicon, Team Red, White, and Blue, Woodward, A Project… That’s just a few of some of these teams. There’s also the IAVA, which is the Iraq, Afghanistan, Veterans of America.
Great feedback, Taylor. I’m really proud of you and your approach to transition. Everyone can learn from you. So kudos and job well done.
Kajal: Thanks, guys. All great information. Taylor, I think you’re listing off really great resources. This is what the podcast is all about offering resources to go to. We’ll add them to our podcast links. Lots of resources. We can probably have podcasts after podcasts just on all the various resources there are available and how to really tap into them. The common theme is that the resources are out there but it is the personal responsibility to go seek them, find the tribe, find those connections, connect with people and maybe even get outside of your box a little bit. Find the resources that are available and can guide you in that right direction and find that identity.
And as we speak about identity Taylor, I wanted to ask you about, how you got into the tech sector, what drew you to the tech sector after being a Marine, and what about being in the digital economy is important to you.
Taylor: I ended up going to a community college and then I went on to San Diego State. At the time, I wanted to go into the CIA or FBI or do something in a three-letter but then I realized that life was cut out for me anymore. I wanted a family and I had certain other personal goals I wanted to accomplish.
So when I was at San Diego State, I applied and had the opportunity to become the program coordinator for San Diego State’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Program. If you’ve ever been a program coordinator, it can be a little challenging. For me, the case was “hey, we have a Veteran program, by the way, we need you to figure out how to run it. Okay. Go run it”
Being at a college with over 40,000 students out of those 40,000 plus students, I only had about a thousand students that were Veterans. My job was to find Veterans who were interested in starting their own business and getting them to enroll in our program – which wasn’t very easy. Just like Shark Tank. You come in, you pitch and then if you make it, you come through our entrepreneurship bootcamp. Then you go through that and then if you still make it, then you get funding, and we set you up.
Doing all of that, I had to learn how to run and manage multiple social media websites. I had to learn how to do email marketing. I had to learn how to network. It was a lot of different, random hats I had to wear and do. Being a millennial, we’re already raised in a tech-savvy sense with our phones nowadays. It had me thinking at the time. I had this degree and my philosophy is unless you have a STEM degree (science, technology, engineering, math), employers don’t really care what you have because it doesn’t really stand out.
You can get tech certifications and those will stand out because if you’re going for a tech job and you’re certified in that technical application, what does a general business degree going to do? You need good versus a technical certification.
So that is what started my thinking. Then a friend mentioned, “Hey, you should check out Vet Force, which is known as Salesforce Military now. I was like, ”Vet Force? What is Vet force?” I knew I wanted to go into sales. You know, I wanted to have a career, but at the same time I had this degree that didn’t really do much for me because when people ask me about my degree and I go international security, conflict resolution, the first thing is people go, “well, what is that?” Then I say, “it’s a political science, economics, and warfare, which, helps you understand more about the world, but it doesn’t really help you in a technical sense.”
That’s when I realized I exhausted all my GI bills and that’s when I got into Salesforce, Military, which if you’re not familiar with Salesforce, military, you get thousands of dollars of free training to set you up to go get a six-figure plus job. I knew I didn’t want to spend years and waste time trying to go from job to job. I wanted to get into something and I wanted to grow no matter how challenging it was. That’s when tech really started to be my calling.
Kajal: What I thought about as you were talking about the necessary skill sets that are needed to get into tech. I think you said it’s not necessarily about the degree unless it’s STEM and we say that cringingly because we don’t want to discourage people from getting their degrees or negate their degrees, but I was seeing a statistic by the national skills coalition. 52% of the U.S. jobs require skill training beyond high school, but not a four-year college degree. So a little more than half of the jobs that are the actual skillset, that those types of certifications that are needed to be on the job. And I think that’s more so in the technology sector than any other sector because you have to have certain skill sets to be on a certain project.
I think that is useful for those who are listening. Absolutely get your degrees and education is highly important. I’ve been in the education sector. 11 years and I am a big advocate for that. I’ve also worked for universities before so I’m very much a proponent of it. But we see more and more, trends are leading to the certification realm where they outweigh the degree. So keep that in mind, as you transition out and see what’s out there You know, getting into tech and whether you’re super into tech or you want to get into tech sales or something like that.
Do you find Taylor that having backgrounds in technology in the service you absolutely have to have it in order to get a job in the civilian world in technology?
Taylor: I would say the only thing you need is ambition and persistence because at the end of the day, no matter what role you go into, especially in tech, chances are, you’re probably not going to know everything on day one. At the same time, there’s a book out there it’s called The First 90 Days. If you haven’t heard of it, I highly recommend it. It explains that in your first 90 days on a job, you’re really just learning about your role. The hard part is getting the role and getting that job. But once you get past that, as long as you have ambition, persistence, and you’re willing to learn then you’ll succeed and you’ll be fine. I think the most important thing really is just enhancing your communication skills because that translates to everything in life. That communication, you know, that makes you or breaks you. You know, that’s, that’s really all you need is just, do you have heart or not?
Kajal: Do you see that end goal? Do you see that vision for yourself? I think that is definitely at that driving force. Have you heard of any common challenges that you see Veterans face when they’re trying to enter the tech sector?
Taylor: The biggest challenge I see is a lot of Veterans just don’t know where to start. That was my case at first. I knew I wanted to go into tech but I wasn’t sure. But again, there are all these different programs out there. I highly recommend if you haven’t heard of Salesforce, definitely check out Salesforce Military. The thing about Salesforce that I love is they have a checklist. A lot of Vets, including myself, just want a cookie-cutter template and approach: “Tell me step one, then what’s step two, what’s step three…” I have the Salesforce Military 10 Step Guide. If you’re interested in learning about Salesforce, I can definitely send you a link to that. We also have it on the Resourceful Vet, my YouTube channel.
I think the biggest thing is understanding where to start. Having these programs out there that these tech companies have programs… We’re going more and more online and virtual, more and more programs developed technically for Veterans, which is great. So, my advice, find a company or a technology or an application you’re interested in and research if they have a Veteran program. Start there.
Kajal: That’s really good advice. And CCS Learning Academy is a tech organization. We know a lot of quality talent is readily available in those who have transitioned from the Armed Forces. We use our 24 years of technical experience, our technical training experience and we keep talent up-to-date and relevant in the workplace.
So the things that are trending now, like cybersecurity, that’s a pretty hot topic. It’s going to be ongoing. AI artificial intelligence is going to be ongoing as well. That’s really looking into the future.
We have a quiz which is pretty neat. We’ll add it to the link. It’s Which Tech Specialty Is Right for You. It’s a really neat quiz that you can go answer a few questions and see where your focus could lie based on your previous experiences and the things that you’re interested in to guide you and get you familiar with like, “oh, maybe I want to get into project management. I’ve done a little bit of project management, leading teams before maybe this is an area I want to go into.” Or, if you really love data or numbers, maybe a business analyst or a data engineer.
So, Taylor, in every episode, I’m going to ask three questions in the hot seat so I’m going to ask you the questions as well. What is your greatest fear?
Taylor: My greatest fear is Veterans being stagnant. What I mean by that is eight out of ten Veterans are not receiving their rightful VA benefits. And there are roughly about 20 million Veterans here in America today, which means 75% of those veterans don’t have any benefits at all. That’s either from just not knowing about it or just not hearing anything about this. It bothers me because you serve, you deserve that.
And the same goes with, tech now. Salesforce alone by 2022, there are over 4 million jobs that are going to be available within the Salesforce ecosystem. And a lot of those Salesforce jobs, you’re making over six figures a year. And these companies want to hire Vets because one, we already have a background and experience of professionalism, leadership. And two, it helps the company just grow.
It bothers me when I hear Veterans don’t know about any of these resources and benefits. They’re back living on their mother’s couch or they’re going through some tough stuff. If they had known about these resources or benefits or been able to get connected to disability for their back or mental health issues and getting seen in therapy, I think that would really help. So, I’d say that’s my greatest fear.
Kajal: That’s definitely a lot to take in. What is your biggest challenge right now?
Taylor: I’d say my biggest challenge is getting my message out to all Veterans that need access to the resources and benefits that they deserve, including VA disability and earning these high-paying tech jobs.
Kajal: Yeah, absolutely. And in the theme of this podcast, what would you say is your next mission?
Taylor: My next mission would be to educate and help guide as many Veterans as I can. And military spouses. Understanding and accessing the resources of benefits they deserve from their VA disability to education. And understanding and learning and navigating the job market and landing jobs and careers in tech.
Kajal: Thanks, Taylor. You’re a true advocate.
That concludes our third episode of Your Next Mission. I want to thank Maurice and Taylor for their time and insights today.
Maurice: Taylor, I want to echo what Kajal said. Great interview, great passion, great, responses. We’re, really proud of you. Glad you’re part of the team. Thank you for your service and Simper Fi.
Taylor: I appreciate it, Maurice. And I just wanted to say one more thing too, for the audience out there.
Some advice I have for any transitioning Vets that are looking to get into tech. There’s what I call the information technology success triangle. It’s really a ladder of three things: experience, certifications and personal brand.
Kajal: Taylor, where can we find more about you?
Taylor: Any Veterans out there wanting to learn more about the resources and benefits they deserve can reach me at ResourcefulVet.com or my YouTube channel, the Resourceful Vet. Thank you.
Kajal: Thanks, Taylor. And Maurice, where can our listeners find out about you?
Maurice: To learn more about what we’re doing as well as the REBOOT workshop, go to www.rebootworkshop.vet.
Kajal: Thanks, everybody.
Thanks for listening! If you’d like more information about CCS Global Tech’s Veteran-focused program, please visit the Veterans section of our website. If you’re interested in technology training and certifications, visit the CCS Learning Academy website.