Merging ETAC Inc. | usveteranjobs.com with Victory For Veterans Foundation
New Services Announcement – October 2, 2018
The old saying goes, “Change is the only constant”.
However, it is often the most feared process in life and most avoid it at any cost.
A little background on the announcements
I recently found myself in this dilemma. I founded ETAC | usveteranjobs.com and have worked the past couple of years to define a Veteran program to give my fellow Veteran brothers and sisters another option when they transition from the military. As I traveled along this journey, I was heartbroken to see so many good men and women so defeated at life. I personally spoke to many them as they explored the program and their options. And I ended many days weeping and feeling guilty about my own success since I left the US Air Force.
I have personally never been afraid of change; as a matter of fact, I may be addicted to it. I love seeing a problem and trying to fix it. I saw this situation no differently, so I attacked it. I put all of the chips on the table and I leveraged all of my financial resources to carry the company while it had a chance to mature. However, as I was doing this, I was much like a moth and one of those blue bug zappers – I got so involved in listening to the stories that I slowly inched towards the light and got burned.
The truth of the matter is, I underestimated how much our culture has changed. In my mind the problem was simple: Veterans didn’t have the right opportunities to succeed. They were being forced down paths that would lead them into degrees or outdated certifications which would never open doors. They were naïve about the industry and had no defense against the modern sales tactics used by universities and training companies to get access to their education benefits. What I never considered to be a problem was that some Veterans would go through the effort to contact us but would not put the effort in to succeed.
I so underestimated the reality of this that I modeled my pricing structure around helping them. For years I have billed thousands a day to instruct technology. I have trained thousands of engineers all paying three to five thousand to learn from me for a week. So, I felt I was doing them a great favor letting them take multiple courses and spreading them out over months for $500. I worked nights and weekends and earned less than I did the first year I left the Air Force in 1999. I not only taught and mentored, I created a web platform to make it easy for them to interact and access the training.
I was ok with this because it was a sacrifice I felt would help them, doing what no one else would do for them. The logic behind the model was that as soon as they accomplished the base certification, worked on their resume and practiced their interviewing they would likely land a job in a few months. Once at this job they would work with us to get the employer to either help pay for the remainder of the program (36 months) or they would now be able to leverage their new salary and education benefits to pay for it. It was here that I would make enough profit to sustain the business and grow.
It worked for numerous people so I was encouraged this was a good model. This led me to a set of decisions that in many ways made me blind to the truth. Over time, I found it was taking much longer for some to get the technology down. Others were very resistant to trying the job search and interviewing tactics we were coaching them on. I even tied my company name and branding into their resumes and profiles to help bring visibility to them as the program received more popularity. This meant I was now trying to survive on $500 per person for almost a year of effort. To make this worse, many were coming to us with stories of tragedy and hardship. We let many in for free. I countered this by selling my home and downsizing my life to make a smaller foot print for myself to survive on so I could wait longer for them to get the jobs. I was not alone in this endeavor as others involved with us made similar sacrifices.
The trigger point
Fast forward months and suddenly I am in a situation where I’m frustrated at seeing reality. Seeing people that are simply out for a free ride. Logging in on a Sunday night to teach a class instead of being with my family and having only a small core group show up. Having people going through the program for months and then challenging the credit card charge. People refusing to follow the process and then writing comments or reviews saying I am a crook. It took its toll; however, I am glad it proceeded this way. I needed to face the reality that if I really wanted to help people, if I wanted to mentor them, the model needed to be around the few not the many.
A few weeks ago, I considered several options for moving forward: take on investors and loans and continue as I was, just walk away, or re-structure once again. After a long few weeks I concluded that the best way forward was to merge my company with a non-profit. The logic was if I removed my income from the process it would be less frustrating when people were not giving it their all. But this felt like defeat, so it was a very difficult option for me. I bounced this idea across some close friends and family and my brother-in-law said something that helped me. He said, “It feels like you are becoming a martyr for them, why? How can you help the ones that want to do the work if you fail personally?” He had a point!
We have now moved forward with the merger with Victory For Veterans Foundation. By doing this we have brought our for-profit company under a non-profit so we will now operate as a charitable organization going forward. As part of this I accepted a seat on the Board of Directors and will remain a critical part of everything we do going forward. But at the same time, I took this as a zero-salary position. Several others involved did the same and we eliminated much of our overhead by doing this.
At the same time, we re-focused our program to account for what we have learned. The changes are below.
You can now visit our new website by either entering through https://victoryforveterans.org or through https://usveteranjobs.com. You will notice a streamlined approach to the sites. We have many programs listed and more to come soon that showcase our “Whole Veteran” approach to eliminating Veteran Suicide by Restoring Hope and Purpose. We operate under the model of Brotherhood, Community, Employment and Suicide Prevention. We offer numerous ways for people to get involved from simple donations to raffles. We host nationwide motorcycle rides and organize fundraisers while putting Flowers on Every Grave. We have a Veteran Museum that preserves some of this heritage as well as acts as a hosting location for our Warriors For Life PTSD groups. And we have the new version of the Veteran IT Program.
Veteran IT Program
We re-focused this to include 3 key areas:
This is for those that have no IT backgrounds. You will have access to our IT Foundations Course, which covers the key topics in many courses such as CCNA R&S, Network+, A+, etc. You also get access to resume builder courses and templates, including ready to use resume bullets. You will have access to recorded sessions on job searching, interviewing, corporate culture, etc.
The price is a flat fixed fee of $75. If you cannot afford the one time cost you can request a 4-month payment plan at $25 per month.
Exam Prep Workshops (CCNA)
We will run two workshops: one for the ICND1 and one for ICND2. These workshops will require that you have completed the foundations course first or can prove you have taken similar training elsewhere. We will focus on helping you get through the exam. The workshops are not meant to teach you the material from scatch, they are designed to help you focus your studies and clarify areas where you are confused. Each workshop will run for 4 weeks, 1-day per week. It will also include the exam voucher. We will only schedule these when we reach a certain number of committed registrants on the waiting list.
The price for each of these workshops is $500 and is due prior to the class starting.
The IT Apprenticeship will require a completed application and a signed employer agreement, meaning the Veteran must be employed in an IT specific position prior to enrolling. This is a multi-year program that includes more than 10 Professional-level certifications from multiple vendors.
The price of this is $4500 per year. The payment is the responsibility of the Veteran, however, many have found that their employers pay some or all of the costs.
Mentoring and Coaching
We will offer the ability to connect you with senior experts for a $60 per 1-hour session. You may purchase multiple sessions at once and reduce the costs significantly. This is sold on a case by case basis.
Q&A Community Forum
We have initiated a public forum that anyone can post questions on across a wide array of topics. In addition to this there is a well-established blog with many resources available.
We have simplified and published our job and resume board for FREE. Veterans and Employers will need to simply use the coupon code found on the website page to create a free account. We are in the process of asking the existing Veterans in the program to ensure their resumes are posted and will be sending out updates on social media inviting any recruiters or employers to post their openings for free. No fees to post and no fees to hire. We just want to connect the people. If you support what we are doing, then you or your organization can always donate to help us keep it free.
Existing Veterans in the program
For any Veterans that enrolled in our program over the last 18 months and paid the full price at the time when they enrolled then we will offer extended access, including to the soon to be updated video recordings for the courses currently on the site. For those that never paid they can now do so with the reduced prices listed above.
Mentoring and Group Sessions will be conducted on a case by case scenario. I am still committed to spend much of my free time helping the ones that are in the program now, but will only commit to those willing to do the work.
What about me?
Well this is the crazy thing about change, sometimes it surprises you. Several weeks ago, I didn’t know what I would do personally. I was burned out and not sure how I wanted to re-enter my own career after spending so much time on this endeavor. But I am happy to share that in addition to the Board position with VFV, I have accepted Board seats with two other organizations, which I will share about in the future. Very forward-looking companies doing incredible things in the Veteran space.
But the best news is that I put myself out there the same way I have been encouraging Veterans to hit the job market and within a just a week I had a very interesting decision to make. Cisco or Arista Networks – I am happy to say I chose Arista. For the past week and a half, I have been a new employee at Arista. I will be leading efforts to grow and develop a global certification program. I have renewed energy. To be surrounded by old colleagues, to be immersed in some of the coolest technology I have seen in 20 years and to have the opportunity to change how certifications are done in the market is incredible. And yes, I can see a replacement Harley in the not so far off future to make up for the sacrifices I had earlier in the year.
A final note
All-in-all the change has opened doors I probably would have never seen if I had been afraid to step out. I have more hope about my vision for the Veteran program than I had even when I started. I am enjoying a new frontier as a board member at this new phase in my career. And I am back to being fully immersed in the coolest bleeding edge data center technology in the market, so I have my full geek on.