From the Marines to Software Developer: Johnny's Military Transition Story


Blue portrait styled line art of a man who is a software developer named Johnny

MetroStar Systems is featuring three veterans who have transitioned from the military to the civilian workforce. This mini-series will reflect their personal journey and their role with MetroStar. Our Senior Software Developer, Johnny, is our third feature.

In 2003, Johnny enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and worked for four years as a Combat Engineer.

Combat Engineers are the builders, maintainers, and power supplies for the Marine Corps, and they are often on the front-line of dangerous combat environments.

"We did a lot of construction, but given the IED problems, a larger part of my job was finding IED's and clearing minefields," Johnny said.

During his time as a Combat Engineer, he started to think about the career he would like to pursue after he transitioned out of the military.

Getting the Degree

After two tours in Iraq, Johnny was ready to pursue his passion for computers.

"My plan all along was to do four years, receive the GI Bill, and go to college," Johnny said. "I applied for a few schools before I got out, so I had worked out ahead of time where I wanted to go."

Despite knowing college was the right path for his post-military journey, he doesn't believe college is necessary for everyone leaving the military.

"It's about finding the right path and creating a plan that fits for you," Johnny said. "All things aside, I know a lot of guys who struggled when getting out because it's a different environment, and you don't have your buddies around all the time."

Johnny's path led him to enroll at George Mason University, where his wife was also a student.

Other veterans may not want to attend college and are stressed about the correct journey to go on, but Johnny said, "One of the most important things is to make an effort to find a support system post-military."

Charting His Course

In high school, Johnny was interested in the engineering field but soon realized he was genuinely more interested in just computers.

"Computer Engineering was a mix of everything I thought I wanted. Although, I quickly learned that I didn't enjoy the engineering aspect of the major, but I did enjoy the programming classes. I changed my major to Computer Science in the end," he said.

He balanced his schoolwork while working full-time. He says his military background helped him stay organized during his busy schedule.

"I met Mo (MetroStar’s SVP of Growth) at a George Mason job fair, and at that time, I was working for TSA. I didn't have experience in IT (information technology) yet, but that was the path I knew I wanted to go down," Johnny said.

Johnny knew he wanted to become a programmer, and due to his military background, MetroStar had programs that aligned well with his background.

Johnny has been a part of the MetroStar team for 12 years now and is currently a Senior Software Developer with a focus on cloud, container technologies, and angular applications.

Overcoming Obstacles

"Once a Marine, Always a Marine," reads the content on the Marine Corps veteran’s page. The traits one can learn in the military are more beneficial to veterans than they may think.

"Leadership, reliability, and hard work are traits you can gain in the military that will help you in the workforce," Johnny said, "Working hard in extreme environments is one of the contexts of being in the military, so everything afterward seems a little easier."

Johnny's support system, career fairs, and the resource classes the Marine Corps offer truly helped him during his transition process. There were still obstacles to overcome, though.

"One of the biggest obstacles is money," Johnny said. "Money can cause a lot of stress for people. If you are fortunate enough to know you will leave the military, then it's essential to create a plan for your expenses."

Johnny recommends being realistic with what you can afford because you may be used to the military paying for your essentials and your previous income being mostly disposable.

"Saving before you get out is very helpful," Johnny said. "You don't want to blow that money. Research what finances are going to look like for you specifically."

A reoccurring theme among veterans is that an abundance of resources are available to veterans during their transition process. The internet and social media have created a space for readily accessible information. Finding a path that is right for you, no matter what others are doing, is the key to success.

"It's an entirely different world, so the more you can do to prepare than the better," Johnny said. "Once you're actually in the workforce, you should work hard because people will be excited to help a veteran if you show you are willing to work for it."

Johnny started at MetroStar with a career path in mind, but it was his continued hard work that helped him thrive. The soft skills he had picked up in the military fit into the core virtues of MetroStar long before his degree led him to be a software developer. 

Read more military to workforce transition stories.


Are you a transitioning veteran?

Send a message to Debbie Peterson to talk about career opportunities.

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