I actually wrote this last weekend, on a plane to San Fran (a seven-hour flight. yikes). But before going into that, I wanted to tell y’all about the EXCITING week this blog had! In the course of eight days, I had three different Air Force members reach out about Missiles and JAG. One is at the Academy, one is Active Duty, and one is about to graduate from ROTC – and they all found me through Legally Blonde AF. I AM PUMPED! As I’ve said before, I started blogging to stay in touch with friends and family, and connect with people about the unique aspects of my AF career. Knowing that the blog itself is (GOOGLE-ABLE) and actually being accessed by people who need it, is incredibly exciting.
Three quick items. First, I got my fall grades back and they were better than expected! YAY!!!! Second, I’m halfway through So You Want To Talk About Race? Truthfully, it’s a hard read. It’s hard to acknowledge that racism is alive and well in this country, and I haven’t done anything about it yet. But I’m learning. And third, as promised…the Bachelor is getting ridiculous. (If you don’t watch, next paragraph). Thoughts: Tammy is hilarious, Aliyah is ANNOYING, I love Lawyer Kelley, Kelsey needs to get over this champagne thing, I am #TeamMadison no matter how many fake comments she posts, and Victoria is 😍🔥.
NOW – back to the United flight. This was not just a fun weekend lark; nah, this is a WORK trip for the Black Family Fellowship (with only the tiniest bit of fun built in). Almost all 25 BFFs traveled to chat with Silicon Valley tech companies about their contributions (or detriment) to national security, and how they incorporate veterans into their work. San Fran is also home to the largest VA in the country, and we were lucky to visit its beautiful campus. I had to leave the trip early because of class, but I’m very, very glad we went.
The cool thing is, the entire trip was orchestrated by members of the cohort. We originally brainstormed several ideas for service projects – a National Public Service initiative, preservation of WWII veterans and history, veterans in tech, global warming’s impact on national security, and veteran homelessness, to name a few. Then, we determined the best places to carry out each project. There, we ended up with D.C., Seattle, New Orleans, and San Francisco. My vote was for NOLA and WWII preservation, but the group ultimately chose the tech trip to San Fran. Honestly, we all agreed anything was better than D.C. (or Boston) in January! Even the dissenting voices looked forward to wine and intriguing conversations.
In our four days, the trip planners set up multiple meetings with various companies and Valley veterans. Besides the Veterans Home, I visited LinkedIn and Palantir, and attended dinner with tech entrepreneur Raj Shah and organizational expert Ori Brafman. Ori wrote The Starfish and the Spider and Radical Inclusion, the latter of which was co-authored by retired General Martin Dempsey (a big deal in the mil world!)
From these chats, I learned the following:
- Some companies are doing a lot to recruit veterans, but that movement comes mostly from former veterans. The onus is still on vets to prove they will be a valuable asset in a civilian environment.
- The divide between civilians and military is greater than ever. According to one speaker, it’s the biggest threat to America’s national security. Silicon Valley has a traditionally strained relationship with the US government, and the military is part of that government. Since there are no bases in/near San Francisco, the tech companies keep their distance from the military, rather than creating helpful relationships. That same speaker was very encouraged by our visit, but urged us to come back and stay longer.
- MAN there is some cool tech out there. At Palantir, we got demos of equipment that my friends use while deployed – and that was badass. Palantir has a great working relationship with various military bodies, which is encouraging! Of course, those are built off military contracts…but still.
- LinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool when used correctly. The LinkedIn presenter suggested we make a profile about 6-9 months before leaving the military, and gave us tips to maximize chances of being found and hired. Definitely things to keep in mind…eight years from now.
- Finally, we were on the VA campus on the morning of the 49ers-Packers game. EVERYONE was wearing Niners gear. When I jokingly asked where they would watch the game, our tour guide shrugged and said, “we only have one television in the dining hall. So there, I guess.” Um…excuse me? We are in the Tech Capital, and there’s only one community television on this giant campus?! After a few more questions, we learned why. Currently, the California VA has NO WORKING RELATIONSHIP with any of the tech companies in Silicon Valley. Those companies have never sponsored/donated to these veteran homes, and the homes can’t reach out to solicit donations. That absolutely blew my mind, and not in a good way.
Can’t go all the way to CA without a little of this! Sunday was Wine Day, and we hit the Robert Mondavi and Larson Family wineries. (Mondavi was only seven minutes from where Ben and I got married, but we didn’t have time to stop by 😔).
What I loved is, that outing was much more than a casual friend day. In the past, some of the most innovative and insightful conversations were over beers, with this group. There are some vets planning to run for public office; some working on non-profits and various campaigns; some planning to stay in the military and create positive change from within. The caliber of the BFF group is insane, and this trip is a wonderful opportunity to continue these conversations.
The blog is thriving, CA is warmer than MA, and there are some young people with BIG questions and even bigger ideas for this country. And school starts again on Mon, WITH ME IN ATTENDANCE 🙌 Exciting stuff all around!!