2010 washington dc Shifting vets into tech jobs one internship at a time

U.S. Army veteran Julienne Denecke on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2010 during her ROTC Battalion’s weekly Friday morning physical fitness training. (Courtesy Julienne Denecke)

By Caitlin M. Kenney

As a logistics officer in the Army, Julienne Denecke made sure equipment made it to its destination. As a veteran, she’s now making sure that future veterans have a successful ‘Shift’ into technology jobs.

But before she was helping transitioning service members, she served for five years and deployed to Qatar in 2014 to help with the pre-positioned equipment stock in the region. The responsibilities of managing soldiers and equipment forced her to grow up fast.

“You realize very quickly that you have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and I think with that responsibility comes a very strong amount of growth,” she said in  a recent interview.

After leaving the Army she joined a defense contractor, but within a year she knew she wanted to do something else. Denecke had an opportunity through the Service Women’s Action Network to go on a trip to with other women veterans to visit major technology companies—such as Microsoft and Twitter– and meet their veteran employees.

“So seeing other veterans do that and in these very interesting companies was kind of the first time I started thinking that I didn’t need to just stay in government necessarily,” she said.

Mike Slagh, one of the founders of VetTechTrek which organized the trip Denecke went on, went on to found the company Shift.

Shift’s mission is to transform the skills of transitioning veterans into tech careers and Slagh hired Denecke as the program manager to help run their new Military Fellows Program.

9 7 2014 camp as sayliyah Shifting vets into tech jobs one internship at a time

Julienne Denecke during a night mission at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar in 2014, where they loaded equipment to send to Iraq. (Courtesy Julienne Denecke)

The Department of Defense’s SkillBridge initiative allows service members who are within 180 days of separating to apply with companies like Shift to find internships, fellowships or apprenticeships in the civilian sector in order to gain skills and experience while still being paid by the military. Shift partners with technology companies–including Uber, Salesforce, and Okta– who want to hire veterans.

Their fellowship program started in August and by February Denecke said they anticipate to have 40 people in the program working in Silicon Valley at technology companies.

“Our intent is that they’ll be hired by the company and not necessarily perhaps in the role that they were interning in or doing their fellowship in, but in a role that’s the best fit for them,” she said. That includes encouraging the service members to explore the company’s job positions and networking while in the fellowship program.

Shift is also working to create a skills translator in addition to the fellows program.

“We acknowledge that the transition process is hard but we think that veterans are great in tech companies because they’re used to the fast pace environment, they’re used to being adaptive and resourceful and that’s really a great fit,” she said.

In partnership with the Service Women’s Action Network, we are featuring an inspiring woman veteran each month. Check out our last featured veteran: U.S. Air Force veteran “MJ” Hegar

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney | Caitlin@ConnectingVets.com

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