Should You Devote Your IT Skills to the Military, or Explore Your Talent as a Civilian? by@cveasey

Should You Devote Your IT Skills to the Military, or Explore Your Talent as a Civilian?

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Clint Veasey HackerNoon profile picture

Clint Veasey

From stacking tents for the airforce to working as a full stack developer.

Circumstances and Background

After the end of a two-year vocational college course, I could not face the next 4-6 years of sitting in yet more lectures via PowerPoint. I wanted to get out there, be working, and getting paid!

Getting paid was important.

I lived in a very rough area and was desperate to get out of it. This is something that can be hard to convey, as if you have a little money or live in a nice area then further education is a bit more obtainable.

The thought of scraping by for another four years, whilst my Father had to be left in such an area (where there was a lot of petty crime -- violence and burglary) was not something I could face.

This led me to sign up for the military.

Actually, I signed up for the army initially and then was fast-tracked into the Air Force as an IT Technician (or “Computer Information System Operator Maintainer” as it was known then).

This solved two issues. I was getting paid, trained, and also the hands-on experience I craved.

After six years on an expeditionary unit (a constant cycle of deployment and exercises), the fantasy of civilian life was calling out to me.

The thought of sitting in an actual chair, at an actual desk, and going home to an actual house at 5 pm seemed too good to be true.

Target Audience

I am still a civilian now, and looking back on my past 8 years as a civilian I realize I am potentially in a position to offer a little anecdotal insight into comparing the two paths to an IT Career.

Hopefully, this will shed some light on both young people at a fork in the road, comparing the civilian and military path to gaining a career in an IT-related field.

It should also benefit employers who maybe get candidates from both backgrounds, and would like to know what the general pros and cons are.

Of course, this is my opinion, and every person should be judged on their individual strengths.

Marketable Skills

Good Employee Vs. Good Knowledge Worker

The skills imprinted on technicians from the training and reinforced via your chain of command make very good employees. Your technical knowledge is secondary to your ability to show up early, stay late, and show considerable effort at all times.

As a technician, it is your job despite rarely having any resources (often no internet, libraries or brains to pick in the desert), to just stay until it works. This is often through sheer force of will, trial-and-error, and a bit of superstition and luck.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have worked with some incredibly knowledgeable civilians who I wouldn’t entrust to prepare a bowl of cereal, but who are incredibly knowledgeable of their field and very connected and active in their related forums/internet communities where they can draw from the experience and knowledge of other workers.

I would say in general, and in my limited experience, that military tends to have a much more rounded set of skills for administrating themselves (cleaning their workspace, time management, turning up on time) and will take a lot of pride in burning the midnight oil.

Self Reliance Vs. Greater Resources

As an employer, I would appreciate if ex-military IT workers would invest in their own health and fitness in their downtime (generally speaking, there are of course some gopping bits of kit out there).

Such an employee would be a lot more self-reliant and less needy, to the extent that they may however struggle in silence (as we are generally taught not to bother your superiors with problems - just solutions (or pretty white lies at a push)).

As someone wanted to break into a civilian IT career, you will generally be working under people who know the trade better than yourself who will offer guidance and help you when you are stuck. Civilian managers often ask me “what I need” to get a job done, as opposed to being annoyed that I’ve interrupted their TV Time in the SNCO Tea Bar.

Adventure Vs. Stability

I am a bit biased here as I joined an expeditionary wing. There are of course posts in the military where you are resetting passwords in a small office for four years and the most novelty you will get is when someone brings a funny mug in.

In the military; you will have the opportunity to travel and gain some unique (character-building) life experiences. You may find yourself maturing (or aging) faster than your peers, but will find yourself still treat like you are in school and it can feel a bit jarring.


As a civilian, you will have the luxury of stability on which to build a life (home, family, you can even have hobbies that are not binge drinking and attend clubs). However, you may find that the responsibilities pile on quicker than you have been prepared for.

Closing Thoughts & Summary

As a budding ethical hacker, network engineer looking at your options I would suggest sticking with the civilian street. You’ll have a much nicer time, learn more and despite the recruitment drive to obtain “computer savvy” candidates, the military isn’t a rewarding or comfortable place for nerds. Or at least, it wasn’t when I was there.

As an employer, you probably already have a stereotype in your head that is not completely unfounded. An ex-military candidate will generally try a lot harder, but initially know a lot less but once given the opportunity and resources of their civilian counterparts can be not only hard-working but loyal.

I don’t like speaking about loyalty as it is often used as a lever to exploit employees who are underconfident in their own abilities. However, in this current job-hopping market I can understand that this is a very marketable attribute for a company looking to retain a team for more than 12 months.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Remember to take it with a pinch of salt.

Take it easy, and if you can’t take it easy then take it any way you can.



Circumstances and Background

After the end of a two-year vocational college course, I could not face the next 4-6 years of sitting in yet more lectures via PowerPoint. I wanted to get out there, be working, and getting paid!

Getting paid was important.

I lived in a very rough area and was desperate to get out of it. This is something that can be hard to convey, as if you have a little money or live in a nice area then further education is a bit more obtainable.

The thought of scraping by for another four years, whilst my Father had to be left in such an area (where there was a lot of petty crime -- violence and burglary) was not something I could face.

This led me to sign up for the military.

Actually, I signed up for the army initially and then was fast-tracked into the Air Force as an IT Technician (or “Computer Information System Operator Maintainer” as it was known then).

This solved two issues. I was getting paid, trained, and also the hands-on experience I craved.

After six years on an expeditionary unit (a constant cycle of deployment and exercises), the fantasy of civilian life was calling out to me.

The thought of sitting in an actual chair, at an actual desk, and going home to an actual house at 5 pm seemed too good to be true.

Target Audience

I am still a civilian now, and looking back on my past 8 years as a civilian I realize I am potentially in a position to offer a little anecdotal insight into comparing the two paths to an IT Career.

Hopefully, this will shed some light on both young people at a fork in the road, comparing the civilian and military path to gaining a career in an IT-related field.

It should also benefit employers who maybe get candidates from both backgrounds, and would like to know what the general pros and cons are.

Of course, this is my opinion, and every person should be judged on their individual strengths.

Marketable Skills

Good Employee Vs. Good Knowledge Worker

The skills imprinted on technicians from the training and reinforced via your chain of command make very good employees. Your technical knowledge is secondary to your ability to show up early, stay late, and show considerable effort at all times.

As a technician, it is your job despite rarely having any resources (often no internet, libraries or brains to pick in the desert), to just stay until it works. This is often through sheer force of will, trial-and-error, and a bit of superstition and luck.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have worked with some incredibly knowledgeable civilians who I wouldn’t entrust to prepare a bowl of cereal, but who are incredibly knowledgeable of their field and very connected and active in their related forums/internet communities where they can draw from the experience and knowledge of other workers.

I would say in general, and in my limited experience, that military tends to have a much more rounded set of skills for administrating themselves (cleaning their workspace, time management, turning up on time) and will take a lot of pride in burning the midnight oil.

Self Reliance Vs. Greater Resources

As an employer, I would appreciate if ex-military IT workers would invest in their own health and fitness in their downtime (generally speaking, there are of course some gopping bits of kit out there).

Such an employee would be a lot more self-reliant and less needy, to the extent that they may however struggle in silence (as we are generally taught not to bother your superiors with problems - just solutions (or pretty white lies at a push)).

As someone wanted to break into a civilian IT career, you will generally be working under people who know the trade better than yourself who will offer guidance and help you when you are stuck. Civilian managers often ask me “what I need” to get a job done, as opposed to being annoyed that I’ve interrupted their TV Time in the SNCO Tea Bar.

Adventure Vs. Stability

I am a bit biased here as I joined an expeditionary wing. There are of course posts in the military where you are resetting passwords in a small office for four years and the most novelty you will get is when someone brings a funny mug in.

In the military; you will have the opportunity to travel and gain some unique (character-building) life experiences. You may find yourself maturing (or aging) faster than your peers, but will find yourself still treat like you are in school and it can feel a bit jarring.


As a civilian, you will have the luxury of stability on which to build a life (home, family, you can even have hobbies that are not binge drinking and attend clubs). However, you may find that the responsibilities pile on quicker than you have been prepared for.

Closing Thoughts & Summary

As a budding ethical hacker, network engineer looking at your options I would suggest sticking with the civilian street. You’ll have a much nicer time, learn more and despite the recruitment drive to obtain “computer savvy” candidates, the military isn’t a rewarding or comfortable place for nerds. Or at least, it wasn’t when I was there.

As an employer, you probably already have a stereotype in your head that is not completely unfounded. An ex-military candidate will generally try a lot harder, but initially know a lot less but once given the opportunity and resources of their civilian counterparts can be not only hard-working but loyal.

I don’t like speaking about loyalty as it is often used as a lever to exploit employees who are underconfident in their own abilities. However, in this current job-hopping market I can understand that this is a very marketable attribute for a company looking to retain a team for more than 12 months.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Remember to take it with a pinch of salt.

Take it easy, and if you can’t take it easy then take it any way you can.


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