When John Thomas returned home from serving in Iraq in 2005, he was confronted with roadblocks while trying to transition into a civilian career. He knew that he wanted to launch his career in technology, but like many other veterans he lacked the resources to do so and was unsure if pursuing a college degree would help.
Learning about Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS) at a job fair for veterans would eventually lead him to a life-changing career opportunity. He applied to the program in May 2014 and was accepted. Since completing the WOS program, he was hired by HP in Atlanta as a Software Engineer, a role he held for over a year. He’s since worked at companies like CareerBuilder, Accenture, Fannie Mae, and Best Buy. In 2017 he founded RedBag Gifts, a company that creates personalized gift deliveries for people who can’t be with their loved ones.
So how did Thomas go from being an unemployed veteran to an entrepreneur? We caught up with him to learn more about how WOS influenced his career journey.
How has WOS helped shape your career?
WOS has equipped me with the tools to pursue my career goals. After completing classes that covered topics such as JAVA and C# programming and business management at Georgia Tech I transitioned to working on-site at HP full-time, where I developed the skill sets to successfully compete in the tech industry. The more experience I gained, the more career opportunities came along. WOS has also provided me with the knowledge-base to develop and create an amazing startup of my own and build a team of highly skilled employees.
How has WOS prepared you to become an entrepreneur?
I run a technology team of four and the skills that I learned in the WOS business and project management courses is what I use to manage my team and run my company today. My technical training enables me to effectively communicate with developers, project managers, and stakeholders.
The WOS network has also proven to be invaluable; one of my first customers was a WOS alumnus! You never know who will be a resource or client in the future.
How has WOS impacted your life?
The help and inspiration I received from WOS not only made me a better person, but it inspired me to want to get involved and give back to the veteran community. In 2016 I started a program called VetEngage that helps veterans learn about careers in cloud technology, business intelligence, analytics and data visualization. Working with online technology training schools like Udacity and Udemy and military organizations such as the Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), VetEngage has been able to provide knowledge and training opportunities for over 25 veterans in the past year.
What advice do you have for veterans who are looking for employment?
If you’re stuck, seek out the advice of friends and family; you never know where their network and advice may lead you. Take advantage of programs like WOS that can help you get started on your career path. It was an invaluable experience for me that changed my life.