When iAsia Brown remembers her time in the military, she looks back with a fondness for what were clearly some fine times — but she admits that going back into the “normal” workforce presented its share of challenges.
“What we go through in the military is unique only to us,” she told AfroTech. “That experience, while beneficial, is so unique that when we go back into “normal” society, we have a problem re-integrating. We not only don’t understand basic protocol — like not calling our superiors ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ — but our approach to work is completely different. But, that’s where someone like me comes in.”
Research backs up iAsia Brown’s claims.
According to Pew Research Center, about half of post-9/11 veterans say it was somewhat (32 percent) or very (16 percent) difficult for them to transition into civilian life after military service.
However, like Brown said, that’s where what she offers comes into play. Brown has helped over 100 veterans make the transition into tech in the last year, all while enjoying her job as a Data & AI Specialist at Microsoft. Brown is, herself, a veteran, having served for four years in the Air Force and 12 years in the Marines.
“When you think about what all we do in the military — whether we’re deployed to war or not — it’s difficult to trust anything outside of that experience,” she said. “We don’t ever stop to think, ‘does this make us happy?’ We only see the task at hand and work overtime to get it done. And that’s why veterans, sometimes, don’t stay at jobs for long periods of time: because when they finally realize they’re unhappy, they’re completely burned out and miserable.”
Brown says that she not only helps veterans find jobs in the tech sector through her own network, but she also talks to them in ways that only they can understand so they can appropriately manage their expectations. She also helps to build them up, mentally, so they can go into their newfound fields with a new outlook on life.
But above all else, iAsia Brown says that she’s hoping to shift the narrative, in their minds, to something more positive.
“Learning is a very different culture than the go-go-go, do-do-do culture of the armed forces,” she said. “So my goal is to not only teach veterans what they can expect from the new job, but to help them restructure their minds to put all self-doubt aside, and go ‘all in’ in this new venture.”
Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited & condensed for clarity.