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Scale Team Spotlight: Veterans at Scale

by Mark Valentine on November 10th, 2021

Scale Team Spotlight: Veterans at Scale cover

Every year, nearly 200,000 service members transition to civilian life. As a fighter pilot who served for over two decades in the U.S. Air Force, I know the challenges these men and women face. From adjusting to “normal” life, to mental health struggles, to determining a new career path, it can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate.

One of my favorite things about Scale is our CEO’s hiring philosophy. Simply put, he says to hire people who give a shit. That philosophy has brought an amazing group of people to this company who not only care about technology, but also care about our country, our government, and our service members.

As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day, we wanted to share some of our Scale veterans’ stories to honor them and their commitment to our country, and to also offer advice for those navigating the transition from service to civilian life.

What did you do in the military?

Jason Schmid: I was a U.S. Army Military Intelligence Analyst, and deployed to Iraq twice. The first time was as a part of the Iraq Survey Group, determining the disposition of Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction programs. On that mission, I was part of the team interrogating former high ranking Iraqi Regime officials. On my second deployment, I was embedded as a Tactical Intelligence Trainer in an Iraqi infantry battalion.

Dan Tadross: I was an Air Traffic Control Officer responsible for coordinating aircraft requests and the deconfliction of airspace. In my last few years of Active Duty, I had the opportunity to serve as an Innovation Advisor to the Secretary of the Navy on how to integrate AI into Aviation Command and Control (specifically how to shorten planning cycles). I also had the privilege of being a founding member of the Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). During my two years at the JAIC, I ran a number of programs from supporting testing and evaluation to establishing Project Gargoyle for Force Protection.

Brianna Hester: I was a Geospatial Analyst for 24 years. My most recent position was the Operations Superintendent of the European Partner Integration Enterprise (EPIE) where I managed a 40-person, international intelligence team operating a $5.7M Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) coalition program for combat mission planning, execution, and overall intelligence gathering and research. I oversaw ISR mission operations and imagery exploitation of U.S. ISR platforms employed for collection of full motion video imagery in support of the DOD, NATO, and coalition forces. I deployed to Qatar and Afghanistan and also traveled to numerous other countries for my duties.

Jacob Sheehan: I was a U.S. Army Special Forces Officer, also known as a Green Beret, where I deployed on combat missions to Iraq and Afghanistan and on training missions in India, Thailand, and Korea. In addition to leading operational teams, I also had an academic assignment at West Point where I taught economics courses, ran the graduate scholarship program (Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, etc.) and designed a two-semester critical thought curriculum.

Matt Beck: I was commissioned as a Naval Officer in 2008. I spent my first two years as a Surface Warfare Officer on a destroyer. I was selected to attend SEAL training after that tour and completed training in 2012. I led teams of various sizes on deployments to Europe, Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

Tyler Haley: I was a Special Operations Communicator in the U.S. Army for 10 years. I spent most of my career inside of Special Operations doing everything from tactical communications to designing and deploying data centers. I’ve spent a large portion of my career in support of overseas operations from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, to most of Central Africa. I was lucky enough to get to finish my career in doing what I love most, which is any and all things cloud!

Why Scale?

Jason Schmid: When I left government service, it was important to me to join a company that values its contribution to national security. All of the Scale senior leaders I spoke to in the interview process made it clear that Scale is dedicated to using its technology to serve the nation. I think it is hard to overstate how important the work Scale is doing for the nation, both on the commercial and federal sides of the business.

Dan Tadross: One of the most challenging aspects for the U.S. government to adopt and implement AI responsibly is the lack of structured data. Scale is at the forefront of developing structured data and can do so at a volume and quality that can help catapult government efforts and ensure the competitive edge for the U.S.

Brianna Hester: I was intrigued by the job description. When I opened it and looked at the requirements, I had all the requested experience so I applied. After chatting with Austin Woo about some more specifics of the position, I knew I wanted to be a part of this program.

Jacob Sheehan: I was primarily drawn to Scale through my hiring manager, David Kinsella. I was headed towards working at a financial technology company in my job search, but David introduced me to Scale’s compelling vision in the AI industry and the role it could play in making the U.S. government more nimble to respond to pressing challenges. He viewed my military experience as an asset and imagined my future impact at Scale rather than solely focusing on my non-traditional business operations background.

Matt Beck: I was drawn to Scale’s mission of accelerating the adoption of AI. A lot of the work we are doing on the federal team has a direct application to our nation’s defense, and I wanted to be a part of that work.

Tyler Haley: I love the team dynamics of start-ups. Everyone wears different hats depending on the meeting or the time of day. This is super relatable to being on small unit teams inside of the Special Operations community. Scale, in particular, pushes the boundaries inside of technology and solves hard problems, which is exactly what I did in the U.S. military.

What do you do at Scale?

Jason Schmid: I am Scale’s Head of Government Relations. I work to help Congress understand AI and ML capabilities so that they can build programs and policies that will help the U.S. government accelerate the adoption of AI.

Dan Tadross: I am an Engagement Manager helping to bridge the gap between U.S. government requirements and experimentation and Scale’s expertise.

Brianna Hester: I am the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Imagery Intelligence Subject Matter Expert (SME).

Jacob Sheehan: I’m a Business Operations and Strategy Manager that supports the federal team. My main projects include growing a compounding network of labeling experts and labeler performance management.

Matt Beck: I am a Federal Deployment Strategist focused on developing solutions to support the modernization of government systems.

Tyler Haley: I am the Infrastructure and Platform Lead for our federal team. I partner closely with our software engineering and security teams to help design infrastructure that works on various AWS classification regions.

How was your transition from service to civilian life?

Jason Schmid: I transitioned from the Army 15 years ago, and the circumstances of my transition were pretty unique. I went from being in literal combat to being a civilian in about three weeks. I was very fortunate to have a job lined up already, but it would have been much better if I had time to take advantage of all of the resources available to transitioning service members. Such a jarring transition was not easy. We now know so much more about successfully transitioning veterans back into civilian life that would have made my transition so much smoother - not just for me, but for my family as well.

Dan Tadross: I transitioned off Active Duty service after 12 years during the height of the pandemic in 2020. So the transition process was stressful and challenging, but when I eventually landed at Scale my level of apprehension subsided.

Brianna Hester: My transition was pretty easy, as I was ready to begin my post-military life. The hardest thing to get used to was not having to tell someone my every move. Taking PTO without telling someone the address of where I would be for the duration of the PTO was a little unnerving the first time.

Jacob Sheehan: I gave myself sufficient time, but there seems to be no such thing as too much time when it comes to major life transitions, especially if you have a family to take care of! I’m glad I had the space to think about what I wanted to do next instead of having to manufacture it quickly. Transitioning during COVID was a challenge from the standpoint of young kids being around all the time, so I would recommend finding a quiet space to do your transition thinking.

Matt Beck: I had a wonderful transition departing the military. I met Shands Pickett early on in the process and kept in touch as positions at Scale became available. My preparation and exploration of many different post-military careers went well and resulted in me working at Scale.

Tyler Haley: Transitioning was a bit tough for me. I got out of the service in May 2020 right as the pandemic was really setting in. Transitioning from being in a room with people that you are close with to only seeing people via Zoom and Slack was difficult at first. I was accustomed to seeing my daily contributions make a real impact, but when I got out, that faded away rather quickly. The good part about transitioning was being able to be at home and start a family. My wife and I welcomed our first kiddo into the world shortly after I got out. It gave me a new purpose and perspective in life. It helped me fill the void that the military left.

Can you speak to your experience as a veteran at Scale?

Jason Schmid: I think one of the best qualities of Scale’s culture is a genuine curiosity and passion to solve hard problems as a team. I think anyone who has served can connect with that.

Dan Tadross: One of the aspects I miss most about serving in the U.S. Marine Corps is the comradery and sense of purpose. While nothing can compare with serving in a Marine unit, Scale has a culture that shares some similarities and the team I am a part of is motivated to succeed and support the U.S. government toward the responsible adoption of AI.

Brianna Hester: Scale has become my new family. I still have my military family and always will but now I have added another branch to my family tree with everyone from Scale. They may be very different families but I wouldn’t trade either of them for anything and I can’t wait to see how much we accomplish together!

Jacob Sheehan: Spending time with the many veterans on the federal team has maintained some of the camaraderie I enjoyed in the U.S. Army. I’m also pleasantly surprised how genuinely curious Scaliens across all of Scale are in veteran experiences!

Matt Beck: Scale is extremely supportive of its veterans. My work keeps me engaged on a mission I believe in. Furthermore, Scale is extremely flexible in letting me maintain my connection to the U.S. Navy by supporting my drill requirements.

Tyler Haley: Although I am still new to the team at Scale, I felt value-added from day one. As I mentioned earlier, feeling like what you do matters is a huge point of pride for most veterans. I instantly felt as if I was a part of the team and also was surrounded by other team members that have served. At Scale, you really get the experience of being back on those small teams that have a mission and purpose.

What advice would you share with veterans making the transition?

Jason Schmid: Take advantage of every resource available to support your transition, whether you think it applies to you or not, because you’ve earned it. It’s normal for recently separated veterans to feel some loss of purpose. It’s important to find ways to continue serving something larger than yourself, even if it's not part of a career path.

Dan Tadross: There are a lot of opportunities for those who want to find alternative ways to continue to support the U.S. government. Many of the skills I learned in the U.S. Marines continue to help me to succeed in the private sector. Those experiences and capabilities that made you successful as a service member are in demand in the private sector, so when making the transition, don’t forget the value you bring to any organization.

Brianna Hester: My recommendation would be to take a break and relax for a minute before jumping right into another job, if you can. It’s a huge change going from complete structure in your everyday life to no structure, and it can be hard on some people. Enjoy a small (or even large) break and use that time as a way to prepare yourself for the great things to come.

Jacob Sheehan: Spend a lot of time exploring the industry you want to work in, understanding the companies uniquely positioned in that industry, and thinking about the strengths you can bring to roles in those companies. I’ve had many veteran friends get it backwards by over-indexing on the role (title) and barely giving any thought to the company or larger industry.

Matt Beck: Always seek to improve your position as you look for opportunities. Forecast your worst case scenario out as far as possible. Once you are comfortable with your worst case scenario, seek out the roles and companies that you are most excited about and get connected early.

Tyler Haley: Figure out what fills your voids. Find a routine and stick to it. A lot of the service members that I speak with feel the same way. Whether that’s getting up every morning and hitting the Peloton or cooking dinner for the family every night, find something that you can do for YOU. Find a new skill or hobby and try to master it. Get out of the house and away from the keyboard. Find time in your days to step away and get lunch with another veteran. Transitioning is different for everyone. Make time to see those who understand what you are going through.

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