By Elizabeth Stetler & Ashley Conners
As someone who spent three years on active duty before becoming a military spouse, Sarah Sattleberg knows a thing or two about the military community. She uses that knowledge to help veterans and their family members earn IT certifications at MyComputerCareer as a military careers services specialist.
We asked her a few questions about her experiences in and out of the military and why she does what she does now. Here’s what she had to say:
What made you decide to join the military?
SS: When I was 17, I wanted to get out of Idaho. I didn’t want to go to college, and we have a proud history of military service in my family. I joined the Army because they had more medical jobs that interested me.
What kinds of things did you do in the Army?
SS: I was in for three years and my first assignment was in Korea, which is a very unique place. In healthcare, usually you get assigned to either a clinic or a field position. But the units in Korea are dual, so we had our clinical portion, where we ran sick call for Yongsan and Seoul, and then we would also go out to the field where we had remote aid stations. It was a great experience, and the variety of duties allowed me to round out my skills.
Then I went to Fort Hood, where I met my husband. He’s the Motor Transport Operator Course sergeant major at Fort Leonard Wood.
What was your transition like?
SS: I wasn’t planning to get out [of the Army]. I had just re-enlisted, and then I found out that we were expecting our daughter. I had mixed feelings about getting out, because I liked what I did.
It was a strange experience to go from active duty to being a spouse. You’re still in the community, and you still see your old colleagues, but you’re not part of the team anymore. You’ve changed roles.
Trying to find work was difficult, too. My first job out of the Army was at a pizza place. I couldn't find a job anywhere else, probably because my resume sucked. I didn’t translate my military skills.
Why did you decide to leave the medical field?
SS: I decided that, while I liked what I did in the Army, I didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital or a clinic. I am very empathetic, and that environment wears on me after a while. Seeing people hurting is difficult, and it stuck with me longer than a lot of my peers. I couldn’t push it away as easily.
I decided I wanted to do something where I can still help people in some way, but not in that same capacity.
How did you end up where you are now?
SS: As a military spouse, your partner has a career that is moving them a lot. For a while, my husband was deployed every other year, so I needed a job that had regular hours in order to be home with the kids when they weren’t in school.
For whatever reason, I started landing in marketing and sales positions – probably because I enjoy working with people. But it seemed like once I started finding my stride in a job, it would be time to move again.
I started with MyComputerCareer in a remote position from El Paso, TX, where I started in admissions. Eventually I was promoted to military careers services specialist. What’s great is that this job moves with me, so I finally have career stability.
When you got out of the military, what did you want to do?
SS: I love helping people, but my heart was telling me not to continue in the medical route. I took a year of journalism classes, and while I really liked it, I just didn’t feel like I could help people in the way I wanted.
As a military career services specialist, I give advice and help prospective students. I give LinkedIn workshops, and I’ve had some great experiences with that. For example, in Phoenix, I had someone sit in on my workshop and, while he was there, he got a job offer just by doing one of the things I recommended. It was one of those moments that makes you say, “Yes! This is why I do my job.”
I also love being with an organization that legitimately cares about the education going somewhere, especially for veterans – that’s a big thing for me.
How does your military background help you in this job?
SS: I can relate to [veteran job-seekers’] situations and their struggles. I understand the frustration of looking for a job – it’s difficult, whether you served for four years or for 24 years. I’ve met all kinds of people who have the same types of issues.
I can also understand the struggles on the spouse side. Many people don’t know about the resources available to spouses and dependents, so I am happy to get to share those resources with them.
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?
SS: The best piece of advice that I got in the military was: “You have to embrace the ‘suck.’ You have to take it and make it your own.”
No matter if you’re military or civilian, no matter your job, you have to figure out a way to embrace it and make it to your advantage.
If you’re unemployed, for example, embrace the suck by using that time wisely. Find somewhere to volunteer that will keep your skills sharp and add to your resume.
The majority of the skill sets that I’ve added since being out of the military have come from volunteering. I got involved with the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), which has allowed me to learn things like event planning, public speaking, and networking with community partners.
I’ve also worked with military family readiness groups, which has taught me how to best deal with difficult personality types, how to plan budgets, and things like that.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into the tech field?
SS: If you want to get into IT [information technology], you need to get certifications. In IT, your degree won’t get your foot in the door, but the certifications will. I talk to people on a weekly basis that have bachelor’s and even master’s degrees in IT or cybersecurity, and they think they’re set because it’s the next big thing. But then they can’t get a job, because they still need certifications.
What is something people might not know about MyComputerCareer?
SS: We do job placement for our students. We will map out your whole career path in a way that might remind someone of the military. You don’t have to think about where you’re going; we give you the inroads, and we do career services for life. If you need help figuring out the next step, we can tell you what’s out there, currently, and help you plan your path.
What is your favorite thing about working for MyComputerCareer?
SS: It’s definitely the chance to talk to veterans regularly - that’s number one.
Number two is my colleagues. At MyComputerCareer, I work with the most positive group of people I’ve ever encountered! I don’t think I have ever met anyone at MyComputerCareer who is a “Debby Downer.” And I think that reflects on our students as well. When you are in a positive environment, it creates an environment for success. When people feel better about themselves, they are more confident.
Why is the tech field a good one for veterans?
SS: IT offers transitioning veterans the opportunity to get into a great career with a great earning potential in a relatively short period of time. I think a lot of people think that they need to go to school for four years to start in the industry, which is not true. The biggest comment I hear from people is they don't think they are "techie" enough to get into this career field. Frankly, if you are willing to take the time to learn, you can get into IT! In our program, we are working to get you into a job in as quickly as four months.
The IT job market is wide open with opportunities. Take cyber security, for example. According to Information Security Advocacy group, there will be a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019.
Not only are there a lot of open jobs – this field offers a great deal of job stability. These days, IT professionals keep a company running! Everyone relies on technology.
For military spouses, an IT career can be especially appealing, because it is a job needed across the globe. Wherever the military takes your family, there will always be organizations that need an IT person.
MyComputerCareer focuses on key industry certifications high-demand, hands-on training from seasoned IT professionals, class schedules that meet the needs of working adults, and abundant career services support to help you get hired.
MyComputerCareer has campuses in Charlotte, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, and Raleigh. The MyComputerCareer program is also available nationwide through live online classes and student support.
By Elizabeth Stetler & Ashley Conners