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We profile tech companies that work on one of the five existential challenges. This week, we focused on Shift and wealth inequality. (As always, they didn't pay us for coverage.) Subscribe if you haven't already!

When veterans move on from their military careers, they often take low-paying jobs. It's not for a lack of technical and operational skills; many veterans simply don't have the tools to translate their training into a job commensurate to their capabilities. In fact, veterans have a 16% higher rate of underemployment than the general population, and a staggering 44% leave their “dead end” civilian jobs within the first year.

The Army does a phenomenal job marketing the military as a path to upward mobility and success:

8,000


non-citizens join every year to expedite citizenship applications

2x


more black women in the Army than in civilian jobs, proportionally

32%


of veterans joined for benefits like tuition and healthcare

But reality is often less promising, and most veterans transition out of the military without any meaningful support.

In technology, big companies are the typical path to success. Colleen Briant, a software engineer based in San Francisco, was on this track at Google in 2018. Over 3 years, she put in a tremendous amount of work and learned a ton, but wasn't seeing the impact she wanted.

I was making software for other software companies to make software with... I didn't feel like I was spending my time on something worthwhile.

— Colleen Briant, Senior Software Engineer, Shift

"Google has a really good donation matching program, so for a while I tried throwing money at this void of meaning," she told us. An employee resource group at the company promoted the narrative that tech workers can best improve the world by donating swaths of their income. But this method is indirect at best, and at worst, reinforces existing, flawed power structures.

For Colleen, it was simply too far removed to make her efforts feel meaningful. Toward the end of 2018 she started interviewing with companies doing more impactful work. It was during this search that she found Shift: a talent development company for military veterans transitioning to civilian careers. But when she tried to apply, the job page was broken. To get the interview, and the eventual job, Colleen had to find and email the CEO directly. The job page has since been fixed:
 


Here are a few of Shift's open roles as of Nov 11, 2019:

Senior Product Designer

Product | San Francisco or Remote


Partnerships

Business | San Francisco
 

Talent Strategist

Business | San Francisco

(see the whole list)

Shift is good at what they do. They've partnered with the military to trial a transitional fellowship program, and are on track to place 5,000 veterans in jobs in 2019. But what really got to Colleen were the stories. The team knew the names, journeys, and ambitions of nearly all the veterans in the program. "We focus on the person as a whole — we listen before we try to help, and that empathy runs through the whole company."

By cultivating a culture of listening, Shift is able to deeply understand the veterans they work with, supporting them with extensive career expertise through the difficult transition into civilian life. It's a transition during which, unfortunately, far too many are left behind:

~17%


of veterans live below the poverty line

27%


of VA patients are diagnosed with mental illness

38,000


veterans are homeless

When we talk about honoring veterans, we tend to focus on their service as soldiers. We outright forget about the challenges they face as veterans, and the lives they often struggle to build when their military career is finished. We can do better — and the work that Colleen and the whole Shift team are committed to is a great place to start!

If you want to help reduce wealth inequality, apply for a job or refer a friend!

If you're not already subscribed, click here. If you're already a subscriber, please consider forwarding to spread the word!

Project Mobilize is written and curated by Patrick Perini and Alec Davis, with special thanks to Brad Thibeau.


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