photo courtesy of Hiring Our Heroes

Landing that job: How Hiring Our Heroes connects transitioning military, veterans and spouses to new employers

August 08, 2018 - 1:39 pm

When Christa Ullstad’s husband, a Navy dentist, was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., she moved with two children - a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old — but no job offers.

“I had no family, no friends, no network,” she said. “I was in survival mode.”

Ullstad had a degree in finance from Bowling Green State University, and a career in finance in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they moved from.  She embodied the idea of what a successful individual might look like.

But as every military spouse knows, “every time you leave, you have to start from scratch,” she said.

Finding meaningful employment was a priority for Ullstad, but it was difficult to do amid all the other tasks associated with moving.  Like most military spouses, she spent a year focusing on getting her young family situated. 

Then Ullstad saw a Facebook post about a USO networking get-together.  Hiring Our Heroes was there.

photo courtesy of Christa Ulstad

As an active duty military spouse, Hiring Our Heroes National Capital Region Corporate Fellowship Program offered Ullstad a 6-week paid fellowship with a host company, to learn and grow in an industry she was interested in, cyber forensics.  It wasn’t simply Hiring Our Heroes ability to connect Ullstad with a potential employer that made Ullstad successful, but rather the comprehensive training the program offered that guided her to success. 

The fellowship offers free career planning, coaching, and preparation with a program manager, resume and interview assistance, and access to in-demand industry credentials, certifications, and licenses.

Hiring Our Heroes “was the vehicle to getting me in front of people,” Ulstad says.  She’s now working for Intelligenesis, a cybersecurity firm in Columbia, Maryland.

This 6 week fellowship program is a pilot program, available to active duty military spouses and recently transitioned veterans that live in the state of Maryland.

But what about those who haven’t left the military yet and are not sure what happens next? Luckily there’s a program for these individuals too.

Holly Harris was facing that question as she began the process of retiring out of active duty service and entering the civilian landscape.

Like many active duty service members who approach transition, Harris, a former Army Apache helicopter pilot and linguist, was unsure what lied ahead for her after the military.  How to apply her time and experiences from the military to civilian life is something that she credits to the Hiring Our Heroes program specific to active duty military.

“Hiring Our Heroes helped me shape my civilian brand and introduced me to a network of organizations – many led by outstanding veterans – eager to help me through my professional transition.”

Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program for transitioning service members is an in depth, 12 week program focused on providing experience working in the private sector with participating companies as well as providing weekly educational sessions. It runs in 3 cohorts per year and has an impressive 89% placement rate for veterans.

Why offer this program to service members while they are still in the military?  Because it provides transitioning service members with the skills they need to succeed in the civilian workforce.  During the last six months of their military service, service members, like Harris, have the opportunity to work for host companies to bridge the gap between military service and civilian careers. 

As Harris went through her fellowship, she was able to work with Amazon’s AmazonFresh Operations and gain the skills that would shape her civilian career.

“Being able to work with Amazon was pivotal for me. By the end of my fellowship, I could translate my skills into civilian competencies,” said Harris.  “Hiring Our Heroes and Amazon prepared me to be all I can be in the corporate world and provided me insight into an amazing organization.”

Since taking part in the fellowship, Harris has continued to be successful in her civilian career and is now a recruiter for Amazon Web Services.

While leading different lives, with different backgrounds and connections to the military, both Ullstad, an active duty military spouse, and Harris, a retiring Army officer, found career success through the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Programs. This is in large part to the funding partners helping to make it possible.

Both programs are funded by the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation (AAWDC), which was awarded a $4.3 million National Dislocated Worker Grant by the U.S. Department of Labor. AAWDC in turn, created Military Corps Career Connect (C3). C3 serves three populations: transitioning service members, active duty spouses and recently separated (non-retiree) vets. C3 has four Veteran Navigators located throughout the state of Maryland and these navigators help to recruit eligible candidates. They are also the direct link for candidates to have access to grant funds for in demand industry credentials, certifications, and licenses, all things needed for a successful career.

“C3 partnered with Hiring our Heroes – and now we have this amazing program,” said Elizabeth Garcia, the Program Manager of the Military Spouse and Recently Separated Veterans Corporate Fellowship program.

“If I’m an active duty spouse, and my husband or wife gets ordered to Maryland, I’m now a dislocated worker, and likely, I find myself in an unemployed or underemployed position,” said Garcia.  It is through this program that Garcia is able to find companies to match skill sets of these spouses, and veterans, and help them start their next career.

That is more than just a point of pride for Garcia too.  As of 2018, the Hiring Our Heroes pilot Corporate Fellowship Program for military spouses and recently separated veterans has placed over 100 individuals in fellowships.  The active duty programs have shown just as much success with an 89% placement rate for fellows and participating companies.

photo courtesy of Hiring Our Heroes

And the opportunities don’t end with just the National Capital Region.  Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program active duty track is offered in 11 other locations nationwide with plans to expand in the near future. With cohorts offered throughout the year, there are opportunities that service members can take advantage of when they are preparing to separate.  You can find them all here.

With programs and events taking place nationwide, service members and their families have many great opportunities through Hiring Our Heroes.  If you are interested in learning more about the Corporate Fellowship Programs for active duty veterans, recently separated veterans (non-retirees) or active duty military spouses, please visit

Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program is a proud partner of Connecting Vets.

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