Earlier this year, Voices for Innovation welcomed aboard RJ Naugle as one of our new Advisory Task Force leaders. While RJ is new to VFI leadership, he is an experienced advocate who has been engaged at the local, state, national, and international levels.
A Microsoft Alum and U.S. Army Veteran (Paratrooper), RJ is VFI’s point person on Veterans and Tech. We’re honored to have him on the VFI team and to acknowledge him and millions of Veterans and Active Duty, Reserve, and Military Families this month of November 2020 in honor of Veterans Day and remembrance of those who have served past and present.
RJ is also the co-founder and CEO of REV Tech, a Microsoft Channel Partner and software development and consulting firm based in Seattle, Washington. He launched REV in 2011 after his tenure with Microsoft, KPMG, and Starbucks.
We recently visited with RJ to talk with him about his career, community engagement, and how Veterans can change the game for the tech industry.
Tell us about your service background. What values do you take from your military experience?
My service was not unique to most of us who lived through 9/11. I was in the middle of my undergraduate experience when 9/11 occurred and I immediately went and enlisted to be an Army Paratrooper in response to the horrible acts on our great nation. I come from a long line of military service dating back to my Great Grandfather in WWI so I did not give it much extra thought. Upon the completion of my training, I was stationed with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Ft. Lewis Washington, where I lived military values such as Leadership, Duty, Selfless Service, as well as traits specific to that unit like being a silent professional, and the fact that multi-disciplined, small teams function well.
All of these traits and values are found in our military personnel and are highly sought after in the private sector. Because of this and my passion for continued service, I have dedicated most of my post-military career to assisting transitioning service members. While I was still at Microsoft, I collaborated with several other Veterans who worked at the company and started Microsoft’s first Military Recruiting Program, coined “We Still Serve.” Later I was hired back to Microsoft as a consultant to develop the first-of-its-kind, high-tech career skills program, called the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA). Both of these programs are still in place today and make Microsoft Military Affairs a leading authority on transitioning service members into the high-tech community.
You worked for Microsoft and then you launched your own company, REV Tech. Can you tell us about this transition and what REV Tech does?
This transition occurred organically as I have always had entrepreneurial traits and aspirations and had also founded a previous organization with my wife (Army Retiree and Microsoft Alum) Anne Sprute called RallyPoint/6 (RP/6). RP/6 was a non-profit dedicated to providing wrap-around support and end-to-end assistance to transitioning military and their families. RP/6 was acquired by the largest Military Service Organization in the world, the United Service Organizations (USO), and is still around today on military installations worldwide, known as the USO Pathfinder Program.
REV, coined from “Remembering Every Veteran,” is our tech venture that utilizes our Veteran-powered team to provide purpose-driven solutions and services to enterprise clients in the Fortune 500 as well as the Public Sector. REV has four key service lines: 1) Cloud, 2) BI/Analytics, 3) AppDev, and 4) Business Consulting. Our elite delivery teams, designed from what I learned in U.S. Army Special Forces, descend on a situation and solve critical problems for our customers. REV currently has both a sell with and sell to relationship with Microsoft and has deployed various Microsoft technology solutions for a wide array of clients since our inception in 2011. You can find us at both revtechllc.com and RememberEveryVeteran.com.
How are you helping to connect vets to Microsoft (and tech) and vice versa?
In addition to the programs we founded on behalf of Microsoft, we often refer partner organizations to the hiring pipelines we have developed with transitioning service members as well as the non-profit community. Other organizations that we collaborate with on this are the U.S. Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes program and the Department of Labor’s Veterans Gold Medallion Program, to name a few.
What skills do people who serve in the military develop that transfer to tech?
There are many technical roles in the military ranging from Helicopter Pilot to Cybersecurity Analyst, and most military members/Veterans have a great eye for attention to detail, critical thinking skills, and an inclination to solving complex problems in challenging environments. Additional skills, not including the raw software skills, found in 21st-century military personnel are the soft skills related to being able to manage large-scale programs, enterprise risk management, and other notable corporate skills.
What advice would give to tech businesses that want to hire vets?
Advice I would offer from my over 15 years of serving Veterans in the high-tech industry is to hire for the values you look for in an employee and not the hard skills. Veterans are the most trainable people in the world and can readily pick up the necessary hard skills, e.g., Software Engineering, Power Platform, etc. with programs such as MSSA, mentioned earlier. Additionally, there are many tax credits and other intangibles that come with hiring someone who has served our nation.
What guidance do you give to active military personnel and vets who are considering careers in tech?
My first guidance always starts with “Take Charge of your Transition” as I outlined in a recent Forbes article, “The Network Gap and its Impact on the War for Talent.”
What policies can the federal government and military adopt that would help transition vets to tech careers—and to the civilian workforce more generally?
I am a large proponent of the Career Skills Programs like MSSA and others. Additionally, I like the concept of apprenticeships and fellowships in order to offer more on-the-job training.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, as a Microsoft Channel Partner, we value the relationship with the VFI community and my door is always open to anyone looking to hire Veterans or learn more about the work that we have done in this space. I can be reached at RJ@REVtechllc.com and 253.720.3314.