In a conference space at Sydney’s Maritime Museum, dozens of pairs of chairs are set up facing each other for an afternoon of speed dating. The heavy-hitting corporate suitors – their names are on the chair backs – include EY, Stryker, Accenture, PwC, Westpac, Cordelta, Splunk and Amazon. They’ve come along to this career expo with more than 100 open positions for candidates who have one qualification in common: military service.
In early 2015, Army veteran Tom Moore was frustrated by his own transition into the workforce and knew many fellow vets struggling with depression, unemployment or underemployment. He decided to follow what he’d learnt in the military: “Fix a problem, don’t walk past it.” By May last year, he had “about six people working out of my kitchen”, and today 42 staff in offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Washington DC, are working for WithYouWithMe.
The unusual moniker comes from the lingo soldiers use as they go through a building in room-to-room combat, “one of the most dangerous things you can do, and we did a lot of it in the Middle East”, says Moore. “The drill is when you come up to a doorway, the person behind says ‘with you’, and the person in front says, ‘with me’, and you go through the doorway together to protect each other.” WithYouWithMe is us saying: ‘we’re already through the door, we can help you through on your next journey’.”
Moore joined the Army at 18 and was only 23 when he led a 60-man combat team in Afghanistan in 2013. After he was injured, he ran one of the Army’s outplacement projects. “I helped more than 400 people transition, and the process was crap … which I discovered for myself when I went through it.” Hundreds of fruitless applications finally led to a job in sales, “doing 50 cold calls a day after managing 100 people … so it was a bit of a shift”. Fellow veterans were either jobless or in part-time work that didn’t line up with their real skills and experience. That’s when Moore decided to try to fix the problem, with the analytical focus and determination you’d expect of a combat veteran.
His idea was to use technology to identify known gaps in the labour market and the people best suited to fill them. “We’re playing a supply and demand game,” says Moore. “It’s a simple methodology: what does the market need, what does the individual need and what can they do, then giving them the skills so they can be hired and pairing them with companies that need them.” The skills-gap analysis, which is continually building using AI, pairs with a second piece of technology that matches people with jobs through online testing of “aptitude, intellect, psychometrics and culture fit”. That test suggests 10 career paths and highlights skills gaps that need to be bridged to get there, plugging right into the WithYouWithMe online training platform “for things such as cyber security, robotic process automation and systems engineering,” says Moore.
The software is all proprietary to WithYouWithMe and, as the company approaches 500 job placements for veterans the program is being piloted for retiring athletes and parents returning to work. “It’s applicable to anyone who’s going through unemployment or under-employment, or who is transitioning to a new career, which there’s going to be much more of in the next 10 years,” says Moore.
To that end, he believes his solution can help companies preserve their human capital in the face of technological change. “Not all of the new jobs are engineering related – a lot aren’t, and four to 12 weeks of upskilling or retraining can get people up to the standard to do them,” he says. “We’ve got a platform that allows companies to work out what they need and who among their staff are suitable for it, and an online training system that’s quick and helps them to shift their workforce rather than replacing them.”
As WithYouWithMe grows it will continue to serve and remain free for veterans (recruitment fees support that business model), including in the US. But Moore reckons they can “flip recruitment on its head” in the wider world, too.
“The company’s at the top of the road; we’ve got a lot more to learn,” says the 28-year-old. “Hopefully in the next few years we’ll make a real dent in the issue for veterans and move on to something else. We’re here to solve problems, and we’ve worked out that creating a sustainable business that helps individuals and companies is the easiest way to solve the underemployment rate.”
Our team are wrapping up a successful few weeks in London, working alongside AustCyber, Australian British Chamber of Commerce and several emerging and unique Australian cyber security companies including Aiculus; Airlock Digital, Aleron, Covata, CYDARM Technologies, Forticode, Huntsman Security, HyperIntel and Prophecy International, Randtronics and Your Digital File.
The visit was to promote Australian cyber security businesses into the UK, international cyber security collaboration, competency-based skills training and of course – military veteran talent.
Highlights included speaking at Australian British FinTech Cyber Catalyst, visiting Hartham Park, attending the Invictus Fundraising Gala and a reception with the Lord Mayor of London and The Honorable Angus Taylor, Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security.
A lot of new opportunities for WYWM Academy students are in the pipeline… watch this space!
Name: Nicole Gow
WithYouWithMe Position: Veteran Candidate Manager
ADF Background: Royal Australian Navy (2002 – 2012); Leading Seaman Stores Naval
What was the highlight of your military career?
“One of the many highlights of my military career was onboard H.M.A.S Success, where I had a number of adventurous jobs on top of my daily duties as a Naval Stores Sailor. I was a member of the boarding party team, jumping out of helicopters performing fast rope training as well as the man over board swimmer for the ship. Getting into a wetsuit and jumping overboard to rescue someone from the waters below is something I will never forget.”
Was your transition to the civilian world difficult?
“My transition from the defence force was a little different… I took my long service leave and travelled Australia in a caravan for 18 months straight. However when it was time for me to seek a civilian job, I found it awfully difficult to know which transferrable skills from the defence force I should highlight on a CV for my next employer.”
What have you learnt about transition after a few weeks in your new role?
“We have some extremely talented people leaving the defence force, many of which are not using their talents to their full potential. I have found the WithYouWithMe career pathway matching methodology is definitely making the decision easier for many veterans who don’t know what they want to do on discharge.”
What was your previous role and why did you make the move?
“Having an entrepreneurial spirit, prior to joining the WithYouWithMe team, I ran my own business from home selling Australian grown tea whilst I finished off my university degree. On completion of my degree I wanted to get back into the mainstream workforce and kick start my new career – I’m very thankful I get to do that working with a company I’m incredibly passionate about.”
Name: Va Hart
WithYouWithMe Position: Learning & Development Manager
ADF Background: Royal Australian Navy, Lieutenant Training Systems Officer
What did you enjoy most about your military career?
“The highlight of my Navy career was the varied job roles you could get. One minute I would be assisting with the launching and landing of the helicopter onboard, the next I would be investigating training shortfalls and providing transition information. There was rarely a dull moment.”
Was your transition to the civilian world difficult?
“Yes, I felt lost and a little overwhelmed trying to sell myself to companies. For so many years I had gone from posting to posting without having to put an application together or even interview for any job. I also lost confidence in my skillset because the Navy bubble that I had been in was outdated in the Learning and Development field.”
What key piece of advice do you have for other veterans moving from the ADF into the civilian workplace?
“I was swept up in my job and relocating the family at the time of leaving and really didn’t focus on my transition plan. I kept putting it off until the last couple of weeks. Luckily during my last minute panic I decided to search for past colleagues on LinkedIn and Facebook that had already transitioned, and ask them for advice. I was told to look up the WithYouWithMe website! My greatest piece of advice is to build your network as soon as possible and work on maintaining those relationships, because you never know when you might need it.”
What do you like about working for WithYouWithMe?
“I really am blown away by the passion and drive in this company. I personally believe that our people are our greatest assets, and it’s nice to work for a company that believes in the same motto.”
In your opinion, what is the best part of the program?
“I was excited to learn how far WithYouWithMe has come in such a short time, and I’m excited about the potential scope for the WithYouWithMe Veteran Training Academy, that I have been brought on to expand. The Academy is the tool that empowers those transitioning to take control of their future by up-skilling them for a career they are passionate about. Making a difference to the men and women leaving active service is so important to me because they have already given so much and deserve to be looked after for their next career. I love that we can add so much value – and that I never have to charge a veteran a cent.”